3 ways technology should be reinventing rural education

In a paper funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation and developed with the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho (ROCI), we offer a set of recommendations to overcome challenges and capitalize on the potential of technology to serve rural students, particularly those in Idaho, including:

Expand broadband access to schools lacking it, and give students broadband connectivity outside of the school building. Many visions of digital learning in rural environments involve students accessing online learning resources outside of the school setting, whether at home, in learning hubs based in community centers or churches, or on Wi-Fi-enabled school buses. Idaho should make broadband access a priority, moving it past the woes of the Idaho Education Network.

Create an elite corps of proven teachers who can digitally teach students across the state, with a focus on teachers of classes needed for college and courses that allow high school students to earn college credit. Students do not need access to just any teachers, but to excellent teachers who can help them surge ahead in their learning. Public or philanthropic funds could catalyze the creation of an elite corps of proven excellent teachers who would then be made available to students across a state or a multi-state area. This would require certification and licensure issues to be addressed for out-of-state teachers who have shown themselves worthy of entering the elite pool of online instructors.

Provide districts and schools with the flexibility to develop new models of staffing and technology use and to spend current funds to achieve the needed combination of personnel, facilities, and technology. One of the biggest constraints districts face in states such as Idaho is funding tied to specific position types or other input categories. With more control over funding, schools and districts could reallocate their dollars to pay excellent teachers more and buy the technology those teachers need to extend their reach to more students. Many districts could fund a “digital conversion” by reallocating funds that are currently being used for non-essential staff positions, textbooks, and other purposes.

To read the whole paper, click here.

Bryan C. Hassel is co-director of Public Impact, a national research and consulting firm that aims to dramatically improve learning outcomes for all children in the U.S. He is a member of the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho. Stephanie Dean is vice president of teaching and learning policy at Public Impact. A version of this piece first appeared in the Idaho Times-News.

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