Benjamin Herold

Ed-Tech Supporters Promise Innovations That Can Transform Schools. Teachers Not Seeing Impact

According to a new, nationally representative survey conducted by the Education Week Research Center, K-12 educators remain skeptical that new technologies will transform public schooling or dramatically improve teaching and learning. Fewer than one-third of America's teachers said ed-tech innovations have changed their beliefs about what school should look like. Less than half said such advances have changed their beliefs about how to improve students' academic outcomes. And just 29 percent felt strongly that ed-tech supports innovation in their own classrooms.

Hundreds of 2018 E-rate Applications Still in Limbo

Even as the 2019 E-rate season gets underway, hundreds of school and library applicants are still waiting to learn if they will receive the funding they requested in 2018, the result of an application-review process some observers deride as cumbersome despite years' worth of promised fixes. As of February 1, 752 E-rate applications from the 2018 funding year, seeking a total of $356 million, were still under review. The bulk of the pending requests (more than $115 million) were for "lit fiber" service, delivering high-speed broadband over fiber-optic cable. The delays are "woefully par for

Congress Considering $95 Million for Study of Technology's Effects on Children

A bipartisan bill now in Congress would give the National Institutes of Health $95 million over five years to fund studies on how media and technology effect children.

The E-Rate Program: 6 Big Numbers to Know

There's still a lot to be gleaned about the state of the E-rate and school connectivity. Here are six big numbers to know.

FCC Delays, Denials Foil Rural Schools' Broadband Plans

Hundreds of state and local efforts to connect rural and remote schools to fiber-optic networks have been delayed or rejected by federal officials during the past two years, jeopardizing the push to bring high-speed internet to the country's hardest-to-connect classrooms. Broadband proponents say the problems stem from confusing barriers erected by the Federal Communications Commission and the Universal Service Administrative Company, which oversee and administer the E-rate, a $3.9 billion program to help schools and libraries pay for internet access and other telecommunications services.

Modern E-Rate Puts Telephones On Hold in K-12

Even in the Internet age, the lowly telephone remains an indispensable tool in the day-to-day operations of nearly every school. But thanks to the double whammy of declining state aid and disappearing federal subsidies for such "legacy" technology services, districts nationwide are scrambling to fill a roughly $359 million hole in their collective budgets, according to a new analysis by the Edmond (OK)-based consulting firm Funds for Learning. The problem will likely get worse before it gets better, said John Harrington, the group's CEO. "Schools are nowhere near being in a position to just cut their phone lines," Harrington said. "If they need to get a hold of a parent, they're not going to message them on Facebook."

The challenge stems from a 2014 decision by the Federal Communications Commission to modernize the federal E-rate program, which helps schools and libraries cover the cost of telecommunications services. Like other "universal service" programs, the E-rate has transitioned to focus on support for high-speed internet connections and internal wireless networks. The changes have been a boon for many districts making digital upgrades, especially because the FCC raised the E-rate's annual spending cap more than 60 percent, to $3.9 billion. But the added support for broadband has come with a cost: diminishing support for older telecommunications technologies upon which the K-12 sector still relies heavily.

Teachers in High-Poverty Schools Less Confident About Ed Tech, Survey Finds

Teachers who are most confident about educational technology tend to work in low-poverty and suburban schools, bringing their students a wide range of experiences and potential benefits that other young people may lack, concludes a survey released today by the Education Week Research Center. For example: These teachers are far more likely than their less-confident counterparts to report daily use of digital curricula, learning management systems, and parent communication tools. As a result, they report that their students spend roughly twice as much class time using digital tools than the students of teachers with less confidence around ed tech. These highly confident teachers also believe that their students are significantly better prepared to use technology for everything from independent research to collaboration on schoolwork via social media.

The findings come from an exclusive, not-statistically-representative survey of roughly 700 teachers. The finding that teachers who are least confident in educational technology tend to work in high-poverty and urban schools offers yet another reason to worry about the evolving "digital divide" in K-12. From access to high-speed Internet and devices to the ways technology is used and now to teachers' perceptions and practices around ed tech, researchers have consistently found urban and poor students to be at a disadvantage.

Federal Lawmakers Probe Contracts, Laws on Student Data Privacy

The hot-button issue of student data privacy reached the halls of Congress, with US House subcommittees focused on education and homeland security issues holding a joint hearing that yielded more thoughtful questions than major news.

Education Week, which has covered issues of data privacy and educational data use extensively, was part of the social media coverage and discussion surrounding the hearing, which featured faces and arguments largely familiar to those who have been following the issue.

E-Rate Is Billions Short on Meeting Schools' Wireless-Network Needs, Analysis Finds

An estimated $3.2 billion in new funds are needed to realize President Barack Obama's goal of providing all students with high-speed wireless Internet connections inside their schools and libraries by 2018, concludes a new analysis by two prominent education-technology organizations.

That staggering sum represents a needed investment above and beyond the $2.4 billion currently directed to schools and libraries each year as part of the federal E-rate program. It does not include the additional billions needed to provide schools and libraries with broadband connections to the outside world, nor does it account for the estimated $1.6 billion annually it would take to maintain new in-school wireless networks once they are built.

The new projections come from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and EducationSuperHighway. They jointly submitted a first-of-its-kind analysis to the Federal Communications Commission, which is currently overhauling the E-rate, designed to subsidize schools' and libraries' telecommunications costs with fees raised from telecommunications companies.

Digital Reading Poses Learning Challenges for Students

Tension -- between digital reading's tendency to foster increased engagement, but discourage deeper comprehension -- is presenting a massive new challenge for schools, said Andrew Dillon, the dean of the school of information at the University of Texas at Austin.

"There's been this huge push from tech companies to get their stuff into classrooms, but that's purely a commercial venture," Dillon said. "There are real consequences for the types of serious reading people can do in those [digital] environments."

Researchers have documented students' struggles with comprehension when reading Internet-based texts on computers, although the literature on how reading e-books on computers is inconclusive. And while similar research on mobile devices is just emerging, there are worrisome signs.

A study in 2013 by Heather R and Jordan T Schugar, a wife-and-husband research team at Westchester University of Pennsylvania, found that a small sample of students comprehended traditional books at "a much higher level" than they comprehended the same material when read on an iPad.

A 2012 study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, a New York City-based research organization for children's digital media, found that 3- to 6-year-old children who "co-read" high-tech e-books with their parents "recalled significantly fewer narrative details than children who read the print version of the same story."

As a result, some observers fear that mobile devices, especially digital tablets as they are now being used in the classroom, are not supporting the kinds of extended, rich interactions with text called for in the Common Core State Standards. "People think of technology as the solution, but it's often the cause of the problem," Dillon said. "It's not the end of reading, but it is the diminution or simplification of reading."