Wi-Fi In The Classroom Has To Be A National Priority

“What’s the wireless password?”  It’s a question I hear asked all the time, wherever I travel or work around the country.

The fact is that reliable, high-speed Internet access has become akin to electricity and phone service in businesses, government agencies, hospitals, universities and a growing array of other places where we live and work.  Certainly none of these organizations would be able to open their doors every day and operate without it.  And increasingly, the vast majority of us expect adequate bandwidth in our homes – to communicate, to bank, to shop, to learn, and to be entertained.

So how can it be acceptable for K-12 schools to have anything less?  With the potential for technology to transform how teachers teach and students learn, school leaders should look at their organizations as modern enterprises engaged in the business of education, equipping their schools to prepare the workforce of the future.

That’s why the FCC’s recent vote to fund an expansive program to help bring adequate bandwidth to America’s schools is such good news.  The modernized “E-rate” program will wind down funding for outdated services, double the funding available for broadband in the classroom, and invest $5 billion over the next five years in wireless upgrades, enabling schools and libraries to deploy more robust Wi-Fi networks.  This will help ensure K-12 students across the country have an equal learning opportunity and that America is able to remain competitive internationally.  (That’s why I joined 100 other ed tech leaders to sign a letter from EducationSuperHighway in support of E-rate modernization.)

While the E-rate vote may not have made front page news across the country, it should have – because the decision is hugely important for our nation’s schools.  Students and teachers are able to accomplish so much more thanks to the use of technology in our schools.  From online courses to content to devices that drive greater student engagement, education technology is changing the way students learn for the better and enhancing the way teachers teach.

In fact, a majority of the technology administrators who were surveyed as part of Project Tomorrow’s “New Digital Learning Playbook” report said if they had sufficient bandwidth, they could increase their use of streaming videos, multimedia resources and online curriculum.  Yet only one quarter of all technology administrators said they have enough connectivity and bandwidth to meet student and teacher needs.  If you consider that at least 80% of administrators and technology leaders in the report agreed that the way technology was used in their schools was helping prepare students for future success, you can see why it is imperative that we provide sufficient bandwidth for all schools.

If we demand accountability for schools and if we are serious about preparing students to compete globally, we must invest in the necessary tools to help them succeed, starting with the basic online infrastructure that is so fundamental that it’s taken for granted across all other industries.  That’s why upgrading bandwidth in our schools has to be a national priority.  We must ensure that educators and students have access to technology that is indispensable in college, the workplace, and our society overall.  An improved E-rate program is a big step in the right direction.

Sari Factor is CEO of Edgenuity, an online and blended learning company based in Scottsdale, Arizona, currently used by nine of the 15 largest school districts in the U.S. Follow @Edgenuityinc

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