Obama unveils ConnectED initiative to boost digital learning

“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 Obama.

President Obama today unveiled ConnectED, a new initiative intended to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within five years. He called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to modernize and leverage its existing eRate program to meet that goal.

Obama also directed the federal government to make better use of existing funds to get internet connectivity and educational technology into classrooms, and into the hands of teachers trained on its advantages.  And he called on businesses, states, districts, schools, and communities to support this vision. This initiative does not require Congressional action.

(Next page: A White House fact sheet, and what digital learning advocates are saying)
“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 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.”

Preparing America’s students with digital learning expertise and other skills they need to get good jobs and compete with countries around the world will rely increasingly on interactive, individualized learning experiences driven by new technology, supporters say. But today, millions of students lack high-speed broadband access and fewer than 20 percent of educators say their school’s internet connection meets their teaching needs. ConnectED will bring high-speed internet within their reach, with a particular benefit for rural communities that have lagged behind in connectivity.

“In today’s ultra-fast, super-competitive global economy, all students and teachers need to be up to speed and connected to the information superhighway. Currently, however, far too many are stuck in proverbial traffic jams or idling at on-ramps because they lack access to high-speed internet connections,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former West Virginia governor. “With today’s announcement, President Obama makes it possible for every school to build on the ‘Mooresville momentum’ and ensures that all students are on the same track, moving at the fastest possible speed, and heading toward higher standards and better learning outcomes.”

“President Obama’s announcement is a giant leap toward realizing CoSN’s and the administration’s shared goal of ensuring that all students have adequate bandwidth to maximize online and digital learning,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking. “We have long advocated the need to equip classrooms with greater bandwidth and provide eRate with additional funding. The bold vision put forth by the president can be realized by adding just a few pennies per month to our phone bills and is an investment that will create a 21st century learning environment. This is an investment that we cannot afford not to make.”

In addition to connecting America’s students, ConnectED links with the American private sector to 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. For more details on the ConnectED initiative, click HERE.

The new vision for connected, digital learning builds on work the Obama administration has done over the past four years to increase broadband access across the country.

The LEAD Commission, a group that advocates for improving ed-tech use in schools, said the initiative “will make digital learning and eRate reform a national priority by connecting 99 percent of America’s students through high-speed broadband and wireless in five years.  The president’s plan makes real steps to providing the resources needed for education that will allow our students and schools to better compete in an increasingly digital world.  As evidenced by the research we’ve done over the last year and the great example set by Mooresville, N.C., real student improvement can be achieved with better use of and more access to technology and empowering teachers to use that technology in their classrooms. We look forward to working with the administration, state and federal policymakers, educators and business leaders to implement these reforms.”

The LEAD Commission was established to determine how technology can help transform education in America and co-chaired by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, TPG Capital Co-Founder Jim Coulter, former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, and Common Sense Media Founder/CEO Jim Steyer.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at submissions@eschoolmedia.com.