3 Google Fiber programs that could help ease the digital divide

Google’s affordable broadband service is already impacting some communities and schools

The latest Digital Equity report from the Consortium of School Networking paints a picture of an educational environment where schools are at least on the right path to providing access to high-speed wi-fi within their walls (though there is still plenty of work to be done). An equally pressing problem is the fact that the number of pupils with fast connectivity dwindles as they move away from their K-12 hubs—and the divide deepens even further when issues like socioeconomic status, income, and race are taken into account.

According to The Pew Research Center, 82.5 percent of American households with school-age children currently have broadband access at home. This is approximately 9 percentage points higher than the broadband adoption rates across all households, CoSN reports, but there are still 5 million households with school-age children which lack broadband in the home.

“Students in these households experience what is being labeled the ‘homework gap,’” reported CoSN, pointing out that more than 75 percent of school district technology leaders have no strategy for addressing off-campus access.…Read More

FCC approves $9 broadband subsidy for low-income households

Expansion of the Lifeline program will affect more than 13 million Americans

A recently-approved expansion of an FCC program will grant millions of low-income households a discount on internet access in an effort to help close what is becoming known as the digital divide — the lack of reliable high-speed internet access for lower income families.

FCC commissioners voted on the proposed expansion 3 to 2 along party lines, as expected. Eligible households (those at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level) will now be able to apply the $9.25 subsidy to broadband, wireless, or a bundled voice and internet package. Previously, the program, called Lifeline, was only applicable to phone service.

According to the FCC, nearly all households with annual incomes of more than $150,000 currently have high-speed internet; by contrast, nearly half of those with incomes less than $25,000 claim the same.…Read More

7 things you need to know now about E-rate changes

Big E-rate changes mean schools must chart a new path

A bigger annual cap isn’t the only recent change to the E-rate program. New forms, new data, the potential for infrastructure discounts, and (even more) new funding are all colliding to create one of the most challenging application periods in memory. We asked E-rate guru John Harrington, CEO of Funds for Learning, for his application-time thoughts and advice.

There is a lot of funding available

“This year this is a record amount of money available. The FCC increased the funding cap and they’ve been very diligent about going back and accounting for underutilized discounts. When schools apply for their discounts, they have to provide an estimate, and usually they err on the high side because you can’t go back later. It’s like if I told you, ‘Hey, you can get a discount on your phone bill, but you need to estimate it now.’ You might go back and add a few points.

“There’s often little percentage points that were underutilized, because they just weren’t needed. Those dollars accumulate over time, and, this past December, resulted in a rollover of a few billion dollars. Between the increase and the leftover dollars, they have over $5 billion to commit for projects.”…Read More

What happens when student hackers shut down a district’s internet?

Denial of service attacks can shut down internet access and leave IT teams powerless

When Jeff McCune noticed that his district’s 500 Mbps internet connection was full, he knew something was amiss. When he investigated further and saw that the Internet protocol (IP) addresses were coming in from China, Australia, and the Netherlands, McCune realized that the problem was more than just a random overload or ISP outage.

“I was seeing 550 Mbps of traffic coming from a single link and that pushed our usage up over the 10 percent cushion” allowed by its main service provider, said McCune, a network analyst with St. Charles Community Unit School District (CUSD) 303 in St. Charles, Ill. “There was no way anyone from China would surf the website of a school district in Midwestern America that hard.”

To McCune, it appeared the CUSD was being hit by a full-blown Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. The hackers cut off the entire district’s internet access for four hours at a time and then repeated the process 10 more times over the following six weeks during the fall of 2014.…Read More

Before going one-to-one, this district is helping every kid get home wi-fi

Ensuring wi-fi access at home or on the school bus is a top priority for a district still planning its one-to-one

The typical one-to-one computing initiative comes with a lengthy to-do list that includes (but isn’t limited to) mapping out vision statements, coming up with the funds to pay for the devices, selecting them, buying them, insuring them, training students and teachers how to use them effectively, and making sure wi-fi systems can handle the new burden. Add concepts like blended and flipped learning to the equation and you come up with yet another to-do list item: Make sure students can actually use their devices when they aren’t physically on campus and within wi-fi range.

Put simply, asking a fifth-grade student to watch an instructional video before the next day’s flipped classroom science lesson will fall on deaf ears if the child doesn’t have access to the internet at home. The same point can be made for the athlete who is whisked off to a game or swim meet right after school and is unable to do her homework on the bus or while sitting in the bleachers.

