1. Improve the infrastructure by closing the broadband gap and making it compatible with individual school needs.

According to Culatta and recent State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) reports, a typical K-12 student needs roughly 1.5 Mpbs (MegaBytes per second) for digital learning required by Common Core State Standards and other education technology needs. A typical classroom requires 45 Mpbs, and a typical school requires at least 100 Mpbs.

However, a typical school today only has 16 Mpbs.

“Teachers are waiting for robust infrastructure,” emphasized Culatta, “and you can see this in recent research. One study found that 75 to 100 percent of schools use their available bandwidth that’s at least 105 Kpbs [KiloBytes per second] per student. But that percentage keeps dropping the less bandwidth is available. After all, why try to use what doesn’t work?”

“This shows that connectivity really empowers teachers,” he continued.

To help close the broadband gap, as well as help schools understand the broadband they need, the DOE launched a broadband test schools can take to assess their broadband’s performance at http://www.schoolspeedtest.org.

President Obama also recently launched the ConnectED initiative that aims to get 99 percent of schools connected to broadband in the classroom within five years. (Read: “Obama unveils ConnectED initiative to boost digital learning“)

“This initiative has three goals,” explained Culatta, “to increase broadband by modernizing the eRate, make devices more affordable, and prepare teachers for digital learning.”

Culatta also announced that the DOE plans to release a “Connected Schools Guide” in the next few months that will give schools a menu of broadband options available based on best practices and research from around the country.

2. Improve measuring effectiveness.

The DOE recently released a report that stresses the need to expand evidence-based practices in education, “Expanding Evidence of Quality and Effectiveness in Education,” [PDF] which includes sections such as “Expanding evidence approaches to digital learning.”

3. Build more partnerships.

To help build what Culatta calls “education innovation clusters” (future workforce training, public infrastructure, pilot opportunities, sources of capital, product development, research bench-strength, and more) the DOE is currently working on a ‘Developer Toolkit’ to help those interested in creating education technology products and tools better serve schools and educators.

(Next page: The DOE’s new, FREE tool for educators)