Thursday, June 06, 2013

Obama administration's ConnectED program only half a solution

President Calls for High-Speed Broadband in 99% of Schools/Libraries - 2013-06-06 15:21:00 | Broadcasting & Cable: The White House Thursday announced a new initiative to get high-speed broadband to America's schools and libraries.

The so-called ConnectED program has a goal of connecting 99% of students to high-speed wired and wireless broadband (speeds of no less than 100 Mbps and preferably 1 Gbps) within five years. The president called on the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration to "modernize and leverage" its E-rate program to achieve that goal. The E-rate program provides discounted broadband service to schools and libraries through the Universal Service Fund.

The President's plan while laudable is only a partial solution.  Learning now takes place both at school and in the home -- what educators describe as "blended learning."  Jeremy Meyers, superintendent of the El Dorado County (California) Office of Education, wrote about the emerging educational method in which pupils do much of their learning and class projects outside of the classroom via the Internet – arguably the world’s biggest and best stocked library.  Back in the classroom, their teachers review their projects, answer questions and lead discussions.

As Meyers notes, blended learning requires good Internet connectivity both at schools and at students' homes.  However, too many homes in Meyers' district lack even basic Internet service.  "El Dorado County faces a special challenge that is assuming greater urgency each year: How to bring all our households into broadband Internet access in a cost-effective manner," Meyers wrote. "Having large Internet 'dead zones' is not acceptable in today’s world of connectivity. It limits us academically and hurts us economically."

Are you listening, Mr. President?

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