Ed. note: To highlight the importance of connected classrooms, the White House held a virtual "show and tell" with three schools that are embracing technology and digital learning. Watch the full hangout at wh.gov/show-and-tell.
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.
From digital textbooks that help students visualize and interact with complex concepts, to apps and platforms that adapt to the level of individual student knowledge and help teachers know precisely which lessons or activities are working, many schools are already seeing the benefits of digital learning and connectivity. This technology is real, it is available, and its capacity to improve education is profound.
But today, 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.
Although the United States was once a pioneer in connecting schools to the internet, we’re now falling behind while other nations move forward with aggressive investment in digital learning and technology education. In South Korea, for example, all schools have high-speed internet connections, and all teachers are trained in digital learning. Printed textbooks will be phased out by 2016.
The fact is, schools without internet access put our students at a disadvantage.
That’s why President Obama is unveiling a bold, new initiative called ConnectED, which will connect 99 percent of America’s students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within 5 years.
The President also directed the federal government to make better use of existing funds to get Internet connectivity and educational technology into classrooms, and into the hands of teachers trained on its advantages. And he called on businesses, states, districts, schools and communities to support this vision, which requires no congressional action.
Here’s how ConnectED works:
The ConnectED initiative will, within five years, connect 99 percent of America’s students to the digital age through next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless in their schools and libraries. The President is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to modernize and leverage existing programs, as well as the expertise of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to deliver this connectivity.
ConnectED will also provide better broadband access for students in rural areas, by expanding successful efforts to connect parts of the country that typically have trouble attracting investment in broadband infrastructure.
Our teachers are being asked to do more than ever, and they need to be equipped with better tools to help them succeed. Fortunately, technology can play a central role in this.
For example, new digital education tools that allow for real-time assessments of student learning, provide more immediate feedback to drive professional development, and enable the creation of interactive online lessons can empower teachers to understand each student’s strengths and weaknesses and design lessons and activities that better meet their needs.
The ConnectED initiative invests in improving the skills of teachers, ensuring that every educator in America receives support and training in using education technology tools that can improve student learning.
Additionally, ConnectED will lead to new resources for teachers from any school, at any time, to open their classrooms to interactive demonstrations, lessons from world-renowned experts, or the opportunity to build learning communities and to collaborate with other educators across the country or world.
Encouraging private sector innovation
Educational devices supported by high-speed networks are the portal to the world of online earning and interactive content, to personalized education software that adapts to students’ needs, and to breakthrough advances in assessing understanding and mastery.
These devices give students access to more rigorous and engaging classes, new learning resources, rich visualizations of complex concepts, and instruction in any foreign language. They also give students more opportunities to work at their own speed and receive additional one-on-one help they need to develop their knowledge and skills.
Leading technology companies are capable of producing feature-rich educational devices that are price-competitive with basic textbooks.And a robust market in educational software can unlock the full educational potential of broadband investment, while create American jobs and export opportunities in a global education marketplace of over $1 trillion.