Teaching, Learning Transformed by Broadband in Rural Maryland
A rural district in Maryland is reporting some positive results for instruction and learning after receiving funding from a federal program meant to connect the nation's schools with high-speed Internet, according to a recent story by The Hechinger Report.
The Garrett County district, in western Maryland, received funding through the federal Connect Ed program last year, which allowed the district to upgrade its broadband infrastructure so that teachers and students can access high-speed Internet at school. This year, teachers used technology to video conference with educators at a state college, receive feedback on lesson plans, and Skype with experts. For the first time, students were able to play educational games and use technology to assist with research projects without the Internet system crashing.
Nationwide, only 30 percent of schools are believed to have adequate bandwidth, and rural communities often lag urban and suburban communities. The federal Connect Ed program aims to provide broadband and high-speed wireless Internet to 99 percent of students within five years by providing funding for infrastructure upgrades to schools and libraries. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that only 62 percent of rural adults have broadband at home, compared to 73 percent of suburban adults and 70 percent of urban adults. Many rural districts have struggled to upgrade technology, Internet, and bandwidth requirements amidst budget cuts and shrinking enrollments.