January 22, 2014
Getting computers and high-speed Internet access into schools: the Louisiana example
Widespread adoption of online and blended learning is going to require that many schools upgrade their computers and Internet access. To implement blended learning at scale, in particular, schools need devices for all students, and bandwidth that, in most cases, is significantly higher than what schools currently have.
The State Education Technology Directors Association summarizes its recommendations for bandwidth in the table below:
Some upgrading is going to be required to meet the needs of the online assessments that are currently being created by the two national consortia PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced. For districts and states, these technology upgrades are going to require major investments, as many schools do not yet have the computers or infrastructure. In addition, setting the target as what is necessary for the national assessments is not high enough. While it may be a technology upgrade for many schools, it is still a low bar towards creating equitable access to an appropriately technology-rich education for all students.
This is such a key issue for schools that it’s becoming imperative that policymakers address it. As reported by a Louisiana newspaper, recent comments from John White, state Superintendent of Education in Louisiana, demonstrate clarity and purpose in tackling these issues in his state.
Regarding the need for computers for every student, White said, “I don’t think any of us would accept anything other than a one to one ratio.”
He then added, “At the same time we are a long way from that.”
From the same story:
“The issue has gotten attention in recent months amid preparations for online tests that will accompany national academic standards…
Some superintendents have complained about problems financing computer buys, especially after five years of general freezes in state aid for public schools.
White told lawmakers that the need for technology improvements goes well beyond that, with high schools offering online tests for several years and elementary and middle schools on the same path.
“But technology is not about tests,” he said. “It is about day-to-day life.” [emphasis added]
Technology is about day-to-day life, as White states. Familiarity with the technology required for online courses is a component of being college-ready.
We hope that all state policymakers are taking this issue on with similar clarity.