Posts Tagged "broadband"

Why Aren’t All Districts Jumping Onto the 1:1 Bandwagon?

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One of the ironies we are seeing at Learning List is that although most publishers are selling online instructional materials, most districts still request materials that are also available in print.  Why? These are the three reasons we hear most often:

(1)   Schools don’t have the technical infrastructure to enable all students to be online simultaneously;

(2)   Teachers are not all on board with or don’t all have the technology skills to teach exclusively with online materials; and

(3)   Students do not all have access to broadband at home; if schools adopt only online materials, they may exacerbate the achievement gap.

The federal ConnectEd program and various state initiatives are aiming to address the first challenge by assessing the current status and funding enhancements to districts’ technology infrastructure over the next several years.

Districts are taking aim at the second challenge in different ways.  The news is replete with districts rolling out 1:1 initiatives.  Presumably, those districts have and are continuing to provide intensive professional development to get their teachers up to speed quickly. Other districts are targeting a longer-term implementation plan. For example, in Houston ISD, superintendent Terry Geer has adopted a plan to implement 1:1 instruction in all of the district’s high schools by 2016.

The third challenge is the most vexing because it is societal, not school-based. Some communities are expanding students’ ability to use online resources outside of school by providing community-wide Internet access, keeping libraries and community centers open later, or creating “hot spots” around them to enable students to do homework there later into the evening. AT&T and Verizon will be leading the effort to expand mobile broadband nationwide while Google and other broadband Internet service providers will continue driving fiber connectivity. What’s your view of 1:1?

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CEOs Push for Cheaper Broadband for Schools

In this morning’s New York Times, Quentin Hardy reports in the Bits blog on a push by the non-profit group EductaionSuperHighway to change the way the Federal Communications Commission provides broadband to schools.  With the support of 40 executives, including the CEOs of American Express, Dell, Ebay, and Facebook, EducationSuperHighway has written a letter to the FCC demanding greater transparency and competition in the federal E-Rate program, which connects schools to the Internet.

In his post, Hardy notes:

EducationSuperHighway’s statistics say schools are overpaying for connectivity. The median cost per school, it calculates, is $25 a megabit, and the top quartile of schools pay $2 a megabit. The bottom quartile pays $85 a megabit. Schools in typically wealthier districts, which float bonds to connect themselves, have negotiated deals to pay as little as 10 cents a megabit.

Noting that schools now need approximately 100 megabits per second to support wireless connectivity but will need  10 times that in as little as three years, the letter outlines the case for less expensive broadband.  You can read the letter here.

 

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Proclamation 2014: Online Instructional Materials and the Challenge of Bandwidth

As we noted in a previous post, the Texas Education Agency has indicated that most of the products submitted in response to Proclamation 2014 are online materials. As most educators know, innovative online resources have the power to transform learning; however, they rapidly can become sources of frustration for both teachers and students when inadequate bandwidth, or internet speed,  results in slow download times, poor video quality, and inability to access interactive content.

Education Superhighway, a non-profit group that focuses on ensuring schools have the resources needed to implement digital learning, estimates that as many as 80 percent of schools nationally do not have adequate bandwidth to support online instruction.  This suggests that instructional materials selection committees must carefully consider whether they have both the devices and the broadband capacity to support online resources when selecting new materials.  Schools may access a free test of their broadband capacity here.

The State Educational Technology Directors Association has recommended that schools have minimum bandwidth of 100 Mbps per second per 1,000 students and staff by 2014-15, increasing to 1 Gbps per second per 1,000 students and staff by 2017-18. Based on these recommendations, the Texas Legislature has required that TEA conduct a broadband study to determine whether Texas school districts have the capacity to support online learning.  Specifically, the study will gauge whether:

  • Individual campuses have the SETDA-recommended bandwidth of 100 Mbps per second per 1,000 students and staff, and
  • Internal wide area network connections between each district and its campuses have a bandwidth of 1 Gbps per second per 1,000 students and staff.

Learning List’s editorial reviews address the minimum system requirements, including broadband access, needed to effectively implement each product we review.  For each online product submitted, we ask publishers to identify the following technology requirements:  supported operating systems, hardware, software, plug-Ins, internet access (including connection speeds, supported internet browsers, browser settings), screen settings, and device compatibility. In addition, Learning List’s reviews describe how online products engage students in interactive experiences, foster collaborative learning, and adapt instruction to meet individual student needs.

 

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