When you think of cell phone data, the alphanumeric duo that might immediately pop into your mind could be 5G. Unsurprisingly in 2020, the internet is already abuzz with the implementation of new data towers. 5G has also become a rather contentious subject, with its proponents embracing a new age of connectivity and its critics clamoring about the new technology’s implications on health; such concerns are not unwarranted. In 2018, “the US Department of Health found that in rats, exposure to high doses of radiofrequency radiation caused cardiac tumors. However, the WHO and IARC have determined that in humans, radiofrequency fields are only a possible carcinogen. No matter one’s stance, one thing is certain, the future of mobile data is well on its way!
At GSGF, we look at digital technologies as an asset to a child’s intellectual development. Indeed, our educational programming is uniquely designed to deliver the computational skills students will need to master the future of the late twenty-first century. Yet, as we prepare for a greener future where young minds are able to design the next generation of hyper-efficient solar panels and 3-D printed biocompatible plastics, we can’t help but ask ourselves what 5G has to offer.
To begin answering this question, it is important to reflect on what its predecessor gave us. If you were to reach into your pocket, chances are that the sleek device coming out of it is connected to a 4G or an LTE network. Such connections are more than enough to give you access to some of your favourite sites, e-books, and streaming platforms. Whether you’re heading to school to pick up the little ones or driving them home from practice, the media you tune into likely streams very well – booting up quickly and being interrupted only a few times.
Overall, 4G offers a pleasant experience when reading, listening, or watching on the go. That being said, if you are accessing your favourite content in Canada, you will likely be limited to an average speed of 62.62 Mbps. Not bad for a service that’s 10 years old!
For those who have grown up on 4G, having to borrow dad’s phone to open up a hotspot and finish an assignment is still a very vivid memory. As technology improved and data speeds became faster, connectivity began to provide even more opportunities for “research and learning”, but let’s be honest – did any of us really borrow mom’s tablet to tune into the latest scientific discoveries from Oxford when we were young? Of course not. We used the rapid data speeds to browse social media and tune into the hottest updates from across the world! As a result, going out has acquired a whole new meaning. No longer are bike rides just that, they have become expeditions to find and capture all elusive Pokémon. In the days of modernity,
nearly every social outing will at several points see member parties check what’s happening online. While this understandably interrupts the cadence of socializing, connectivity is by no means a bad thing!
While traveling to and from school may seem like a distant memory in the days of COVID-19, learning on the move is incredibly valuable. Whereas a 30 minutes ride in the car could be spent listening to the “latest hits” on radio, wouldn’t it be more refreshing to plug into a fun pre-class lesson on an online STEM platform? Self-care is important, and if watching cartoons on the drive helps your little one decompress, more power to them. But, just as with everything good, it remains good only in moderation. That is why, especially for young minds, it is important to help them disconnect periodically. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to lead by example.
If you notice that you could benefit from an hour away from the screen, take a break with the family. Now that summer is in full swing, going out for a walk can be a better lifestyle choice. Good habits can go a long way when one is young, and helping children and teens learn how to balance time on the internet and the world outside will lead to healthier lifestyles for them and their future families.
With the standardization of the fifth generation of data, connectivity is becoming ever more instantaneous. Advertising peak speeds of up to 20Gbps, the applications that will make their mark with 5G are going to do a lot more than play videos. Having already been installed in 37 countries, experts are looking into how 5G can help expand opportunities with driverless cars and virtual reality. So if you thought that keeping kids away from Netflix was hard, just wait until they’re asked to leave their fully interactive VR worlds. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be a chore to help youngsters overcome screen dependence.
The school year ended abruptly this year and GSGF wrote a blog post talking about how we can help keep youth physically and mentally fit while helping them engage in meaningful digital activities. One of our suggestions was to look at your school’s website; many facilities are offering free resources that people of all ages can take advantage of to learn new skills and keep their minds sharp! These offerings, ample in scope, provide some of the best insight into what 5G can contribute to mobile learning. While current data speeds limit what can be done with technology outside the house, 5G could very well liberate the creative spirits of curious youth. Imagine, if instead of just watching that engaging STEM lesson in the car, students were able to render and upload 3-D CAD models in real-time; or what if, with the continued development of wearable technology, language learners and travellers were able to adorn a pair of data activated glasses and embark on a journey to a new country where everything would be translated in front of them with nothing more than a stare? With Apple’s latest announcement, the latter may not be too far off.
However, we should not ignore the fact that there is still much unknown about the implications of 5G on a healthy and sustainable society. Already, we have borne witness to the calamity that the Anthropocene and the caustic residue of industrialization have left in their wake. In the Information Age, we should look at the promises of improved mobile education critically to ensure that human growth – both intellectual and physical – is not stunted by a hurried adoption of new technologies. While the WHO and IARC have declared radio frequencies as only a possible cancer risk, medical experts, such as Swedish oncologist Lennart Hardell, warn that further testing is required to ascertain the physiological ramifications of 5G on the European
population. Until such experimentation can be conducted and its results conclusively demonstrate that 5G does not pose a risk, he and the European 5G Appeal movement have urged the EU to “halt the rollout of 5G”.
GSGF shares these concerns and stands in support of scientific evidence and the conclusions it provides. As such, we look forward to helping students navigate a complex futuristic landscape and make the most out of the information they have access to; all while teaching them how to mitigate the risks certain technologies present. Lastly, as we prepare the next generation of innovators, we are ensuring that our curriculum covers a wide range of topics, not least of which are educating the mind, body, and soul.
By Dael Vasquez
Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay