A new report examines some of the critical components necessary to drive a robust broadband access program like this laptop connected to high-speed internet.

5 priorities for broadband access

A new report examines some of the critical components necessary to drive a robust broadband access program

Equitable, reliable, and robust broadband access both on and off campus is essential to support digital learning and prepare K-12 students for life and work.

The declaration is a cornerstone of Broadband Imperative III: Driving Connectivity, Access and Student Success, a new report from SETDA.

In addition to advocating for equitable broadband access, the report discusses innovative technologies and pedagogical approaches to personalize learning for all students.

Related content: 7 things supporting broadband best practices

Seventeen percent of teens don’t have reliable access to a device, meaning they can’t complete homework. It isn’t always feasible for students to borrow devices from schools, especially if the schools are in low-income areas with limited resources.

Comprehensive broadband planning is another must-have to meet the needs of teachers and students while avoiding a technology disruption. Because digital learning isn’t one-size-fits-all, school and district leaders have to work collaboratively to determine their teaching and learning needs and how broadband access supports those goals. Designing network capacity to support those goals, while also allowing for future growth, will ensure that digital learning needs are met.

Examples within the report focus on states and districts where robust bandwidth has already positively impacted teaching and learning.

For instance, in California, the Chaffey Joint Union High School District serves 23,894 students. Sixty-one percent of students qualify for free or reduced school lunch. The district office is connected at 100 Gbps via fiber-optic cable and shares that bandwidth with several other school districts. Schools connect over nine 10 Gbps fiber-optic connections. Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways are provided via schools preparing students for future careers.

Ohio’s Cincinnati Public Schools developed the AP Blended Learning program to improve students access to rigorous learning opportunities and improve equity of learning. The blended learning program consists of face-to-face instruction and individualized student learning. The district provides every student with a device and wireless internet access. Technology enables many more students access to AP courses, improving their educational experience.

“Digital learning approaches have already proven their power to support deep student learning at scale. The robust, protected Internet backbone that Connecticut provides to schools remains a critical component in allowing them to take advantage of the tools, devices, and personalized learning methods that they have adopted,” said Mark Raymond, Chair, Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology.

In the report, SETDA includes recommendations for policy makers and school leaders:
Leverage technology for innovative pedagogical approaches: Focus on academic goals and use technology to support learning experiences that prepare students for college and/or careers
Ensure digital access and equity: This will continue to be a challenge, but every child deserves access to personalized, student-centered learning experiences
Plan infrastructure for the future: School leaders should plan strategically for reliable high-speed broadband access to ensure sustained and seamless access to learning tools
Build networks for the future: Sustainable and reliable networks will depend on school leaders’ examination of every level of digital learning implementation
Influence federal and state policies and funding: Federal and state policies should keep broadband access and connectivity at the forefront of their priorities

“Today’s students need equitable, robust bandwidth access to ensure that engaging, personalized learning experiences are being implemented for all. Skills based on dynamic digital instructional materials, online simulations, coding, and content creation are essential to a student’s success for today and into the future. Connectivity is a key variable to making this happen,” says Candice Dodson, Executive Director of SETDA.

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