“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools”
So said President Obama this week.
Beyond the promise of millions in donated hardware and software, the Federal Communications Commission also is setting aside $2 billion from service fees to connect 15,000 schools and 20 million students to high-speed Internet over two years.
Obama last year announced his goal of bringing high-speed Internet to 99 percent of students within five years. He used Tuesday’s announcement as another example of how to act without waiting on Congress.
“We picked up the phone and we started asking some outstanding business leaders to help bring our schools and libraries into the 21st century,” the president said.
The average school has the same Internet speed as an average home, but serves 200 times as many people, Obama said. About 30 percent of students have true high-speed Internet in their classrooms, compared with 100 percent of South Korean students, he said.
He said the pledges would put the world and outer space at every child’s fingertips
We return to the issue of inequality and equal opportunities in education.
How many of our children have no access to IT at home, and very little access at school?
How many children are IT ‘natives’ who have had access to computers and broadband since birth?
How many schools invest heavily in staff development in IT skills?
How many schools are using IT to enable greater personalisation of children’s learning?
Cecilia Munoz, director of domestic policy for Obama, spoke of the importance of providing high-quality education for all students.
“Technology is clearly going to be essential to making that possible,” she said.
Gene Sperling, a top White House economist, said every student needs high-speed Internet, but the problem is more pronounced in disadvantaged schools where students are less likely to have Internet connections at home. He said digital learning tools make it easier for schools to cater to the needs of students who need extra help or who are ahead of the curve.
Another question raised by children’s increased use of IT, by increased personalisation of learning, and by increased home learning through IT is – who gets the credit for raised achievement? Can a teacher or even a school be credited with accelerated rates of learning when the improvement comes from the child’s own motivation and the child’s own pursuit of learning at home?
As for raised test and exam scores thanks to the efforts of parents, the support of the family and siblings, the provision of personal IT and high-speed broadband at home, and the provision of home tutors – let’s not even go there.
Massive inequality is endemic and perhaps inevitable in our world. Inequality between countries, between schools, between families and between students. So why do we continue to behave as though a level playing field exists when we talk, as we inevitably do, about the “global economic race” and the ‘performance’ of students and schools?
Education isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a race. We need more sophisticated ways of discussing learning and achievement. And we still need to agree on the aims and purposes of education for all in the 21st Century.
For more information about how schools can become “Digitally Inclusive Schools”, click on this link. http://www.mindthegap.org.uk/