Leading Source

Where does it STEM from?

1009ASBJIt’s another crisis in America, again impacting the country’s competitiveness in the world, and requiring education to step up and meet the challenge.

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.”

After reading our cover package, read more up on the issue at SETDA and at the Consortium of School Networking, which launched the Broadband Knowledge Center.

Naomi Dillon|September 28th, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Buildings|Tags: , , , , , |


  1. Claus says:

    While I had heard that the U.S. doesn’t stack up well against other countries in Broadband access, I had long seen Department of Education data suggesting that some 90% of schools have internet. Why the discrepancy?

  2. Naomi Dillon says:

    Hi Claus, thanks for reading the Leading Source, we definitely appreciate feedback! And you are absolutely right, there is a lot of variation in terms of the connectivity stats for schools. … because there is a lot of variation in what connectivity means. The data you refer to, comes from an annual survey conducted by the fed’s E-rate program. It pegs school connectivity at 98 percent, which incenses the educational technology community, because no distinction is made between a dial up or a broadband connection … and yes, believe it or not, there are still huge parts of the country and school systems which still operate on such an antiquated infrastructure. What’s more, a 2008 report by the State Educational Technology Directors Association found a school could be deemed “connected” even if it meant only one computer existed in the building and was assigned to an administrator for email purposes only. So, now you see why there is such discrepancy in the state of schools connectivity. Thanks for your comments. Keep ’em coming.


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