The White House has announced an initiative to bring internet connectivity to 99% of America's students. Detailed on the WhiteHouse.gov website, the initiative, called ConnectED, would achieve this goal in 5 years thanks to the expansion of the existing E-Rate program run by the FCC.
President Obama said that funding for the expansion should come from better, more efficient use of existing money allocated for putting high-speed broadband connections into schools. He also said that he was looking for support among not only government agencies, but educators, faculty, parents, and business leaders to make the goal a reality.
According to the announcement, ConnectED will require no input from Congress.
"We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology," said President Obama. "So today, I'm issuing a new challenge for America – one that families, businesses, school districts and the federal government can rally around together – to connect virtually every student in America's classrooms to high-speed broadband internet within five years, and equip them with the tools to make the most of it."
Internet connectivity could be key to preparing students for academic and professional life beyond high school. Digital spaces are being increasingly utilized by the education sector to craft a more individualized and customized learning experience for each child, and schools that cannot realize this promise will be shortchanging kids who need preparation for college and to contribute to the nation's economy.
Even though progress has been made to connect schools to the internet, as many as 20% of teachers feel that the technology infrastructure currently in place in their schools is not adequate to meet their needs. This was especially true in rural schools where internet connectivity rates lag behind the suburbs and urban centers.
In addition to connecting America's students, ConnectED harnesses the ingenuity of the American private sector get new technologies into students' hands and support digital learning content.
ConnectED also better invests existing federal funds to ensure that every educator in America receives support and training in using education technology tools to improve student learning. The ambitious new vision for digital, connected learning builds on work the Administration has done over the past four years to increase broadband access across the country.
The ConnectED initiative will include an internet connectivity upgrade and a training component for teachers and administrators on how best to make use of interactive and digital media to improve academic outcomes.