Technology carries tremendous power to deepen and personalize learning. But first it must be tapped.
For educators who are striving to unleash that power, lack of sufficient internet connectivity remains one of the top barriers. Fewer than 30 percent of U.S. schools have the broadband access required to teach using the latest technology.
But statistics don't really tell the story of what a difference broadband makes in the classroom. Percentages can't adequately convey the level of learning and student engagement technology affords.
As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers whether to increase funding for E-Rate, the federal program that helps bring internet access to U.S. schools, we asked all educators to speak out about how connectivity impacts learning in each district, school and classroom. Your stories, however big or small, carry tremendous power to help bring robust and reliable broadband access to schools across the nation. But first they must be told.
On Sept. 30, ISTE submitted comments from educators across the country to help inform the FCC's decision about E-Rate. In addition to emphasizing the importance of bandwidth in the classroom, these comments expressed:
Concern about the impact losing support for connectivity services will have on their already stretched school budgets.
Worry that funding for building Wi-Fi capacity won't be enough to meet their needs.
Fear that E-Rate will be unable to keep up with their rising bandwidth needs.
Here are a few examples of the stories we sent to the FCC:
Meeting diverse needs
Tracey Fertally teaches special education in a small, low-income school where many students do not have internet access at home. Her students range in abilities and face a spectrum of challenges, from autism to speech impairments to intellectual difficulties.
" "I have utilized technology with my special needs students for many years. My students are very visual learners and need to see things to believe and understand. They live in a very concrete world and cannot grasp concepts that they cannot see and hear.
" "We have been able to explore virtually thanks to our broadband service and wireless capabilities. Of course, our service is not perfect. We often lose those all-important video streams — I guess because our network is not strong enough and gets overtaxed. My students are not the best with patience, so this often causes some problems.
" "The amount of information 'out there' and the materials and curriculum available to my population is incredible. This is the easiest, most cost-effective way to gain valuable resources for my children. More funding is needed to give our school better and more reliable service — and having more of the electronic equipment itself would also be a blessing." "
Supporting 1:1 in low-income schools
Middle school library media specialist Jacqueline Liesch serves a diverse population of students, 42 percent of whom come from families with low income and 23 percent of whom are English language learners. Fourteen percent have special needs.
" "Our district is currently implementing our information and technology plan, calling for each student to have a mobile device within five years. Part of this plan, which was introduced this school year, has provided each teacher in the district with a laptop to further embed responsible use of educational technology in their teaching and students' learning.
" "Students already use Google Apps for Education to collaborate on projects and as part of their social studies curriculum to assess their learning. Teachers also use Google Apps for Education to collaborate with colleagues. Many teachers at my school also use video streaming to engage all students.
" "As technology continues to grow, it is our duty to teach students to use this tool effectively and responsibly. We can only do this with the proper connectivity.
" "Right now, when there are multiple students or teachers using a website or other resource, the internet crashes, which discourages the student or teacher. The connectivity needs will only grow as technology increases." "
Serving visual learners
Adrianne Grant is a technology coordinator for inner-city students who are deaf and hard of hearing.
" "We incorporate many internet videos, lessons, research tools and websites into the educational process. One of the levelers in their education is the ability to provide them with the same digital access that their hearing peers have. The students need to be on the same playing field as other students and be granted the same opportunity.
" "Having broadband and reliable service is key to classroom learning for them. Being visual learners, the devices and tools available to them via the internet are rich in volume, but if they are unable to access them, it makes it difficult for our students to benefit from the same manner.
" "As our society grows richer with technology, our schools should be able to grow right alongside with it." "