Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

The Broadband Imperative: Opening Access to the World for all our Students

Cheryl S. Williams's picture

Earlier this week the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) released its latest report, The Broadband Imperative: Recommendations to Address K-12 Education Infrastructure Needs, at an event featuring presentations by a panel that included two state leaders from Maine and West Virginia along with a district administrator from New Jersey.  Once again, we were reminded of the opportunities that are opened up for students and teachers (and those administrators that lead districts and schools) when robust connections and ubiquitous communications devices are available for teaching and learning.  However, having more years of experience than I like to admit in advocating for the appropriate use of technology to support personalized learning opportunities and teaching effectiveness, I was struck with the realization that this meeting and its recommendations, while important, were not new.  

What is new and what changes the conversation is the adoption by 46 states of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts and Math and the assessment instruments that are currently in development to monitor and report out individual student progress towards reaching the CCSS.  Those assessment instruments are designed to be administered online and to require more than answers to multiple choice questions, so to evaluate student progress, schools and districts will need broadband to the classroom and input devices, i.e. computers, laptops, tablets, for students to use in the testing environment.

Public education leaders, including those who attended the report’s release meeting, harbor great hope that the requirements for testing new standards will jump start the acquisition, installation, and widespread use of technology supported instruction in addition to testing.  It will be important for all of us involved in the move to CCSS and the new assessments to ensure that technology acquisitions are designed to support personalized learning, ongoing formative feedback to the teacher, and familiarity with digital information and an informed approach to incorporating the wide world of resources and interaction into the school day.  If we do that well, the end of year summative, online assessment activity will be a seamless addition to the education modus operandi.

While states and local school agencies will be responsible for the implementation at the school and classroom level of the new standards and the measurement of student progress, there is an obvious role for the Federal government in supporting the success of this activity nationwide.  Just as the Federal government developed policies and regulations to require that every citizen in the country has electricity and phone service, now is the time for national leadership to develop policies that result in capital investment for broadband service to every school, library, and learning community.  The details need to be worked out in collaboration with state and local leaders and companies that provide the service.  Done right, business will expand, jobs will be created and best of all, schools will be more effective and student achievement will soar.

I think that most people live

I think that most people live in such a world where the don't realize that there are still schools and homes in this country without broadband. I think that everyone should have this available to them.


There is really no reason for people to go without broadband Internet or any type of Internet for that matter but people do go without false advertising.

I think it's funny that there

I think it's funny that there are serious people out there who believe that kids will learn anything with laptops, tablets, whatever right in front of them. While the teacher is teaching, they'll be screwing around on line. I've seen it time and time again at the elementary, middle and high school levels. If Johnny can't read or write, it has nothing to do with technology (except when Johnny spends so much time with it, he doesn't read or write anything).

Any educational tool can be

Any educational tool can be badly used, but in the hands of a talented teacher and engaged classroom, new devices, digital content, and access to information resources through broadband connections can expand opportunities for both students and teachers. We've all seen examples of bad teaching and irresponsible behavior by students. The technology is not the cause of the behavior. And, technology of any kind will never replace a talented teacher. But, we're missing a terrific chance to reach different learners with a wealth of resources if we don't embrace the tools ubiquitous in society and crucial to successful functioning in the 21st century.

I beg to differ, but it is

I beg to differ, but it is all about the test scores. It is the gauge of your performance. It measures where you are in terms of learning. - Phil Melugin

I'm not sure what you're

I'm not sure what you're differing over...if real learning takes place and the testing is meaningful and multidimensional then all bases are covered. In any case, I'm just amazed that someone is still reading a blog posted eight months ago...thanks!