Following President Obama’s State of the Union address earlier this year and the most recent fiscal 2015 budget proposal for the “ConnectEDucators” program, it is clear that the Obama administration remains committed to leveraging technology and data to personalize learning and improve college instruction.
With access and quality of education a major concern, especially in rural and underserved populations, increased commitment to the ConnectED Initiative is a step in the right direction. At the heart of Obama’s mission is utilizing the best technology to connect 20 million students in 15,000 K-12 schools to enrich learning. One technology that will play a vital role in making this dream a reality is video. It will serve as a driver in helping teachers enable an enriched learning experience and increase completion rates of higher education.
How will video conferencing help achieve the goals of the ConnectED initiative? Obama aims to connect 99 percent of students to next-generation broadband and wireless technology during the next five years. It will include partnerships with companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon. But a wireless network alone doesn’t open the world to our young people. Video conferencing running on that wireless network, however, does.
For example, Jefferson County public schools, Colorado’s largest public school district with 84,000 students installed a video communications network in 2008, and its students have reaped the benefits. Through videoconferencing, the district has fostered high-quality teaching with enriched curriculum. Some students have communicated face-to-face with a teacher living in a NASA-operated undersea habitat, while others learned poetry from a renowned writer living in Mexico. Sick or injured students have used video connections to keep pace with their schoolwork, interacting from home with their classmates just as they would have in the physical classroom.
The Jefferson County model also extends directly to Obama’s high school initiative, which suggests that today’s students are no longer meaningfully engaged or motivated in their classrooms and that they require a different educational experience than they did a generation ago. Additionally, many high school graduates lack exposure to learning that correlates their work in school to college and careers.
In my next blog post, we’ll continue our discussion on the “ConnectEDucators” program and address why video integration in the classroom will increase engagement and better prepare students for college and beyond.