The benefits of ConnectED and faster Internet in schools and libraries are enormous

The Federal Communications Commission's E-rate program has successively connected our nation's schools and libraries to the Internet. But to take full advantage of today's best educational information and services, these community institutions need more than basic connectivity; they need high-capacity broadband. The benefits of ConnectED and faster Internet in schools and libraries are enormous for:

Children. Internet-based technologies and tools enhance learning outcomes. Broadband-enabled educational tools facilitate more interactive, personalized instruction, which has been found to improve learning outcomes. Many online academic enrichment services use video, animation, sound, and interaction to help children learn, to excite them about a topic, and to reinforce concepts learned in class. High-capacity broadband is increasingly necessary to view multimedia Web sites. Some services even offer real-time tutoring by connecting students to a live tutor through a video and audio feed.

By engaging students more directly in the learning process, students are able to more quickly master course content and become adept at problem-solving and participating in the creation of their own content via various forms of media.

By offering courses and programs of study over the Internet, students are provided greater choice and flexibility. Advanced learners are no longer limited by the courses offered in their schools and can obtain the coursework they need through online opportunities.

Broadband-enabled educational technologies play a critical role in the development of 21st century skills. As the Federal Communications Commission observed, “digital literacy is a necessary life skill, much like the ability to read and write.”

Educators. Broadband is enhancing the quality and effectiveness of instruction and improving the delivery of education for teachers. High-capacity broadband brings dynamic resources into the classroom while promoting seamless communication and partnering among teachers, students and parents.

Broadband connections enhance curricula at every grade level with dynamic and interactive Internet applications. These connections allow for:

  • Personalized instruction that allow students to learn in the way they are best wired to process information, in the style that conforms to them, and at a pace that matches their own
  • Virtual field trips take students on tours of faraway places,
  • Resource sharing
  • More interactive classrooms: teachers are leveraging the popularity of these interactive tools to supplement in-classroom learning by using an array of Web 2.0 tools such as wikis, blogs, videoconferencing, and podcasting. These tools can be used to enable a variety of blended learning experiences, including virtual work teams, which allow individuals to work together on specific projects.
  • Increased effectiveness

Teachers and administrators are also using broadband for administrative tasks, lesson planning, student assessment communication with other educators, posting course information online for students, and reaching out to parents.

Broadband-enabled administrative tools provide schools an array of lower-cost options for pursuing certain IT projects. And utilizing broadband facilitates administrative and operational efficiencies. Specifically, for administrators, high-capacity broadband is used to:

  • Improve the monitoring and management of student progress and achievement;
  • Facilitate the aggregation, storage, and analysis of student-generated data; and
  • Employ cloud computing services to streamline various information technology processes.

Bridging the digital divide. With the accessibility of high speed broadband, students in the most impoverished innercity neighborhoods and distant rural regions can take advantage of the same Internet resources as students in the most affluent suburbs.

Connecting schools and libraries to high-capacity broadband can be the first step in:

  • Demonstrating the relevance and utility of broadband to non-adopters and providing improved access for low-income families; and
  • Creating Gigabit cities that tap into the power of broadband to drive economic growth.

Rural America. Broadband brings the opportunity for direct access to education for rural residents who are otherwise forced to travel long distances for secondary and college courses.

Rural libraries enhanced by high-capacity speed Internet often experience a resurgence of community interest and participation. Broadband provides rural residents access to global information and cultural resources.

Our Competitiveness. Access to adequate broadband capacity in our schools and libraries is not a luxury—it is a necessity for our next generation to be able to compete. Today and into the future, knowledge, jobs, and capital are going to migrate to places where workers have digital age skills, especially those in science, technology, engineering, and math (the STEM fields). STEM jobs are growing at a rate three times faster than other occupations. And even opportunities outside of STEM will be increasingly digitized, and students will need technology skills to become competitive in the worldwide workforce.

But digital age learning cannot take place at near dial-up speeds. In South Korea, 100 percent of schools are connected to broadband. With so much capacity, an effort is underway to transition all students from traditional textbooks to digital readers. In Uruguay, through a national program, nearly all primary and secondary schools have been connected and every primary school student has access to a free laptop. Uruguay also has revamped its secondary school science and math curricula adding robotics and national math competitions.

