Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How Connected is Your School?

Our blogger today is Theresa Shafer, Online Community Manager with New Tech Network.

We often hear the phrase:
“The quality of your education shouldn’t be determined by your zip code”

In honor of digital learning month, I am adapting this to:
“The quality of your school internet connection shouldn’t be determined by your zip code!”

I was fortunate enough to be a part of a forward-thinking school corporation who almost 10 years ago began preparing and budgeting for today’s almost all online environment. We do know from reports like The Speak Up Ed Report that this just isn’t the case across our country and across our state. Teachers and students are being handcuffed from accessing resources due to slow, insufficient bandwidth.

Why? In many cases it is just straight up due to dollars and cents. Bandwidth is expensive. Schools who can afford it have a ton of it, schools who can’t afford it plod along at practically dial up speed.

Just a few weeks ago during #PBLChat we had more students chat with us than ever before, the topic was “digital equity”. Students were concerned on two fronts, one that their school had super slow bandwidth and two, lack of connectivity at home.

Students said both were frustrating for several reasons examples they gave:
  • During state online testing, all other online work is halted so bandwidth is only dedicated to testing. 
  • Teachers telling them to go to McDonald’s if they need to connect to do homework or to the library. (Students said this is no good because they don’t have a ride to get there and some live in the country or two faraway to walk.) 
  • Doing HW on a phone is really tricky when it is their only device. 
  • Many have friends who are in other districts who have access to “really cool” programs, classes, college courses etc…that they don’t due to bandwidth or lack of home access.
So what can YOU do about it? The first thing is to learn about it, don’t just leave that word, “bandwidth” to your IT department. Here are a few resources where you can check out the bandwidth available in your school.

Education Superhighway
School Speed Test
Speak Up Ed

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