Private Sector Investment, Innovation Makes ConnectEd Possible
A working knowledge of online research services and Microsoft Office Suite once made individuals attractive candidates for employment. Yet, given today’s global, networked economy, lacking these skills may altogether take one out of the candidate pool. American students must be exposed to current technologies that are fundamentally important for their future success.
As businesses, non-profits and even religious organizations increasingly turn to the Internet, it’s no surprise that the future of learning has moved towards real-world experiences based on connectivity. Unfortunately, the White House reports that 20 percent of educators believe their school’s Internet connection cannot keep pace with their teaching needs. Many hope that President Obama’s ConnectEd initiative, a push for increased access to high-speed Internet access and technology in schools, will improve these circumstances.
The ConnectED initiative will work to upgrade connectivity and train teachers by building upon private sector innovation. In what National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling has called an “unprecedented private-sector commitment to an education goal,” private companies will contribute more than $750 million in products, services and training.
Given its abundance of free and easily accessible resources, the Internet deserves to be termed a “great equalizer” for the U.S. education system. The ConnectED initiative—led by Apple, AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint and the Verizon Foundation—will provide 15,000 schools and 20 million students with the power of broadband Internet services. Thanks to this private sector innovation and investment, children across the nation—regardless of where they live or their parents’ income—will have access to educational resources ranging from Khan Academy to TED.
And, connectivity for many of these students will extend beyond the classroom. Sprint pledged to provide up to three gigabytes of data per month per student for 50,000 low-income high school students, and Apple pledged $100 million in iPads, MacBooks and other products—along with training for teachers. Verizon Foundation’s $100 million pledge will expand its innovative learning schools program and Verizon Innovative App Challenge.
Much of the investment builds on efforts to connect classrooms and homes already underway in the private sector. Internet Service Providers have made great strides and learned real lessons in how best to connect young people through initiatives like Connect to Compete and Internet Essentials.
Not only does broadband connection level the playing field for students in rural or low-income communities around the states, but it also ensures that the U.S. maintains its global leadership in educational achievement. In South Korea, all schools have Internet via high-speed connections and all teachers are trained in digital learning. In order to remain competitive in a global economy, it is imperative that the U.S. continues to produce generations of skilled high-school graduates.
Yet, companies’ investment in ConnectEd is just the beginning of an educational revolution. The cloud-based possibilities of big data are powerful, and data will soon be viewed as more than just a means to measure compliance. Data will increasingly be used to inform teachers of their effectiveness, and identify children who are struggling before they fail to achieve. With private sector innovation and investment, students and teachers can take advantage of the endless—and often inexpensive—educational opportunities the Internet has to offer, preparing an informed and career-ready generation.