Equipping all United States classrooms with a high-speed Internet connection is now a White House priority.
Technology innovation in the education sector is in full swing. Connected tablets, apps that enable shared note-taking, real-time student assessment software…startups are overflowing with such ideas to shape the school of the future, and many teachers are enthusiastically adopting these tools. A majority of teachers indicate that both they and their students are now using mobile phones and tablets in class to carry out learning assignments and perform other tasks. The only hiccup appears to be the lack of high-speed connectivity in US classrooms. In order to address this problem, President Obama recently launched the ConnectED initiative.
‘ConnectED’ schools and libraries
According to the White House, fewer than 20% of US teachers believe that connectivity in their schools meets their teaching needs. The White House warns that lack of high-quality Internet access in schools puts students at a disadvantage. Accordingly, in June, Barack Obama launched the ‘ConnectED’ initiative, setting out a clear objective. “The ConnectED initiative will, within five years, connect 99% of America’s students to the digital age through next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless in their schools and libraries,” states the White House website. The US President also sees bringing high-quality connectivity into the national education system as a way of supporting both established companies and startups that are developing the educational tools of tomorrow.
FCC moves into action
In the latest move, on 19 July, the Federal Communications Commission began the process of restructuring the ‘E-Rate’. This federal educational technology program, set up in 1997 to provide financing for Internet infrastructure in schools, has already led to all US classrooms being equipped with an Internet connection. The new step is intended to bring about better connectivity on a national scale, especially by giving schools and libraries access to the financing they need and by simplifying the funds allocation process. In a published statement, the US President expressed great enthusiasm for the initiative and the FCC move, which should help to make “21st century classrooms available to every student in America.”