Cutting-edge technology is fast transitioning from a nice-to-have to a must-have element of modern education in the United States. Last week, President Obama made a bold declaration that in five years, 99 percent of students in the country should have access to high-speed broadband and wireless Internet.
“We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology,” said President Obama while visiting North Carolina’s Mooresville Graded School District. “So today, I’m issuing a new challenge for America — one that families, businesses, school districts and the federal government can rally around together — to connect virtually every student in America’s classrooms to high-speed broadband Internet within five years, and equip them with the tools to make the most of it.”
Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), praised the Obama administration’s plan and heralded the push for ubiquitous connectivity in an official statement.
“President Obama’s announcement is a giant leap toward realizing CoSN’s and the Administration’s shared goal of ensuring that all students have adequate bandwidth to maximize online and digital learning,” said Krueger in the statement. “The bold vision put forth by the President can be realized by adding just a few pennies per month to our phone bills and is an investment that will create a 21st century learning environment. This is an investment that we cannot afford not to make.”
It’s Time for E-Rate 2.0
While connecting students to the web is a key part of Obama’s call to action, it doesn’t end there. The administration also wants to expand the technology and devices available to students in the classroom.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 6, 2013
How does it plan to get there? In part, by expanding its investment in the E-Rate funding program, which has helped pay for investments in school and library networks. One of the creators of the E-Rate program, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), said it was time for E-Rate 2.0.
“In its almost two decades, the E-Rate program has fundamentally transformed education in this country — we have connected our most remote schools and libraries to the world,” Rockefeller said in a statement to WRAL Techwire. “But as impressive and important as the E-Rate program has been, basic Internet connectivity is no longer sufficient to meet our 21st-century educational needs. It is time to create E-Rate 2.0.”
While some might think that schools in America are already richly invested in technology, the truth is that other countries are ahead of the U.S. in broadband access and classroom technology investment.
As Jeff Dunn of Edudemic pointed out in his assessment of the ConnectED initiative, all of South Korea’s schools are Internet connected, their teachers are digitally trained and they plan to eliminate paper-based textbooks by 2016.
If the U.S. has to catch up with that kind of ed-tech progress, maybe the Obama administration’s five-year goal isn’t soon enough.