The lack of high-speed internet access for students has been the focus of a lot of attention recently. In June, President Obama announced the ConnectED program with the goal of getting 99% of students access to high-speed internet.
In addition, a recent Op-Ed in The New York Times by Ford Foundation President Luis A. Ubiñas asserts that every school needs access to broadband internet to ensure that children are prepared to succeed in our digital world. He cites some disturbing statistics on the inadequacies faced by many American children, which were also noted by President Obama’s call for reform.
- One-third of Americans (19 million people) lack a broadband connection
- Only 63 percent of eligible schools (approximately 94,500) were participating in the E-Rate program
- Eighty percent of E-Rate users need better broadband connections
And the situation is even worse for the students I work with in remote, rural Alaska. While today most schools are online, the Internet speeds in poor communities are so low that they cannot access most Websites or take advantage of the latest collaborative tools.
The proposed path forward for correcting this problem through ConnectED and according to Mr. Ubiñas includes:
- Overhauling E-Rate to ensure sufficient Internet is in every school and library
- Increasing consumer contributions to the Universal Service Fund to provide more E-Rate funding
- Training teachers and librarians to advocate for digital education
- Prioritizing broadband to a necessary part of our national infrastructure
I would like to take these proposals a step further. In order for children to become digital leaders in our increasingly global society they must be able to participate in a 24/7 learning environment. That not only means that they need access to fast and reliable Internet at school, but also at home. And they also need the technology tools at home to do so.
Programs that provide each student with a laptop computer to use at school and home, commonly referred to as one-to-one, have swept not only the nation, but are being implemented around the world. Over the years, K-12 education has established four specific goals around one-to-one laptop programs.
- Increase academic achievement
- Increase equity in access to digital instructional resources to reduce the digital divide
- Increase economic competitiveness by preparing its students with 21st-century skills for the workforce
- Transform the quality of instruction in the classroom to create a more student-centered classroom
Alaska has been a leader in one-to-one programs. The Association of Alaska School Boards (AASB) formed the Consortium for Digital Learning with the main purpose of investigating the potential of these devices to meet general one-to-one program goals such as developing 21st-century skills and preparing students for success in the global economy. Today AASB has over 100 one-to-one laptop school projects.
Join me at ISTE 2013 to learn more about one-to-one programs, specifically at the SIG 1:1 Annual Meeting and the SIG 1:1 Forum – 1:1 Guidebooks for Leaders. And let’s keep the recent focus on these necessary technology tools at the forefront of education discussion.