Obama urges school districts to get ‘ConnectED to the Future’

Special to The Dallas Examiner | 12/1/2014, 4:11 p.m.
President Barack Obama gathered school leaders and educators from across the country at the White House on Nov. 19 to ...
President Barack Obama delivers a speech to superintendents from across the nation on the importance of schools being connected through high speed internet and “Connected to the Future.” The Dallas Examiner Screenshot

Special to The Dallas Examiner

President Barack Obama gathered school leaders and educators from across the country at the White House on Nov. 19 to host “ConnectED to the Future,” a day-long convening to explore the potential of education technology and the innovations needed to bring America’s schools into the digital age.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke briefly and urged schools to speed up their transition from textbooks to digital textbooks.

After assuring the superintendents in the room that if they needed a note explaining why they missed school that day he could help them out, he launched his administration’s effort to assist school leaders in their transition to digital learning, following his plan to connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed broadband internet in their schools and libraries. He urged superintendents in the East Room to collaborate with their students, educators and parents to become “Future Ready.”

The White House estimated that more than 1,200 school superintendents will join the Obama Administration’s Future Ready District Pledge to set a vision for digital learning across America. These educational leaders will foster a culture of learning through technology across their schools; assist their students and families in the transition to high-speed connectivity; provide their learners greater access to high-quality digital devices and content; and provide teachers and principals the support needed to use technology in innovative ways. Together, they will reach approximately 10 million students across more than 16,000 schools across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Preparing America’s students with the skills they need to get good jobs and compete in the global economy demands an interactive, personalized learning experience.

However, 68 percent of school districts report that not a single school in their district can meet high-speed connectivity goals, according to the FCC. Moreover, 40 percent of schools in the United States have high-speed Internet, which is way less than several other countries.

Too few American schools have the broadband connections necessary to support innovative teaching and learning and most lack the wireless connectivity to individualize instruction for students.

“That’s not good,” Obama said, “since we invented the Internet.”

In June 2013, Obama visited Mooresville, North Carolina, to announce the ConnectED initiative, beginning with a call to the Federal Communications Commission to enable the connectivity and high-speed broadband needed to spur 21st century learning for America’s students within five years. Since that time, the FCC has taken steps to modernize the E-rate program to support high-speed connectivity for America’s schools and libraries, providing a $2 billion down payment toward the president’s ConnectED goals. Additionally, private-sector companies have committed more than $2 billion to supplement federal actions and help support cutting-edge technologies across a greater number of schools and homes.

On Nov. 17, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced plans to dramatically expand investments in the E-rate program, increasing the program by $1.5 billion annually. This proposal – scheduled for consideration by the FCC in December – constitutes an essential step to provide the resources needed to meet the goals the president outlined last June.