Public Education (Finally) Speeds into the Digital Age
What the FCC’s school technology modernization plan approval means for students and teachers
Original article can be found in its entirety at the Huffington Post Education.
What do mobile phone taxes have to do with public education? A lot.
The FCC, in a split vote, approved a plan to modernize the E-Rate system, which invests funds raised from mobile phone fees to improve the communications access for public schools and libraries. The new directive dedicates $2 billion in existing E-Rate funds to help more schools finally enter the digital age through enhanced wi-fi and broadband connections.
This sounds like common sense, but for too long, government funding streams have been focused on outdated basic services. While the private sector and educators have been looking to employ great tools and content in classrooms, the decrepit nature of the technology infrastructure has rendered many of these innovations ineffective. The E-Rate modernization takes a logical middle ground of building the digital infrastructure needed to help deliver on the promise of digital and blended education.
Until now, the E-Rate funds mostly went toward "basic access," which is really just code for dial-up Internet services. Anyone with experience in education technology - from teachers to service providers - will tell you that low-speed Internet is worse than having no Internet at all because you end up wasting valuable classroom time waiting for programs to load and inevitably you lose key program functionality.
Same goes for lack of wi-fi. The traditional edtech model, which gathered students in a discrete computer lab or at desktop machines in the library, is disappearing. That's because technology, like any other learning tool, is much more effective when it's part of the classroom flow. More teachers are integrating laptops, tablets and whiteboards into interactive classroom activities. This requires adequate wi-fi coverage, which isn't a reality at most public schools.
Digital learning is exploding across the country and, in many ways, is leveling the playing field for students to have access to the best curriculum and learning tools. In particular, we are seeing growth in blended learning, which includes both a traditional classroom teacher and digital tools and activities. These are not possible without high-speed Internet and broadband.Language Learning in a Digital Environment The Pros and Cons of Digital Badging Developing Second Language Proficiency Online