Florida Aims for Widespread Computer Access and Improved School Bandwidth

Florida is working so hard to modernize the state’s public schools. As the Orlando Sentinal reports, the State Board of Education is convinced that all students should have round-the-clock access to computers. An ambitious goal! The state aims to pay for more than 300,000 computers so schools can start issuing them to students who don’t have one of their own.

The proposal is part of the “Education Technology Modernization Initiative” which is after $442 million that would also go toward improving connectivity in more than 3,000 public schools. This part of the proposal calls to mind the poor state of bandwidth in the nation’s public schools. Keep in mind the Coalition for School Broadband’s efforts to improve connectivity in American schools. (Take part on the national School Speed Test and share data with the coalition today.)

At the Florida board’s meeting last week, David Stokes the Florida DOE’s chief information offers said “We all know what’s at stake: We’re trying to prepare our students in the best possible way for the 21st century, for college and career.”

I am suddenly aware of how often we hear quotes like that in news about education and education technology. It has become commonplace to hear talking heads wax poetic about the need to prepare students for an uncertain future. Commonplace, yes, but not necessarily tiresome. The reason why you continue seeing people mention these kinds of goals is because they absolutely must be realized.

I read an article criticizing the current obsession with education technology by a columnist named Roger Hines.  Hines wrote about how “schools are looking for a quick solution that imparts knowledge with little effort.” I agree that the attraction to education technology is definitely trending right now, and I definitely understand Hine’s point of view that too many people inaccurately see technology as a magic cure-all for education’s woes. But I do not believe we are headed toward a future where technology replaces teachers, vibrant classroom discussion, and valuable student/teacher interaction.

And the Florida State Board of Education doesn’t see that happening either. As one of the state’s public school principal said: “Just having computers won’t do it. That’s why I have highly qualified teachers in my classrooms. I want student-teacher engagement.”

Let’s continue getting the technology into kids’ hands. Bring it on, and bring it fast. But let’s keep it up with the more traditional lessons that education must impart. Florida is putting loads of resources into getting technology integrated into kids’ lives and to improve the connectivity of its schools. But it’s still paying attention to the lessons of the past.