A recent story in USA Today from Ron Barnett highlights some of the benefits students at a South Carolina high school are receiving from being connected:
Jennifer Southers has flipped education upside-down for her math students at Hillcrest High School.
Instead of coming to class and listening to a lecture, then going home and trying out what they learned on their own, they listen to a lecture on video before class and work on putting the new knowledge to practice in the classroom, where their teacher is there to help.
“The level of frustration has almost disappeared completely on those lessons when we do that,” she said of the “flipped classroom” concept that she and other teachers are using.
Unfortunately, as Barnett’s piece goes on to point out, America’s ongoing digital divide may be creating an uneven playing field when it comes to educating students:
[W]hat about students who don’t have broadband Internet access at home? How can they keep up with their peers in streaming instructional videos and doing online research?
More than two-thirds of low-income families in South Carolina don’t have a high-speed Internet connection, said Jessica Ditto, spokeswoman for Connected Nation, a nonprofit organization that works to increase broadband access in the nation. Overall, 57 percent of households in the state have broadband access, she said.
Increasingly, access to the Internet means access to improved education, which means students in the 43% of South Carolina households not connected with broadband are at risk of being left behind when it comes to innovative learning. But as Barnett reports, there’s hope on the horizon — for South Carolina and elsewhere:
Bill Brown, executive director of educational technology services for Greenville County Schools, says 4G LTE technology offers the most promise for bridging the digital divide.
With it, “You could blanket buildings, you could blanket cities” with high-speed Internet access, he said.
More powerful networks — beginning with 4G LTE (which, as anyone who has experienced it can attest, is remarkably fast) and continuing with the shift to all-IP based networks — will mean more access in more ways for more people. With the future of education tied to technology, encouraging investment in these networks should be an educational priority.
Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act, and to mark the occasion the House of Representatives passed the important 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which will help make today’s technologies — from the Internet to mobile devices — more accessible to people with disabilities.
A similar version of the bill is currently making it through the Senate.
The Hill reports that Sen. John Kerry is holding a hearing next week for legislation that would improve accessibility for
the hearing and sight impaired people with disabilities.* The Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act is sponsored by Sen. Kerry and Senator Mark Pryor:
The bill — pitched as a technological addendum to the Americans With Disabilities Act — is the two Democrats’ attempt to address accessibility problems that have long made it difficult for disabled persons to use new-media and technology tools.
The first draft of the legislation, which Pryor introduced earlier this year, would mandate that all smartphones — including the iPhone and BlackBerry — are compatible with most hearing aids.
The bill would also require DVRs and mp3 players to support closed captioning, as most TVs already do, and would authorize new money for a fund to expand broadband service to low-income, disabled persons.
Last month, the FCC released a report (PDF) that found only 42% of people with disabilities have high-speed Internet at home.
(* Thanks to Jim in the comments for the correction.)
Recently, the Benton Foundation held a discussion on independent broadband. And as Ars Technica reports, rural broadband providers wanted to clear the air about rural areas and demand—namely, that despite reports to the contrary, there is a demand:
“It clearly is a myth,” declared Gary Evans of Hiawatha Broadband Communications, a rural ISP based in Minnesota. “We are not a low priced provider in any community that we serve, but we are a broadband provider.” In one rural region, Evans noted, 60 percent of the population signed up with the company “before we put a shovel in the ground.”
“Now, I would suggest to you that if there’s no demand out there, that simply would not be the case,” he insisted.
A new report out of Britain finds that devices such baby monitors can make wi-fi pokey:
The report smashes the myth that huge congestion on overlapping Wi-Fi networks is responsible for the poor performance of Wi-Fi in urban areas. Instead, it points the finger of blame at the raft of unlicensed equipment operating on the 2.4GHz band.
“There is a view that some domestic users generate excessive amounts of Wi-Fi traffic, denying access to other users,” claims the report from wireless specialists, Mass Consutling. “Our research suggests that this is not the case, rather the affected parties are almost certainly seeing interference from non-Wi-Fi devices such as microwave ovens, Audio Video senders, security cameras or baby monitors.”
Dense areas are hardest hit by lagging, though the report goes on to note that low-density areas can also be affected—sometimes by a single device.