Libraries, connectivity, and more are big issues for IT professionals
Chief technology officers and IT professionals in the K-12 field have a lot on their collective plates these days, what with the continued proliferation of technology in their schools, new governmental programs and compliance requirements, and the push to effectively integrate their technology in the classroom. Here are five key trends that CTOs will be watching and reacting to in 2016:
The modernized E-rate program. Since it was established 18 years ago, the E-rate program has focused on connecting schools and libraries to the internet. Now, the FCC’s Second E-rate Modernization Order (adopted December 2014) will address the connectivity gap — particularly in rural areas — maximize high-speed connectivity purchasing options, extend the program’s budget through 2019, and increase the E-rate funding cap to $3.9 billion. Keith R. Krueger, CEO at CoSN – the Consortium for School Networking, said the fact that the modernized E-rate hones in on broadband and more robust networks is a net positive for K-12 IT departments and their CTOs. “Many networks for learning were designed under scarcity, and by managing bandwidth and telling people what they can’t do,” Krueger explained. “Now, we may be able to flip the conversation and look at what it takes to enable the learning that we truly envision.”
Broadband equity. In December, The Office of Educational Technology released its new National Education Technology Plan titled, Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education. In it, OET discusses its vision of equity, active use, and collaborative leadership to make “everywhere, all-the-time learning possible.” In a nutshell, the plan calls on the American educational system to “ensure equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled by technology.” The organizations points to “finding new and creative ways to make sure the connected school does not end when students leave for the day” as a critical part of that mission. “Equity and accessibility were major themes in the new plan,” said Krueger, who sees human resistance to change as an impediment to equity in an era where technology infrastructures have become more robust than ever.
Sheryl Abshire, CTO at Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Lake Charles, La., sees the work that the FCC does via its Lifeline Program for low-income consumers as a step in the right direction. “This will be a first step in minimizing the digital divide and providing broadband to under-served communities,” said Abshire, who points to wi-fi enabled school buses and schools that remain open after hours as two other steps in the right direction. “Broadband isn’t a luxury anymore,” she says. “Our citizens can’t participate in learning, government, or other activities if we as school leaders don’t do our part in helping to erase the digital divide.”