Press release

March 31, 2014

Connectivity In Our Schools

by Johanna Wetmore

eLearning can provide so many advantages by engaging students outside the “traditional’ classroom experience, and developing independent learning skills through a personalized learning experience. eLearning has the potential to revolutionize the way we teach and how we learn.

I go into schools and give demos of new digital products and the reaction from teachers is often “Wow, that’s great, but we don’t have the Internet connection for that.” The fact is, we can make all the digital products we want, BUT the biggest issue facing online learning still hasn’t been addressed: connectivity at the schools. It’s getting to the point of absurdity that we still do not have an acceptable quality of connectivity (or devices) in the schools.

With the rise of Web-based learning, particularly the use of online video and audio, schools are increasingly reliant on the quality and speed of their Internet connection. And, it appears that the bandwidth and capacity these educational institutions require today will continue to rise nationwide. Our eLearning initiatives are challenged by limited or lack of connectivity and the greatest effort on the part of federal, state, and local government is trying to close the access and skills divide by providing both computers and Internet connectivity in schools.

E-Rate, a Schools and Libraries program administered under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), was created to help assist schools in obtaining affordable Internet access. The program has met with mixed results and many criticisms, and does not mandate minimum connectivity guidelines, creating a greater divide between the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have Nots.’

We in the technology industry are approaching this backwards. We should be partnering with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to help all students reach their full potential as citizens in a changing society.

The Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission has released a five-point plan outlining the steps needed to achieve the goal of increased connectivity in schools:

  • Solve infrastructure challenges by upgrading the wiring of our schools
  • Build a national effort to deploy devices
  • Accelerate the adoption of a digital curriculum
  • Empower teachers to use technology, and create a program for “master teachers” to train their peers
  • Embrace and encourage model schools

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has made extraordinary efforts to update America’s highway infrastructure. Is it not equally as important to update the infrastructure of our nation’s classrooms? It is time ISPs take a greater role in providing public Internet access to the population it serves and we need National, State, and Local government to work with ISPs to come to a common ground in solving the connectivity problem in our nation’s educational institutions.