The use of digital technology in the K-12 classroom has transformed education in the past decade and continues to do so at an increasingly rapid pace. Digital classrooms have allowed students to learn in new, more collaborative ways and to display their knowledge using creative, multi-media digital tools. Classroom technology has let teachers expand the content they teach as well as the educational strategies they employ. And districts rely on high speed internet to manage their information, conduct assessments, and stay connected with students and families through shared networks. There is no longer any question of whether broadband is needed in schools but only questions about how much, how fast, and how soon.
Broadband provides tremendous assets for K-12 schools and the students they serve. Differentiated learning can be delivered more easily to more students, giving better instruction to all students in a classroom. Access to global resources enriches the materials and scope of information that can be provided at even the smallest or poorest schools. And remote communities can offer students greater options for achievement through advanced placement or community college courses taken online. These opportunities convince many that the use of broadband in schools is truly bringing educational equity to all students.
But the presence of equal opportunities is no guarantee that everyone has equal capacity to take advantage of those options. The dependence of educational systems on broadband now means that the digital divide has become a more critical factor in than ever in achieving educational success. Access to broadband and well-developed computer skills now determine the ability to access, complete and submit assignments, study for tests or conduct research, practice for standardized tests, and complete applications for internships, college, and employment. Those without broadband access outside of the classroom are excluded from these activities. The recent public focus on the “homework gap” and the use of mobile hotspots to address this inequity underscores the way in which digital disparities, that impact close to 5 million students, have become one of the greatest barriers to equality in education. Districts, communities and broadband providers must work together to develop ways to provide broadband access for all members of the educational community.
Read the report on the role of state leadership in promoting broadband access for k-12 schools
Learn more about how districts can obtain funding to close the homework gap.
Read what the 2016 K-12 IT Leadership Survey Report says about broadband in schools.