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Better Broadband Isn't Enough for Schools

Carol Wilson
1/29/2014
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There is a touch of déjà vu for me in President Obama's announcement last night of his ConnectED Initiative, designed to bring high-speed Internet to more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years.

It seems like just one more federal government attempt to improve our schools through technology.

Obama mentioned a public-private partnership between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and companies including Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). The immediate assumption is that Verizon and Sprint would be involved in providing that broadband connections via fiber and wireless.

But let's face it, bringing broadband to schools is not a new thing -- it's an agenda that has been advanced before and repeatedly. Rural telcos have been engaged for years in connecting their schools, some as a result of government funding initiatives but many of their own accord. As Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association , has noted, bringing a gigabit of bandwidth to the school's door does nothing if the school doesn't know how to use it. (See Getting Rural Telcos on the Services Bandwagon.)

If this latest initiative is going to work, there has to be greater effort made to integrate technology into the educational mission and to give teachers the appropriate tools and train them on their use.

There is some reason for hope that is where ConnectED Initiative 2014 will be focused. According to one source familiar with the project, the goal isn't just more bandwidth, but also equipping teachers to use it. The White House is expected to say more about this within the next two weeks, so stay tuned.

Maybe this won't be déjà vu all over again.

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Sales guru
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Sales guru,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/13/2014 | 3:22:54 AM
More BW in school
It is more important to focus on character building of students. Providing gadets, providing more bandiwdth or providing more facilities can not build bright students. On the contrary, students are wasting more time on internet and getting defocused. 

 

 
Liz Greenberg
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Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/2/2014 | 5:08:11 PM
Re: Digital division
@seven...I actually agreed with you, I was just giving you a hard time on the word "poppycock" and you missed my smiley face.  Having said that, I loved your rebuttle and the amount of extra information included. Talk about wonderful, unintended consequences.
brookseven
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brookseven,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/1/2014 | 4:43:34 PM
Re: Its not just about a fast connection to the school
And great teachers are much less important than supportive parents and students that want to learn.

 

seven
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/1/2014 | 2:21:47 PM
Re: Its not just about a fast connection to the school
I'd rather have a teacher who truly understands the subject matter and knows how to teach than one who knows how to get the wi-fi to work. Technology delivery systems are far less important than content (books, for instance). Throwing money at the former at the expense of the latter will get us nowhere.
CraigPlunkett
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CraigPlunkett,
User Rank: Moderator
2/1/2014 | 2:12:03 PM
Re: Its not just about a fast connection to the school
I was equating age with the ability to better leverage available technology for better learning outcomes.  An overgeneralization sure to infuriate those of us of a certain age who have mastered the new tools at their disposal.

Substituting books for technology is also dubious, at best... ;-)
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/1/2014 | 1:51:26 PM
Re: Its not just about a fast connection to the school
If you substitute "books" for "technology," you can see that the only thing that's changed in this age-old debate is the end-user device. The devil will always be in the details. To equate technology acumen with teaching ability is dubious, at best.
CraigPlunkett
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CraigPlunkett,
User Rank: Moderator
2/1/2014 | 10:47:36 AM
Its not just about a fast connection to the school
In this discussion, I haven't actually heard much about the application of technology to teaching.  This is not just about connectivity as the lede says.  I deal a lot with Higher Ed and K-12 schools, and they are scrambling to implement the concept of Flipped Classrooms, which relies on a 1-1 ratio of devices to students, excellent Wi-Fi in the classroom, student connectivity at home, and a teacher that knows how to integrate technology into their lessons.  

Plus, they need the support of a district's overwhelmed IT staff who are struggling to determine the best way to manage all these devices.  iPads can't be effectively locked down, Google doesn't allow third party management of their cheap chromebooks, and they have old Wi-Fi networks that were designed for coverage, not device density.

As the parent of a college freshman and High School freshman, over the past dozen or so years I have seen the way that younger teachers easily integrate technology into their pedagogy during annual Meet the Teacher nights.   Teachers that are my age use a SMARTboard as a simple substitute for a blackboard.  The younger ones are more fluent in its use and integrate it much more effectively in learning.

I believe that ConnectED and the new eRate changes will allow schools to more effectively deploy technology based tools to better leverage these concepts.  The devil will be in the details of course.

For more on flipped classrooms see this piece from EDUCAUSE

http://bit.ly/1bfvNAt
brookseven
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brookseven,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/31/2014 | 9:17:08 AM
Re: Digital division
 

Liz,

 

Yes poppycock.

