Paving a Path Forward: A Technology & Education Blueprint for the FCC

A couple weeks ago, LEAD Commission Co-Chairs spoke to the FCC about the recommendations to modernize the E-Rate program. LEAD (Leading Education by Advancing Digital) is a bipartisan group formed to look at technology in the schools. In June they released their 5-point recommendation plan:

  1. Solve our infrastructure challenge by wiring schools with high-speed broadband;
  2. Build a national initiative to put learning devices in the hands of all students by 2020;
  3. Accelerate adoption of digital curriculum and encourage continued innovation;
  4. Embrace and encourage model schools; and
  5. Invest in human capital to train our teachers.

It’s a comprehensive plan – well fleshed out in Margaret Spelling’s comments to the FCC – starting with the premise that the infrastructure must come first…

Although most of our schools are wired, they generally do not have the high‐speed bandwidth and technology they need to use state‐of‐the‐art digital learning tools. According to the FCC’s own survey, 80 percent of schools and libraries do not have sufficient broadband to fully meet their current needs; and according to EducationSuperHighway, 83 percent have outdated Wi‐Fi networks.

Inadequate high-speed Internet connectivity in the classrooms is the most immediate and expensive barrier to implementing technology in education.

She doesn’t really get into the specifics of what the FCC should shuffle around to make it happen but she does make the point that it needs to happen if kids are going to be prepared for the workforce they hope to graduate into and if the US plans to keep up with global competitors. Adequate is defined…

Our study indicates that schools will require 100 Mbps of bandwidth for every 1,000 students/staff members by the 2014-2015 school year. By 2017-2018, the required bandwidth increases to 1Gpbs. Proper technology infrastructure in schools is the 21st century equivalent of “heat and electricity.

There isn’t much discussion about access for students at home – although they do mention working on making devices affordable enough for school and home use. I understand that getting into community access might be out of scope – but for broadband proponents working through education efforts might be a way to drive greater interest in ubiquitous access.

Having been to the MN eLearning Summit earlier this week, I see what a disadvantage it is for a student to not have access at home. From the K12 perspective, I heard from many teachers who are using or thinking about moving to a flipped classroom – where students watch lectures from home and practice what they learn in class. Clearly broadband will be required – and students who have to go to the library or coffee shop to get access will be at a disadvantage. In the Higher Ed and lifelong learning world, I heard a lot about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Classes); again much easier to take if you have access at home. As education changes it seems as if the classroom becomes less important – and broadband infrastructure becomes more important.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, education, FCC, Policy, Research by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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