Back in 2013, connectivity goals were set for K-12 education. The goal was to guarantee 100 kilobit per second (kbps) per student at all U.S. schools. Unfortunately, many schools are falling behind on this goal. According to the 2017 State of the States report, 6.5 million students still lack access to a high-speed connection. 77% of these students attend schools in rural areas. However, schools in urban areas have also fallen short.
The goal is to eliminate the connectivity gap by 2020 so every student in the U.S. benefits from a digital education. To meet this goal, K-12 education needs to achieve fast and reliable connectivity that improves student, teacher, and parent communication; personalizes instruction; and increases accessibility to educational resources.
Keeping Lines of Communication Open
Improved connectivity allows teachers to take their communication with parents beyond occasional PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences. Text, video chats, and assignment tracker apps help parents stay up to date with student progress. Any red flags can be identified before a serious problem emerges.
Teachers may also keep websites or post blogs to let parents know what’s happening at school. Giving parents a window into the classroom encourages collaboration between home and school.
Connectivity also creates new options for student counseling. Students can interact with a counselor one-on-one or in a group session through video conferencing.
Many teachers are using mobile devices, such as tablets, in the classroom to personalize the learning experience. However, without a Wi-Fi connection, teachers may find much of their classroom time is spent buffering.
Classroom technology empowers students to direct their own learning experiences. A strong Wi-Fi connection enables students to use their devices to work at their own pace and to choose what activities to accomplish. Teachers can flip the classroom so students receive instruction at home and tackle exercises while in class.
Blended learning allows teachers to try different styles of teaching, like assigning students to small groups. Part of the class can work online while others work closely with the teacher.
Classroom technology creates opportunities for evaluating an individual student’s progress. Data can be gathered and analyzed to determine whether students are keeping pace or falling behind. A customized lesson plan can be designed to address any issues that emerge. If a student is excelling, she can receive more challenging tasks.
Leveling the Educational Playing Field
With greater levels of connectivity, students at every school get a chance to benefit from the same resources, regardless of funding. Significant bandwidth is needed for students to view and stream video or access large text and image files. When students gain better access to technology, they have a better chance of making successful transitions to college and a rewarding career.
The push for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education makes guaranteeing access to specialized resources more important than ever. Programs such as Virtual High School (VHS) and MIT’s Fab Lab give students across the country access to lessons in computer programming and other STEM subjects. Fast fiber connections enable students in schools that lack lab space and equipment to experience virtual lab time through a remote connection.
Bridging the Connectivity Gap
The connectivity divide is affecting schools in New England. When Andover Public Schools in Massachusetts discovered they offered less bandwidth per student than other nearby schools, it sought a service that offered twice the bandwidth they had been receiving to meet the new standards for digital education.
FirstLight prioritizes K-12 education by participating in the E-Rate program, which makes superior connectivity affordable for schools and libraries. FirstLight offers Priority One services for ongoing telecommunication and internet access. By partnering with FirstLight, the Shenendehowa Central Schools boosted its bandwidth from 400 megabits per second (Mbps) to 1 gibabits per second (Gbps).
When schools in the Northeast partner with FirstLight, they benefit from a high-speed fiber connection from a provider experienced in serving educational institutions. FirstLight's fiber optic network provides Internet, voice/VOIP, video, and distance learning services today's schools need to thrive.
Is your school or business experiencing a connectivity gap? Let FirstLight help you reach your goal.