From my view of young folks Internet usage, I see:

- Youtube

- Twitter

- Gaming

- Porn

- IM

I don't see anything that helps kids through school.  Could they use the Internet to enhance their studies?  Yes, they could and it sounds like a wonderful thing.  Just like economic benefit of broadband, I just have not seen any studies that make it so.

Now here is the thing, the cost to do schools is basically trivial as a nation.  The number of schools.  I saw a site that there are about 100K public primary/secondary schools.  That is about a the same as a city of about 500K.  So, do I think this is a big issue?  Not really and many schools already are connected.

Again, I want to know what the schools are going to do once the bandwidth is there?  How are we going to redo education?  I still don't think education is an actual problem?  Can things be better?  Of course.  But we keep talking about our rank against other countries and have been doing so since I was a kid.  And yet, I still see the US at the top of technology.  See the long quote from Wikipedia below my sig....

seven

"In 2013 Martin Carnoy of the Stanford University Graduate School of Education and Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute released a report, "What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?", analyzing the 2009 PISA data base. Their report found that U.S. PISA test scores had been lowered by a sampling error that over-represented adolescents from the most disadvantaged American schools in the test-taking sample.[50] The authors cautioned that international test scores are often "interpreted to show that American students perform poorly when compared to students internationally" and that school reformers then conclude that "U.S. public education is failing." Such inferences, made before the data has been carefully analyzed, they say, "are too glib"[51] and "may lead policymakers to pursue inappropriate and even harmful reforms."[52]

Carnoy and Rothstein observe that in all countries, students from disadvantaged backgrounds perform worse than those from advantaged backgrounds, and the US has a greater percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The sampling error on the PISA results lowered U.S. scores for 15-year-olds even further, they say. The authors add, however, that in countries such as Finland, the scores of disadvantaged students tends to be stagnant, whereas in the U.S the scores of disadvantaged students have been steadily rising over time, albeit still lagging behind their those of their more advantaged peers. When the figures are adjusted for social class, the PISA scores of all US students would still remain behind those of the highest scoring countries, nevertheless, the scores of US students of all social backgrounds have shown a trajectory of improvement over time, notably in mathematics, a circumstance PISA's report fails to take into account.

Carnoy and Rothstein write that PISA spokesman Andreas Schleicher has been quoted saying that "international education benchmarks make disappointing reading for the U.S." and that "in the U.S. in particular, poverty was destiny. Low-income American students did (and still do) much worse than high-income ones on PISA. But poor kids in Finland and Canada do far better relative to their more privileged peers, despite their disadvantages" (Ripley 2011)."[53] Carnoy and Rothstein state that their report's analysis shows Schleicher and Ripley's claims to be untrue. They further fault the way PISA's results have persistently been released to the press before experts have time to evaluate them; and they charge the OPEC reports with inconsistency in explaining such factors as the role of parental education. Carnoy and Rothstein also note with alarm that the US secretary of education Arne Duncan regularly consults with PISA's Andreas Schleicher in formulating educational policy before other experts have been given a chance to analyze the results.[54] Carnoy and Rothstein's report (written before the release of the 2011 database) concludes:

We are most certain of this: To make judgments only on the basis of national average scores, on only one test, at only one point in time, without comparing trends on different tests that purport to measure the same thing, and without disaggregation by social class groups, is the worst possible choice. But, unfortunately, this is how most policymakers and analysts approach the field.

The most recent test for which an international database is presently available is PISA, administered in 2009. A database for TIMSS 2011 is scheduled for release in mid-January 2013. In December 2013, PISA will announce results and make data available from its 2012 test administration. Scholars will then be able to dig into TIMSS 2011 and PISA 2012 databases so they can place the publicly promoted average national results in proper context. The analyses we have presented in this report should caution policymakers to await understanding of this context before drawing conclusions about lessons from TIMSS or PISA assessments.[55]"

 
Liz Greenberg
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Liz Greenberg,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/30/2014 | 7:37:43 PM
Re: Digital division
@seven...poppycock?  Seriously?  :-}


I actually agree with you, more money does not always solve problems.  It would be good for everybody to have access to the same information in relatively the same way and that is a good goal but one has to be reasonable and not expect a panacea.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/30/2014 | 3:40:06 PM
Re: There's no data, no metrics, nothing...
New Jersey is not impressed.
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