There’s no doubt that technology is constantly transforming education. From tablets and smartboards in the classroom to online learning tools stored in the cloud, schools, teachers and parents understand the need for proper funding to keep these programs running.
Thanks to recent news of the Federal Communications Commission approving changes to the E-Rate program, which provides discounted telecommunications, Internet access, and internal connections to eligible schools and libraries. The move means Wi-Fi funding is set to increase $1 billion a year over the next two years, and will see an annual “funding target” for that amount for years after that.
With evolving teaching techniques and education requirements causing greater connectivity demands at schools across the country — “Technology has changed, the needs of schools and libraries have changed,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said at the agency’s open meeting this month — the move is especially pertinent.
This intersection of technology and education recently hit home for me, when I learned that the high school I attended a long time ago is now connected through a dedicated 1Gbps optical Ethernet connection. Now, Nauset Regional High School in Massachusetts will support a raft of modern learning apps, including enhanced video, collaboration tools with other schools, and better Internet access for roughly 1,100 students and faculty members.
The school pegs its traffic demand at roughly 500Mbps at any time during a typical school day. That’s up from 100Mbps just a few years ago, and it’s expected to double in the near future as new applications and academic standards testing change over the next few years.
And as the FCC ruling demonstrates, Nauset is not alone in this trend. Whether schools have already beefed up connectivity, or they just have the desperate need but not the funds to do so, this is about giving students a more robust education — applying modern learning tools, like video, freshly written commentary, and interactivity, to teaching classical subjects.
An interesting example of this is flipped classroom, in which lectures are delivered to the student remotely and classroom time is used as interaction time. Not surprisingly, the flipped classroom creates connectivity demands on the school and the communities it supports. The video below shows the flipped classroom in action at Woodland Park High School in Colorado.
Certainly, the E-Rate change is a win for education in today’s tech-centered classroom. Now, what actions will schools continue to take to meet the rising demands of high-speed connectivity and capacity?