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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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June 23, 2008 8:05 AM

Meeting the Demands of 21st Century Education

Here's a great new white paper report from the State Education Technology Directors Association.

In it they talk about how important broadband is to education and how much broadband is needed in schools to support the demands and opportunities of 21st century education.

One startling note found herein is that most schools today are getting by with speeds equivalent to a T-1. That means 1.5Mbps, rough. And that's for an entire school.

The high school I went to had 2500 kids in it. I don't think I need to do the math to show how grossly insufficient those kinds of speeds for that many users is. Of course, the biggest issue this creates is when lots of people want to go online simultaneously, but unfortunately that's not necessarily a problem in every school as many are lacking in other areas like the availability of computers as well.

But this report focuses primarily on connectivity, and it has some interesting things to say about the goals that school districts should be setting:

- In the next 2-3 years, schools should have 10Mbps to the Internet per 1000 students at a school, and a 100Mbps intranet available in between the schools within a district.

- In the next 5-7 years, schools should have 100Mbps to the Internet per 1000 students, and access to a 1Gbps intranet that connects schools together.

There are many things to like about these.

First off, I love that they're setting near-term goals. Two to three years is not a lot of time to do anything related to the deployment of broadband, so hopefully these goals will help instill a sense of urgency in school districts around the country to get something done sooner rather than later.

Secondly, I'm extremely excited that they're acknowledging both the need for and possibilities of high-speed intranets that connect schools together. If we're going to make things like sharing teachers with specialized know-how between schools via videoconferencing a reality, they can't be constrained by bandwidth. It just won't work if a videoconferencing stream has to fight for bandwidth with what everyone else is trying to do over the Internet. Plus having 100Mbps plus between schools opens up a lot of possibilities for experimentation, which will hopefully lead to innovation.

But I do have some reservations, mainly over how we actually accomplish these goals.

In their suggestions, while they do a tremendous job laying out the issues at stake, providing some case studies, and giving suggestions at the end for how to pursue these initiatives, I'm not sure if there's anything in this report that clearly shows a school "this is how you get all this connectivity."

Now, I'm not blaming them for this at all. One of the biggest challenges any public entity faces in getting bigger, better broadband is that there does not yet seem to be one silver-bullet model for how to get this done. And many will argue that there never will be because the challenges and opportunities of deploying new networks are unique to each and every community.

But if we're going to take these goals and transform them into a key component of a national broadband strategy, then there seems to be a need to establish a highly proactive approach to getting everyone on board and headed in the right direction.

We need to make sure that the early adopters who already have networks are using them to their utmost in order to help serve as the shining city on the hill to help guide others who aspire to get there.

We must help clear that way for any district ready to take the plunge so that nothing slows them down from achieving their goals.

And we need to make a concerted effort to educate, equip, and inspire those districts that are dragging their feet, whether it be because of ignorance, disinterest, arrogance, or the inability to muster the resources and know-how to make this happen.

If ever there were a time that we needed a national broadband policy, it's for getting schools wired. I say this because while you can argue that perhaps it's not our responsibility to push late adopting consumers and businesses to embrace broadband if they're not doing so already, we can not allow any school administrators to hold back the availability of broadband to children in schools.

Because when it comes to empowering students, there truly should be no child left behind in having broadband enable richer and more dynamic learning environments.

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