The International Society for Technology in Education is organizing a drive to gather 100,000 signatures to ask the Obama administration to focus on increasing schools' access to Internet broadband connectivity.
This is not your typical petition drive in one respect: If ISTE can reach the 100,000 threshold, the White House has promised its staff will review the request and offer a response to it, a guarantee that the Obama administration has established through a public-outreach online platform dubbed "We the People."
The wording of the ISTE petition notes that as mobile learning, online adaptive assessments, and the use of other technologies expands in K-12, the demand for Web connectivity is increasing, and that schools need help from the federal government to meet those needs.
It's a common concern that has been voiced by school officials and technology advocates around the country, who have called for greater investment from federal and state leaders in school technology, particularly as the pressure to get technology in place for the online common-core assessments ramps up.
"Unfortunately, unlike the business and healthcare sectors, K-12 investment in school broadband infrastructure has lagged," the petition states. "Even the successful E-Rate program cannot meet rapidly escalating school needs for increased bandwidth."
The Obama administration describes We the People as a "new, easy way for Americans to make their voice heard in our government." As of January, the rules on the competition say that petition organizers need to gather 100,000 signatures within 30 days after the petition has been made accessible on the White House site. Since the ed-tech petition was posted April 1, that means its supporters need to hit that mark by May 1—about three weeks from now.
As of this morning, they had 99,547 signatures to go.
Of course, whether this process has any impact in actually shaping federal policymakers' views to a degree comparable to other versions of Washington politicking—such as straightforward lobbying of the White House or Capitol Hill, for instance—remains to be seen. But the petition drive itself probably represents at the least an opportunity for ed-tech advocates to rally the base to their cause.