A new report released today from the State Educational Technology Directors Association outlines four key recommendations for creating ubiquitous, equitable broadband access for K-12 schools. The report, called The Broadband Imperative, builds on a 2008 report from SETDA about broadband needs.
"Technology is no longer a nice-to-have," said Christine Fox, the director of educational leadership and research for SETDA in a webcast press briefing about the report on Monday. Broadband should be seen as a utility that is necessary for education, rather than an "add-on" she said. That access to the Internet is necessary in order for education to mirror the society in which students will go on to pursue jobs, she added.
The four recommendations are as follows:
1. Schools in the 2014-15 academic year should be able to provide at least 100 megabytes per 1,000 students and staff for an external Internet connection, and at least 1 gigabyte per 1,000 students and staff for an internal wide area network.
2. In addition to providing broadband within schools, the federal government, states, and districts should also assume responsibility for ensuring broadband access outside of schools—in homes, as well as public places such as libraries and community centers.
3. State leaders should provide a vision for expanding adequate and ubiquitous broadband access to schools, libraries, and community centers. This could mean working with a state broadband network or working with school districts directly to leverage federal and public-private partnerships to achieve those goals.
4. The federal government should provide funding for broadband access to help support statewide networks, schools and districts, community centers and libraries, as well as home access for low-income families.
Schools also need to keep in mind that they are no longer planning for just 1-to-1 environments, but 1-to-many, said Fox, from SETDA, as many students now have multiple devices that they expect to be able to use to access the Internet, such as smartphones, tablet computers, and laptops.
The SETDA report provides an important step to achieving adequate broadband access by setting a specific goal for how much broadband schools and districts should have in place by a specific date, said Karen Cator, the director of the office of educational technology for the U.S Department of Education, who also attended the Monday briefing in Washington.
"We need to figure out how to leverage all of [the different broadband strategies] to make sure that every school and every home has access to broadband," she said.
In addition, representatives from states and school districts, including Jeff Mao, the learning technology policy director at the Maine Department of Education, and John Miller, the assistant director of the office of instructional technology for the West Virginia Department of Education, shared their experiences with broadband networks and technology needs in their respective states.
All the participants in the briefing talked about how the Common Core State Standards will provide an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration between states, much of which will depend on having a strong broadband connection.