New White House ConnectEd Initiative Will Help Schools Boost Internet Access

Barry Lenson

White House Initiative Will Help Schools Boost Internet AccessThe White House has just announced a new initiative called ConnectEd that plans to bring high-speed Internet access to 99% of America’s pre-college students within the next five years.

Hey, we don’t need that, right? I mean, America leads the world when it comes to putting computers in classrooms, right?

No, wrong.  The fact is, America needs to ramp up Internet access in classrooms, and we need to do it now. Here are some of the reasons why, as explained in a recent post by Megan Slack on the White House Blog . . .

  • Fewer than 20% of American teachers say that the Internet connections they are using are fast enough to support their learning needs. Look at that statistic again . . . fewer than 20%!
  • Our educational technology is falling behind. In South Korea, for example, 100% of all schools already have high-speed Internet access. There are also plans to phase out all printed textbooks there by year 2016. Are we keeping up? Apparently not.

What Will ConnectEd Do?

It’s an ambitious program. And thankfully, it plans to utilize technologies that are already in place instead of simply throwing money at the problem. Here are some of the pieces of the program, as explained in the post on the White House Blog . . .

  • The White House is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to modernize and leverage existing technology, as well as on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to ramp up the nation’s connectivity.
  • ConnectED will spend money wisely, mostly to provide better broadband access for students in rural areas. The White House notes that those are the areas that typically have the most trouble attracting investment in broadband infrastructure.
  • While access to the Internet is being increased, ConnectEd will train teachers on how to use it more effectively. That makes sense. Why deliver faster Internet to classrooms where teachers are not able to use it wisely?
  • The White House is asking private-sector companies to support the program. Hopefully as companies see a widening market for digital textbooks, educational software and other products that support eLearning, they will become more involved. Their for-profit orientation should help educate more students without using taxpayers’ dollars.

Delivering Quality Learning Programs to Students . . .

As classroom broadband becomes faster and more widespread, what exactly is it going to deliver to America’s students?

We’re hoping that they will gain access to digital textbooks, better-quality courses, and more effective educational software.  We also foresee that more students will have wider access to online courses that will help them prepare better for AP Tests and standardized tests like the ACT and SAT. That could help students in rural areas compete on a more level field with students from urban and affluent areas.

We also hope that in the end, ConnectEd will allow more students to take college-level online courses while they are still in high school or even sooner. That would be a boon to America’s homeschooled students and smarter students who are ready for college courses before they graduate from high school.

Perhaps the results of ConnectEd will resemble earlier advances in American education. There was once a time when American schools didn’t have electricity, for example, but then people strung wires from pole to pole and teachers could turn on their classroom lights.  That was exciting, but probably not as exciting as what is about to happen in American classrooms in the years ahead.

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