The push for more STEM curriculum or science, technology, math, and engineeering instruction in schools is the latest calamity and call to action. It’s also the cover package of October’s ASBJ.
You’ll have to read my colleague, Larry Hardy’s story to get an overview of the issue and whether this really is a crisis.
In doing research and reporting for the accompanying sidebars, however, I discovered there really is some validity to the “crisis” designation— and its buried in the ground.
Game simulations, video conferencing, online learnings— schools have myriad new technology applications available today, enabling to make instruction in STEM subjects (any subjects for that matter) more relevant, dynamic, and customizable to each student.
Problem is, you can’t really access those applications unless you have the technological infrastructure to support them.
Yet solid numbers on the state of schools connectivity are hard to come by (that’s part of the problem), and the most complete survey done by the National Internet2 K20 Initiative, a coalition of public educational institutions in 38 states, found only 47 percent of school districts in those states are connected to the Internet.
Hardly impressive or functional. Indeed, according to which international survey you look at, the U.S. ranks as low as 17th for common broadband deployment.
Broadband, as I’m sure dear readers you know, is fiber-optic cable. But perhaps you didn’t know that though, the Federal Communications Commission recently update its definition of basic broadband from 200 kilobits per second (Kpbs) — the time it takes to transmit data— to a range of 768 Kpbs to 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps).
As you can see, the new definition doesn’t do much to clarify an already complex issue.
“That’s why there’s so many questions and confusion,” Mary Ann Wolf, the executive director of the State Education Technology Directors Association, told me.
“A school board could say, ‘We have broadband connectivity in our schools, we’ve done our job.’ That really doesn’t tell us much because there’s so much variability.”