White House Announces ConnectED Initiative to Provide High-Speed Broadband Connectivity Access

This article is cross-posted from edtechtimes.com, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief.

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On their blog this morning, The White House announced an initiative called ConnectED, which plans to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within 5 years.

The blog entry goes on to state, “preparing America’s students with the skills they need to get good jobs and compete with countries around the world relies increasingly on interactive, individualized learning experiences driven by new technology…millions of students lack access to the high-speed broadband internet that supports this sort of learning technology. Fewer than 20 percent of educators across the country say their school’s Internet connection meets their teaching needs.”

The aims of the ConnectED initiative were outlined as follows:

  • Upgrading connectivity – The President is looking to on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to update and utilize programs that are already in place, such as the eRate program.  He also calls upon the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA, run by the Department of Commerce) to deliver this connectivity, although it is not immediately clear what specific role the NTIA would play.  The ConnectED plans to reach students in rural areas, by expanding current broadband access programs.
  • Training teachers – The ConnectED initiative promises to invest in teacher training on education technology tools that can improve student learning.
    • Citing existing tools for assessment, feedback, professional development, and online lessons, teachers would be trained to leverage these tools to have a more informed and streamlined classroom.
    • The White House also speculates that ed-tech trained teachers would create new avenues of learning through online communities, both nationally and globally.
  • Encouraging private sector innovation – The White House is hoping for a proliferation of ed-tech usage and development in the private sector, as ubiquitous access to high-speed broadband internet creates a greater promise of adoption of these technology products.

As with all announcements, there will be questions about the details of ConnectED.  How will this initiative be funded?  Will eRate be amended and upgraded to reflect the current needs of schools and libraries? Who will regulate and deliver the teacher training in education technology, and by what standards will this training be held to?  (And perhaps the most perplexing question to this writer:  Did anyone research the web before giving this initiative the same name as a product by McGraw-Hill?)

Broadband access is the lifeblood of much of the educational technology that already exists out there – without adequate access, many tools are ineffective or fail at their intended goals.  ConnectED intends to increase access through modernizing government programs and encouraging private sector and community support to meet the changing landscape of technology.

N.B. The White House invites readers to join in today at 3:30 PM ET, in a virtual “show and tell” with three schools that are embracing technology and digital learning. Tune in to wh.gov/show-and-tell to watch live, or join the discussion on Google+ or Twitter using the hashtag #WHhangout.