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Connected Schools, Connected Learning

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Date posted: August 9, 2013

Earlier this summer, the Obama administration announced ConnectED, an initiative to provide schools with high-speed broadband, teachers with adequate professional development, and students with exciting digital content. By midsummer, the FCC opened proceedings to reform the e-Rate program to help pay for faster broadband connections to schools and the wireless, internal infrastructure necessary to get broadband to classrooms.

What are these initiatives trying to accomplish? What does a 21st Century digital learning environment look like?

StudentsNPuter1For the past year the Partnership for 21st Century Skills has been visiting schools that exemplify 21st century teaching and learning, schools where kids are regularly practicing the four Cs: Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity. The resulting case studies, Patterns of Innovation, are made possible by a grant from the Pearson Foundation. The first two exemplars are now available online and show what creative educators and effective technology can do for student learning.

Another excellent source of examples is the National School Boards Association’s Technology Leadership Network school district site visits. Cable in the Classroom is the national sponsor of these multi-day tours to districts that have creatively used technology to improve student learning, teacher effectiveness, and administrative efficiency. Seeing, firsthand, what high-speed broadband and educational media and technology bring to the classroom puts a human face on those federal initiatives—a small human face with a big smile and eyes sparkling with excitement for learning.

That’s why broadband is critical to schools’ success in the digital age. Student centered classrooms encourage kids to take control of their own learning. Broadband and technology allow them to do that in ways teachers can manage. Of course, a fast connection won’t improve teaching and learning by itself. Other factors, like professional development, appropriate content, and supportive policies are needed. But broadband is the enabler.

If you have a chance to visit a school, take it. You may be surprised by what you see and, if you’re able, sign up for one of NSBA’s 2014 site visits! Maybe we’ll see you there.