President Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Office of Educational Technology (OET) Director Richard Culatta recently convened “ConnectED to the Future,” a gathering of more than 100 school district superintendents and other education leaders at the White House. On the agenda: increasing broadband connectivity access to and throughout schools as well as planning for the shifts of learning and teaching made possible by this increased access. President Obama and Secretary Duncan released Future Ready Schools: Building Technology Infrastructure for Learning, a guide with information and practical advice to help district leaders connect their schools, teachers, and students to the high-speed Internet. Stories of actual implementations from schools and districts across the U.S. were included to highlight innovative strategies and continued challenges.
Future Ready Schools was developed by SRI Education’s Center for Technology in Learning under the guidance of OET and in partnership with a group of tech-savvy district technology officers. The guide presents options for district leaders to consider when enhancing technology infrastructure, as existing connectivity and circumstances vary greatly across districts, depending on their size, population, and geography. The guide also addresses potentially thorny implementation issues such as acceptable use policies, student privacy, and security, as well as device selection, costs, and financing.
Moving forward, the Department of Education is encouraging district superintendents to use the guide as a starting point for planning their educational technology development. This effort goes in hand with the President’s ConnectED initiative, which aims to connect 99 percent of U.S. students to high-speed broadband Internet by 2018, increase access to professional learning centered on the use of technology in the classroom, improve access to high-quality technology and digital content. In effect, this guide serves as a user manual for district leaders to ensure that their district is part of that 99 percent.
Access to high-speed Internet and technology is a critical element for ensuring equity in education. When Internet connections in schools are too slow—a problem disproportionately common in rural and under-resourced communities—students miss the benefits of educational technologies entirely. With the guidance provided in Future Ready Schools, along with $4 billion in public and private funding provided to schools through the ConnectED Initiative, the hope is that all students—or at least 99 percent of them—will gain access to the broadband tools and content needed to thrive in a globally connected world.