More and more school districts are evaluating the introduction of online and blended learning programs to boost student performance through personalized learning, meet student learning goals through expanded course offerings, and assist students in meeting graduation goals through credit recovery. With this, it is vital that America’s students are able to access a 21st Century network.
While this might not be a challenge in the heart of Silicon Valley, or the D.C. Tech Hub, access to high-speed Internet, which fuels online learning, cannot be taken for granted. Moreover, when you think that “the average American school has about the same connectivity as the average American home, yet serves 200 times as many users, and fewer than 20 percent of educators say their school’s internet connection meets their teaching needs,” it’s quite plain that America’s educational Internet backbone is in need of an overhaul.
While some school districts have implemented high-speed networks, many are still lacking significant Internet access. This is particularly true for rural communities that already face school closures, a shortage of teachers, and limited course offerings.
So, during last week’s State of the Union it was heartening to hear President Obama speak to the issue and outline the beginnings of a plan to “connect 99 percent of [America’s] students to high-speed broadband over the next four years.” Based on figures cited in the address, this would equate to more than “15,000 schools and 20 million students” in the first two years.
President Obama officially launched what is known as the ConnectEd initiative in June 2013 during a visit to schools in North Carolina. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) immediately championed the program within the government, ensuring that the program was not just about access to a high-speed network, but also digital literacy training for educators. In fact, FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, recently stated that “in the Internet age, every student in America should have access to state-of-the-art educational tools, which are increasingly interactive, individualized and bandwidth-intensive.”
We couldn’t agree more.