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President Obama thanks tech firms for ConnectED involvement [u]

updated 12:43 am EST, Wed January 29, 2014

Four firms singled out for supporting educational high-speed Internet deployment

[Updated with Apple statement] As part of his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama thanked four tech firms -- including Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and Sprint -- for their involvement and support of his and the FCC's ConnectED high-tech initiative, which aims to level the playing field for poorer districts by providing high-speed Internet access to all of America's schools and students. Obama described the participation as a "down payment" on connecting schools and students over the next three years.



The President said that the firms will help the government connect "more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years -- without adding a dime to the deficit," addressing concerns from the opposition party (though in fact the deficit has dropped precipitously over the past few years). Details of the companies' philanthropic donations and support will be detailed in the coming weeks, according to a fact sheet provided by the administration.

[Update] Apple has issued a statement following their mention during the State of the Union speech. "We are proud to join President Obama in this historic initiative to transform America's schools," the company said. "We have pledged to contribute MacBooks, iPads, software and our expertise to support the ConnectED project. We look forward to announcing more details with the White House soon."

As part of the ConnectED program, public schools and libraries can qualify for a subsidized "E-rate" that allows for high-speed Internet connections, provided by local carriers or ISPs at a reduced rate or free depending on the financial status of the district and institution. The program, developed by the Federal Communication Commission, will be overseen by Congress and the FCC.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    I would really like to know whether there is a consensus on the effectiveness with the current electronic/digital learning systems. There has always been such an infatuation and a push towards getting computers and internet access into the classrooms, and from many of the teachers I've heard from, these systems can be complete messes.

    Still, getting technology into schools no doubt looks good as an administrative accomplishment.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    As with nearly everything, it depends on the implementation, but yes there is documentation that it works:

    http://www.ed.gov/oii-news/use-technology-teaching-and-learning

    And there's evidence that book-based learning can be mishandled as well (points to the cretins in Texas, Lousiana and Tennessee with their 'creationism' nonsense).

    While there are many factors I could point to where digital learning is superior (starting with the ability of a single point of focus that covers any and every subject imaginable), you are right to be concerned that teachers have the guidance and training to *leverage* the tools they are given and not just use iPads as the modern "automatic babysitter" that TV became.

    Schools need to emphasize participation, learning through discussion, critical reasoning/logic skills and cooperative real-world projects in addition to just "digitizing the book contents" or turning everything into a game. It's those areas that I hope iPads will free teachers to focus on.

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    Originally Posted by chas_mView Post

    As with nearly everything, it depends on the implementation, but yes there is documentation that it works:

    Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning | U.S. Department of Education

    And there's evidence that book-based learning can be mishandled as well (points to the cretins in Texas, Lousiana and Tennessee with their 'creationism' nonsense).

    While there are many factors I could point to where digital learning is superior (starting with the ability of a single point of focus that covers any and every subject imaginable), you are right to be concerned that teachers have the guidance and training to *leverage* the tools they are given and not just use iPads as the modern "automatic babysitter" that TV became.

    Schools need to emphasize participation, learning through discussion, critical reasoning/logic skills and cooperative real-world projects in addition to just "digitizing the book contents" or turning everything into a game. It's those areas that I hope iPads will free teachers to focus on.




    But why is there such a pressing and tantalizing need to push everything into the digital realm? I see technology as a means of providing potential to lower costs in some areas, and to provide new sorts of opportunities, but I question whether these resources are best expended here, rather than reducing classroom sizes, providing teachers raises, etc.?

    Teachers rarely seem to be asked as to what they think they need to provide a better quality education, and those I've talked to rarely seem to put more technology at the tops of their lists.

    Besides, even if technology is approached as simply a way to lower costs with things like textbooks, there are other costs which need to be factored in: IT staffing, equipment repairs, network infrastructure, IT resources for deploying stuff, etc. Too often I get the sense that administrators feel that they can just throw money into technology and all of these issues will sort themselves out.

    As tech geeks, I think we should be careful not to support and encourage dumb administrative mentalities just because we are Apple fans (or fans of any particular technology). As somebody who reads news sites, I get a little tired of stories that just get into how wired a school is, without really probing deeper into these sorts of issues.

  1. bobolicious

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 08-15-02

    ...is this one of the last data mining frontiers...?

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    "But why is there such a pressing and tantalizing need to push everything into the digital realm? I see technology as a means of providing potential to lower costs in some areas, and to provide new sorts of opportunities, but I question whether these resources are best expended here, rather than reducing classroom sizes, providing teachers raises, etc.?"

    This is an intelligent question, but based on the idea that it's a zero-sum game: we can have iPads OR we can have smaller class sizes. That's not really how it works in the real world. A big portion of a typical schools' funding comes in the form of grants -- and whatever the grant is expressly to be used for, that's what you use it for.

    So if there are monies available for iPads, you grab it and buy iPads with it; stuff like teacher raises, more schools, smaller class sizes etc usually have to be funded and approved by voters, often in the form of higher property or sales taxes. Turns out that is not a very popular way to fund those initiatives, and the public are surprisingly hypocritical on this point: "good schools" are a must, but *somebody else* should be paying for them.

  1. besson3c

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 03-03-01

    Originally Posted by chas_mView Post

    "But why is there such a pressing and tantalizing need to push everything into the digital realm? I see technology as a means of providing potential to lower costs in some areas, and to provide new sorts of opportunities, but I question whether these resources are best expended here, rather than reducing classroom sizes, providing teachers raises, etc.?"

    This is an intelligent question, but based on the idea that it's a zero-sum game: we can have iPads OR we can have smaller class sizes. That's not really how it works in the real world. A big portion of a typical schools' funding comes in the form of grants -- and whatever the grant is expressly to be used for, that's what you use it for.

    So if there are monies available for iPads, you grab it and buy iPads with it; stuff like teacher raises, more schools, smaller class sizes etc usually have to be funded and approved by voters, often in the form of higher property or sales taxes. Turns out that is not a very popular way to fund those initiatives, and the public are surprisingly hypocritical on this point: "good schools" are a must, but *somebody else* should be paying for them.




    And this is an intelligent answer!

    Maybe some day our schools will be completely funded by grant money from corporations, and we'll start seeing classrooms, teachers, and even students brought to you by Coke/Apple/Nike/whatever? Some would say that this process is already well underway in some higher ed.

    I know I'm changing the topic here, but to bring things back to the original story somewhat, I really think we need to ask ourselves as a society where the boundaries between the public and private sector should exist in education, and start being more skeptical about initiatives like this not really being about what is best for the education of our students.

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