Connecting all schools to high-speed broadband will help cement the U.S. as a leader and global partner in education — setting an example for schools in other countries that are struggling to build out their education systems

Enabling Tomorrow's Learning Technologies Today. There are a number of vital learning technologies that can only be used in the classroom with adequate broadband speeds:

Streaming Educational Video: Digital learning is transforming education and online video is at the center of this transformation. PBS Video and Khan Academy, for example, can give every student access to advanced educational video instruction, regardless of whether their school offers a particular course.
Two-Way Video Communication: With adequate bandwidth, teachers are able to use free tools like Skype to break down the walls of the classroom, connecting students with experts around the world to open up new worlds of opportunity.
3D-Printing: We know that hands-on learning is one of the most effective forms of education. Additive manufacturing or three dimensional (3D) printing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printers are becoming more ubiquitous in higher education institutions, as the prices of these machines decrease and their education value rises. Similarly, it is becoming more important to incorporate 3D printers into public schools – especially those serving the visually impaired.
Game-based learning: In order to change the game in education, many believe we need to find ways to get kids more engaged in learning, by harnessing higher speed broadband to make learning as engaging as the best video games.

Our Libraries. When libraries are connected to high-capacity broadband, the neighboring community benefits. Public libraries serve as critical gateways to information outside one’s own community, and in the Information Age this role has become even more important. Broadband allows a library to think beyond basic services and introduce new services and applications that it may previously have been unable to provide because of limited bandwidth. New services and applications aside, upgrading to a fiber connection may soon be necessary simply to keep pace with changes in technology and the public’s growing data needs.

As reliance upon public libraries to provide broadband telecommunications services for their community increases, it becomes essential to have universal high speed connectivity in libraries across the country.

  • Residents in underserved communities, such as rural or low income areas where many homes lack access to broadband, rely on free Internet connectivity from their local public library.
  • Many libraries provide information literacy training that allows less tech-savvy individuals to engage the Internet in ways they otherwise wouldn’t.
  • Senior citizens, many of whom do not own home computers, find public libraries helpful for accessing information on health issues or government programs, and maintaining connections with family and friends who live far away.
  • As central public meeting spaces within communities, libraries connected to broadband can serve as disaster response centers during floods, fires , hurricanes, etc.
  • Librarians use broadband for business functions, such as running online catalogs, managing digitized content and serving patrons through e-mail and online reference.

Anytime Anywhere Anything Learning. Through the innovative use of broadband, however, it is possible to provide learners
with anytime, anywhere content and interactions. Computer-based instruction and tools utilized outside of the classroom:
  • encourage students to ask questions;
  • retain student attention; and
  • tailor content to meet various learning styles.

Rather than just having information fed to them from the teacher or via textbooks, students are able to actively participate in the learning process. Tools such as gaming and virtual role-playing allow students to step into their textbooks and interact directly with the material and with other individuals to bolster the learning experience.

People with Disabilities. For people with disabilities, broadband is a flexible and adaptable tool that is being used to deliver affordable, convenient, and effective services, and that enables a range of social, economic, and health-related benefits. Moreover, broadband is poised to serve as a primary medium through which next-generation interactive assistive technologies are developed, deployed, and delivered.

The use of broadband, particularly when combined with assistive technology and applications, can remove barriers that keep children with disabilities from fully participating in everyday activities alongside their peers and from becoming independent, integral members of their communities. In some instances, having access to high-capacity broadband is even more crucial for people with disabilities due to the nature of these applications and their bandwidth requirements. High-capacity broadband enables education and communication methods that slower connection speeds simply cannot handle.

Broadband and broadband-enabled technologies empower youth, and particularly those with disabilities, to overcome three of the most challenging barriers to success: physical distances, the ability to communicate, and attitudinal limitations.
Broadband’s speed enables users to access a variety of ways to communicate and exchange information through text chat, sound, video, closed captioning, and speech recognition, removing barriers and allowing youth to pursue experiences to which they otherwise would not have access.

  • Broadband makes new services available to people with physical disabilities, such as attending classes remotely, eliminating the need for unnecessary or difficult commutes or trips.
  • Programs that read text and describe visual contents aloud in a synthetic voice or a Braille display enable people who are blind or visually impaired to search the Internet, understand videos, and communicate online.
  • For persons with certain mental conditions or learning disabilities, slow download speeds discourage Internet use.
  • Broadband can help parents and caregivers of youth with disabilities, too. Videoconferencing equipment allows them to manage children’s learning plans more easily.

Native Americans. The lack of fundamental telecommunications infrastructure throughout Tribal Lands and Native Communities in the U.S., and particularly on reservations, is an acute and nagging problem that a reformed E-rate program could do much to address. Members of federally-recognized American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages, “[b]y virtually any measure, … have historically had less access to telecommunications services than any other segment of the population.” In starkest terms, these communities are the lands that the Information Age has forgot. It is critical that Native students have the same opportunity as their non-Native counterparts in accessing high capacity broadband Internet technologies. Otherwise, Native children will be left behind as education tools increasingly become digital. Native students are already less likely to attend a high school that offers Advanced Placement courses than their peers. But even though more AP courses are available online, without robust broadband access, Native students still will not be able to take these courses.