Little Falls Central School District in Little Falls, N.Y., wants to avoid these problems by determining how many of its students lack internet access at home and then “filling in” that gap by working with Verizon and OpenRoom to either introduce the families to their wi-fi service options (for those that can afford it) or equip pupils with 3G- or 4G-enabled devices (for those that are financially unable to pay for the service).…Read More

Bringing wi-fi, and parent engagement, to the community

Kent School District’s new kiosks are bringing the SIS and free wi-fi to the community

Ed. note: Joelle Bejarano will present a session related to this topic, called “Touch-Interactive and Digital Signage Displays for Parent and Community Engagement in Education,” at DSE 2016 on Wednesday, March 16 in Las Vegas. For more information, visit www.dse2016.com.

As the typical school day ends at Kent School District, in Washington state, many of our 27,000 students file onto school buses for the ride home. For some students, leaving their school’s campus means leaving internet access behind – and all that comes with it. As a forward-thinking, technology-driven district, we’ve long considered ourselves pioneers in bringing technology to students, and we’re proud of our mature, successful one-to-one laptop initiative. However, there still exists a digital divide to conquer.

Kent’s success in today’s digital world is, in part, reliant on electronic resources and timely, effective communications. This includes the delivery of educational programming, access to online tools, and leveraging technology to aid in the overall learning experience. Our laptop initiative provides the hardware and software for secondary students to complete homework assignments and collaborate digitally. But how do those students and their families take advantage of these tools if they’re not connected to the internet before and after school?…Read More

Top 5 IT and technology trends for 2016

Libraries, connectivity, and more are big issues for IT professionals

tech-trends

Chief technology officers and IT professionals in the K-12 field have a lot on their collective plates these days, what with the continued proliferation of technology in their schools, new governmental programs and compliance requirements, and the push to effectively integrate their technology in the classroom. Here are five key trends that CTOs will be watching and reacting to in 2016:

The modernized E-rate program. Since it was established 18 years ago, the E-rate program has focused on connecting schools and libraries to the internet. Now, the FCC’s Second E-rate Modernization Order (adopted December 2014) will address the connectivity gap — particularly in rural areas — maximize high-speed connectivity purchasing options, extend the program’s budget through 2019, and increase the E-rate funding cap to $3.9 billion. Keith R. Krueger, CEO at CoSN – the Consortium for School Networking, said the fact that the modernized E-rate hones in on broadband and more robust networks is a net positive for K-12 IT departments and their CTOs. “Many networks for learning were designed under scarcity, and by managing bandwidth and telling people what they can’t do,” Krueger explained. “Now, we may be able to flip the conversation and look at what it takes to enable the learning that we truly envision.”…Read More

Why E-rate expansion is a must for our schools

With some districts and schools still struggling to meet bandwidth needs, keeping E-rate strong is more vital than ever

e-rate-broadbandAs a former school superintendent, and as the current head of the School Superintendents Association (AASA), I know firsthand that staying ahead of the curve when it comes to high technology isn’t easy. The digital concept is so important for our schools today. That’s why especially pleased when, recently, the Federal Communications Commission and the Universal Service and Administrative Company extended a crucial filing deadline related to the high-speed internet program in schools and libraries, commonly known as E-Rate.

The extension provides school districts, particularly rural districts, time to submit applications to secure funding and ultimately increase connectivity in their communities (the new deadline is April 16). Since its inception, the AASA has advocated for the E-rate program and the critical role it plays when it comes to the rapid and dramatic expansion of school and library connectivity.

Currently, we are working with superintendents around the nation to ensure they have the proper planning and professional development in place to provide our students with digital learning.…Read More

Can self-provisioning your internet save you money?

Self-provisioning internet can save districts big on monthly costs. So why haven’t more districts invested in it?

self-provisioningIn Evan Marwell’s estimation, anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the nation’s K-12 school districts have self-provisioned their own fiber networks. In most cases, this CEO of San Francisco-based EducationSuperHighway says these districts opt to self-provision those networks because they can’t get internet access any other way.

“These are primarily rural schools that can’t get anyone else to bring cyber to them,” says Marwell, “and/or that couldn’t get a service provider to build a fiber network for them.”

Marwell says there are two major components that are needed to gain internet access:  the access itself (i.e., the type that comes into either the district office or some other signal point within the district) and wide-area network (WAN) that connects that district office to all of the schools.…Read More