By Clark Godshall
Trying to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to high technology isn’t easy. In order for the 36,000 students attending component school districts within the Orleans/Niagara BOCES service area to become college-ready and stay globally competitive, it’s imperative that we, as educators, deliver digital learning experiences so they can positively engage in quality instruction.
As the information age continues to reshape education around the world, our districts are proud that innovative technological solutions are taking place in our buildings in an effort to maximize teaching and learning excellence. For example, all grade and subject areas of the schools’ curriculum are now integrating technology initiatives by providing high technology/digital resources to teachers and students.
Our districts have pledged to grow our capacity for using technology to drive academic success within the constraints of limited resources. To compete with other school districts across New York and the country, it is critical for teachers and students to have available high-speed Internet access.
The Federal Communications Commission continues its leadership toward supporting school connectivity. The FCC recently approved the E-Rate Notice of Proposed Rule Making. E-Rate is a federal program, funded through telecommunications companies, that helps school districts afford their communications connectivity, including the Internet. E-Rate provides schools and libraries with discounts that support affordable telecommunications and Internet connectivity. The FCC’s decision complements the ConnectED initiative to provide high-speed broadband access to 99 percent of the nation’s students.
E-Rate supplies just under $2.5 billion in discounts each year for advanced, affordable connectivity. As designed, the promise of E-Rate is to assure that all Americans, regardless of income or geography, can participate in and benefit from new information technologies, including distance learning, online assessment and enriched curriculum. This program represents the single largest source of education technology funding for the nation’s schools and libraries and the students and communities they serve.
Moving forward, I continue to advocate in our state to support the FCC with respect to this rule making. The conversation needs to shift from establishing connectivity to expanding connectivity, especially for the benefit of students from low-income families. This expansion will happen only with increased investment in the E-Rate program, whose funding has remained virtually unchanged since the program was created. The FCC can bolster digital learning by investing $5 billion in E-Rate, an amount that would meet current demand.
Clark Godshall is superintendent of Orleans/Niagara BOCES.