In order to support digital and mobile learning, students in K-12 classrooms need access to sufficient bandwidth, scalable and affordable broadband infrastructure, and robust Wi-Fi.
And for the most part, they have it.
Educators and school IT leaders have worked tirelessly toward this end, and according to the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway, 99 percent of school districts across the nation are now on scalable fiber connections with a “clear path” to supplying enough bandwidth for digital and mobile learning in every classroom.
The 2019 State of the States report is the latest in an annual look at school connectivity, taking stock of school districts’ progress toward meeting the digital and mobile learning needs of students and teachers.
Eighty-seven percent of teachers say they use digital and mobile learning in their classroom several times per week, and three-quarters of U.S. schools now have at least one device per students, notes EducationSuperHighway CEO Evan Marwell in the report’s introduction. More than 70 percent of educators say high-speed internet connections and Wi-Fi networks are “significantly improving” teaching and learning.
And, as Marwell notes, this is just the beginning–85 percent of teachers, principals, and district leaders support the increased use of digital and mobile learning in their schools.
“This means that state leaders and school districts will need to continue to upgrade classroom internet access so that bandwidth is never a bottleneck to learning,” he adds.
Some of the report’s major findings include:
1. 46.3 million students and 2.8 million teachers–and 99 percent of schools–are connected to scalable fiber networks. As new fiber-optic connections have become available to more than 22,000 schools, those schools have the broadband infrastructure in place to meet the FCC’s 1 Mbps per student internet access standard.
2. Ninety-four percent of schools report digital and mobile learning in at least half of their classrooms. “However, this is not the finish line; it’s a starting point. Once digital learning enters a school, bandwidth demand continues to rise,” according to the report. “Students and teachers find more ways to enhance the learning experience with technology, and other teachers begin using it in their classrooms. Ultimately, digital learning becomes fully integrated into teaching and learning throughout the school as teachers leverage technology in every classroom, every day.”
3. State leaders are using the federal E-rate to close classroom connectivity gaps and help districts upgrade internet access. These leaders can maintain a strong E-rate program, along with helping school districts take advantage of budgets and deals designed to help them reach 1 Mbps, in an effort to avoid a broadband “bottleneck” that could prevent schools from access the connectivity that enables digital and mobile learning.
The nonprofit will wind down its efforts as its overarching goals are met, Marwell also notes in the report.
“Now, it is time for EducationSuperHighway to sunset. In August 2020, we complete our mission, but not before we spend one more year helping as many of the last one percent of schools and students get connected to high-speed broadband. As we close our doors, we do so knowing that we have helped open the digital door to educational opportunities for millions of students.”