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Equipping Classrooms for the 21st Century

We can address the growing technological gap in schools by modernizing the E-rate program.

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This summer, President Barack Obama asked a simple question: “In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, why wouldn’t we have it in our schools?”

If a coffeehouse has slow Wi-Fi, the consequences generally aren’t substantial—you might not be able to Skype with your friend in England while sipping your latte, for example—but the lack of technology in our schools has significant implications. Schools need robust digital tools to give students the knowledge and skills to succeed—just imagine a high school graduate arriving at college not knowing how to use Excel. But more than that, technology is increasingly key to making schools more effective. Tests, for instance, can now be given online to provide a much more accurate measurement of student achievement. Teachers can also use software to enrich learning and make grading homework much easier.

However, schools and districts across the country desperately lack technological capacity. When we recently studied unpublished data from the Software & Information Industry Association’s 2013 Vision K-20 Survey, for instance, we found that 70 percent of educators believe that there is simply not enough bandwidth in their schools. What’s more, it appears that urban schools often have the least access to bandwidth.

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