Poll: Americans give 'C' to broadband efforts in schools
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Raleigh, N.C. — The bipartisan Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission released a poll last week with results finding that voters gave the state of technology in America’s schools a mediocre C grade.
The nationwide poll was conducted via telephone with 800 voters from Jan. 6-9. The findings indicated that both parents and non-parents support putting high-speed Internet access in all American public schools within the next five years and are willing to pay to do it.
The majority of those polled (83 percent) said they are very concerned about the lack of access to basic resources and technology in public schools and the consequences of such unpreparedness as students seek to compete on a global scale. To that end, 6 in 10 voters, and 65 percent of parents, said they believe allowing teachers to incorporate technology to teach students the skills needed for 21st century jobs is an important reason to expand broadband access.
Strong majorities (90 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of Republicans) support expanding broadband access even when told the program would be paid for by a temporary fee on cell phone users of roughly $4 a year for three years, according to the report.
The complete poll findings can be viewed online at this site.
“We understand that all American students and teachers need resources to compete in the 21st century,” said LEAD Commissioner and Co-Founder of TPG Capital Jim Coulter. “Building high-speed Internet access in all American public schools offers students the keys to succeed, regardless of zip code.”
The LEAD poll was released last week just as President Barack Obama announced the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will invest $2 billion over the next two years to dramatically expand high-speed Internet connectivity for America's schools and libraries – connecting more than 20 million students to next-generation broadband and wireless. An additional commitment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture includes more than $10 million in distance learning grants.
Those investments will begin flowing to schools in 2014, and will focus specifically on the broadband connection and Wi-Fi that many schools lack and will be the foundation of the ConnectED transformation of schools.
ConnectED, which the president first announced in North Carolina last summer in Mooresville, will within five years connect 99 percent of America’s students to the digital age through broadband and high-speed wireless in their schools and libraries. ConnectED also aims to provide better broadband access for students in rural areas by expanding efforts to connect parts of the country that typically have trouble attracting investments in broadband infrastructure.
But, ConnectED is about more than just wires and wireless; it’s about getting tablets and laptops into students’ hands, loading them with high-quality educational software and content, training educators on how to use technology to enrich the classroom experience, and ensuring students can continue this learning at home through wireless connectivity.
The FCC and companies like Apple, AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon already are providing their support, collectively pledging to connect more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students by the end of 2015.
Obama said private-sector companies have committed more than $750 million to deliver cutting-edge technologies to classrooms. According to a White House spokesperson, this is an essential down-payment on reaching the president’s goal of connecting 99 percent of students to high-speed broadband and wireless over the next five years.
Here is a breakdown of the ConnectEd commitments made by private-sector companies so far:
• Apple, which will donate $100 million in iPads, MacBooks, and other products, along with content and professional development tools to enrich learning in disadvantaged U.S. schools
• AT&T, which pledged more than $100 million to give middle school students free Internet connectivity for educational devices over their wireless network for three years
• Autodesk, which pledged to make their 3D design program "Design the Future" available for free in every secondary school in the U.S. , valued at more than $250 million
• Microsoft, which will launch a substantial affordability program open to all U.S. public schools by deeply discounting the price of its Windows operating system, which will decrease the price of Windows-based devices
• O'Reilly Media, which is partnering with Safari Books Online to make more than $100 million in educational content and tools available for free to every school in the U.S.
• Sprint, which will offer free wireless service for up to 50,000 low-income high school students over the next four years, valued at $100 million
• Verizon, which announced a multi-year program to support ConnectED through up to $100 million in cash and in-kind commitments
Rural communities likely will experience some of the greatest benefits of new education technologies, as ConnectED will help provide new learning opportunities to level the playing field for rural students.
The Universal Service Fund has been transformative in the past 20 years providing rural communities with telephone services, and now broadband. The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) has helped connect underserved community anchor institutions. ConnectED builds on those efforts, with greater returns for communities finding it difficult to attract broadband investments.
The Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina where President Obama first announced ConnectEd in June 2013 distributes one device per student (grades 3-12) and uses predominantly digital curriculum content. All teachers also are trained on how to integrate technology into their teaching.
Since beginning the shift to greater use of technology, learning in Mooresville has changed.
As Mooresville Superintendent and 2013 National Superintendent of the Year Mark Edwards has said, “This is not about the technology. It’s not about the box. It’s about changing the culture of instruction – preparing students for their future, not our past.”
In Mooresville, the district’s graduation rate was 91 percent in 2011, up from 80 percent in 2008. On state tests in reading, math and science, an average of 88 percent of students across grades and subjects met proficiency standards, compared with 73 percent three years ago. Mooresville ranks 100th out of 115 districts in North Carolina in terms of dollars spent per student, but it is now third in test scores and second in graduation rates.
Preparing America’s students with the skills they need to get good jobs and compete with countries around the world relies increasingly on interactive, personalized learning experiences driven by new technology. Yet fewer than 30 percent of America’s schools have the broadband they need to teach using today’s technology. Under ConnectED, connectivity and training will help transform the classroom experience for all students, regardless of income or geography.
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