Uncovering Broadband and Education Opportunities in Springfield

While many Sangamon county students are enjoying summer vacation, local educators gathered on a June afternoon to discuss the high-speed internet needs, assets, and technology programs in their schools.

Sangamon county is home to ten K-12 school districts with 33,000 students, 33 percent of which live in low-income households. A community college here serves 7,500 students and a state University enrolls 3,000 aspiring professionals. With so many scholars working at different levels, regional technology and extension coordinators, teachers, and administrators here are constantly searching for ways to ensure their students have access to the latest and greatest advancements in technology.

In an effort to learn more about the educational technology needs and successes in Sangamon county and the surrounding Central eTeam region, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, in conjunction with the Continuum of Learning, facilitated the meeting on June 6 at the Springfield United Way.

The Continuum of Learning is a collaboration of Springfield area organizations whose purpose is to ensure every Sangamon county resident is “Ready to Learn, Ready to Work, and Ready to succeed” through every stage of life. 

“The mission of our foundation is connecting people who care to causes that matter,” said John Stremsterfer, Director of the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln. “This falls in line very closely with what the folks at the Partnership for a Connected Illinois are trying to do in convening stakeholders to discuss assets and needs in their communities. Our foundation knows that access to information results in better education for our community members. ”

 “Although a key mission of our organization lies in collecting and mapping broadband data, we also focus on building broadband awareness and use,” said Drew Clark, Executive Director of Partnership for a Connected Illinois.  “In the coming months, we’ll launch a new grant program focused on economic growth, education, and broadband technology.”

 One district technology coordinator mentioned that their entire forty-site operation is splitting 100 mbps among it’s different locations.  With nearly 15,000 students, this level of service easily tops out during peak hours. 

 “Even if we had access to a fleet of iPads and iPhones, the internal infrastructure is saturated and would not be able to handle the additional devices,” he said. “It is extremely difficult to obtain e-Rate funding for these internal connections.”

Other participants identified home access to Internet service as a main issue.  In rural communities like Pleasant Plains and Williamsville, some educators discussed the importance for the student to be able to utilize a similar connection at home in the classroom.

Using this meeting in Sangamon County as a model, a forum was assembled to identify and build on existing computer and Internet training.  Across the State, our eTeams are hoping to build similar industry-level opportunities for both the private carriers of broadband as well as the public entities that provide this training with a goal of identifying large pockets of demand in order to advance Illinois as an innovation leader. 

Tags: central eTeam, Continuum of Learning, John Stremsterfer, Sangamon County, Springfield, United Way

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