Digital Learning, Internet Access and Future Ready
Many schools just celebrated Digital Learning Day! According to Edutopia, "Integrating technology with classroom practice can be a great way to strengthen engagement by linking students to a global audience, turning them into creators of digital media, and helping them practice collaboration skills that will prepare them for the future." For our schools to be ready for the Future or "Future Ready", is indeed a concern especially for so many low-income and rural schools lacking Wi-Fi and technology. I am encouraged by FCC Chairman proposed $1.5B increase on E-Rate spending from $2.4B to $3.9B, which was voted on in December. Tom Wheeler emphasized how small the increased cost will be to ratepayers, “If the FCC reaches the maximum cap recommended, the estimated additional cost to an individual rate payer would be approximately 16 cents a month, about a half a penny per day, or about $1.90 a year—less than a medium-sized soda at a fast food restaurant or a cup of coffee,” a fact sheet says.
- 68% of all districts (73% of rural districts) say that not a single school in their district can meet high-speed internet connectivity targets today.
- Nearly 41% of rural public schools lack access to fiber networks sufficient to meet modern connectivity goals for digital learning, compared to 31% of suburban and urban public schools.
- 14% of schools in low-income rural and urban areas meet speed targets, compared to 39% in affluent areas.
- 45% of school districts lack sufficient Wi-Fi capacity to move to one-to-one student-to-device deployments which is increasingly necessary to achieve modern digital learning objectives.
- More than half (58%) of districts say the monthly recurring expense of connections is the most significant barrier to faster service.
I think we need audits that clearly show how and where the money is being used for internet related items and where it will be used. We must assure that the schools with the greatest needs are online or upgraded first! According to one vendor, there are five major cost areas to consider: Architecture, Access Points, Antennas, Bandwidth, and Software.
I have these suggestions:
- Build partnerships with companies to donate some service/supplies to the schools.
- As you quantify what “Future Ready” means, provide standard scales that schools can use to evaluate their status and where they need to be.
- Provide incentives for districts to build School-to (Out-of-District) School mentorship. Districts should not compete against each other as sometimes constant scoring and ranking might promote.
- Districts can take the Future Ready Pledge here. ” The pledge recognizes the importance of building human capacity within schools and districts for effectively using increased connectivity and new devices to transform teaching and learning.”
As mentioned in a recent Homeroom blog for the Department of Education, there are other skills important for being Future Ready that include better developing 21st century skills. Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton asked the defining question this way, “What will Future Ready look like when we accomplish it?” I, along with many education leaders such as Alliance for Excellent Education, believe that education that prepares our students for the future must involve “Deeper Learning“.