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
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
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
Fear that E-Rate will be unable to keep up with their
rising bandwidth needs.
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
“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
“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
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