By Bridget Duff, director of vertical sales solutions, education, Cox Communications
Although numerous factors contribute to student success, many of today’s digital learning activities that drive great achievement begin with consistent broadband access. And while most of the nation’s schools have internet access, a recent report by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), indicates that the quality and type of connectivity varies significantly – resulting in digital divides across the country.
When upgrading their IT architecture, school districts will sometimes fail to ensure their network has the capacity to support a growing number of devices and technologies coming into their classrooms, which area necessity for 21st-century learning. But luckily, there are a few ways that education IT leaders can plan to ensure their infrastructures can support school technology for years to come. Here’s how:
Wi-Fi connectivity needed for growing number of devices
Today’s K-12 students will enter a workforce that demands tech savviness, problem solving and critical thinking, among other skills. To be prepared, students must have the tools, in school and at home, to thrive in an increasingly digital community. Therefore, addressing sufficient broadband and ensuring digital equity aren’t simply wants – they’re needs.
When thinking about technology in schools, what comes to mind? Augmented, virtual or blended reality, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence? What about high-tech whiteboards, smart pods and one-to-one laptops or tablets?
To embrace these innovative learning environments and advanced methodologies, and others like them, schools need adequate intranet infrastructure. Without it, teachers who want to employ innovative, technology-enabled pedagogical methods are forced to abandon their lesson plans. As 87%of the country’s teachers use digital learning in their classroom, those left without the proper digital foundation can feel left in the dust.
Too often infrastructure that includes strong Wi-Fi connectivity on a range of devices is sometimes overlooked and often doesn’t take future needs into account. Further, not every student who attends a school with a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)initiative actually has one.
And close to 7.15 million house holds don’t have adequate internet, though many at-home assignments are trending towards digital. According to edsource.org, since the majority of families in rural Alpaugh, Calif., lack internet at home, for instance, teachers at Alpaugh Unified’s two schools choose not to assign homework that involve going online.
The aforementioned SETDA study, Broadband Imperative III: Driving Connectivity, Access and Student Success report summarizes this imbalance as follows:“In addition to equitable on-campus access all students need equitable access off campus as well as to both devices and broadband.”
Preparing for tomorrow
To tackle these issues, SETDA recommends that policy makers and school leaders take these five steps:
- Ensure digital access and equity.
Barriers to learning decrease when students have access to learning materials outside the classroom, such as internet connectivity, e-books and tablets.
- Plan infrastructure for the future.
Districts should consider bandwidth capacity and WAN implementation as they move toward learning that mimics corporate environments. This may include moving to the cloud, which can help save valuable school IT resources and energy costs.
- Continue building on existing networks to support future initiatives.
Districts must ensure that upgrades to networks can sufficiently accommodate up-and-coming technology demands.
- Encourage educators to leverage technology for innovative pedagogical approaches.
This includes supporting learning experiences that will prepare students for their future in the digital age.
- Influence federal and state policies and funding.
Advocate stronger legislation, policies and regulation, along with more effective security measures.
The future of the classroom depends on digital learning. As such, more devices and innovative technology will continue coming into the nation’s schools. High-speed broadband access and technology at school and at home are both integral to successfully preparing the nation’s more than 76.4 million students for digital success.And it all starts with the right connectivity in the classroom.