ED updates infrastructure guide to reflect school modernization efforts

The U.S. Education Department recently released Building Technology Infrastructure for Learning, an update to a 2014 infrastructure guide that was part of the previous administration’s Future Ready Schools initiative.

The new guide contains examples and resource materials intended to help both technical personnel and educational leaders navigate decisions required to deliver broadband connectivity. Susan Bearden, a senior education fellow in the Office of Educational Technology, served as the principal lead in updating the guide.

“It presents a variety of options for school and district leaders to consider when making technology infrastructure decisions, recognizing that circumstances and context vary greatly from district to district,” officials wrote.

Indeed, there are various technical options and legal requirements for today’s educational technology, they noted. Therefore, the guide lays out essential elements for planning and providing infrastructure — both internet connectivity and devices — and notes the progress made on this front since the release of the first infrastructure guide.

“In the nearly three years since this guide was originally published, the school broadband connectivity landscape has seen many changes,” ED said in the report.

In 2014, 25 percent of districts reported that no school in their district could meet the Federal Communications Commission’s short-term connectivity goal of 100 megabits per second per 1,000 students, the report noted. By comparison, in 2016, the paper said 80 percent of districts reported that at least three-quarters of their schools had achieved this immediate connectivity goal.

The 2014 modernization of the E-Rate program also made it possible for teachers and students to explore new learning models and digital tools. But despite these and other efforts at the federal, state, and local levels, connectivity remains out of reach for many rural areas, tribal lands, and other under-resourced communities, according to the report.

The agency acknowledged that technology infrastructure is just one element of educational improvement and that high-quality personal learning and instructional methodology are equally important. Therefore, the guide also provides considerations for digital learning resources and staff professional development and addresses other implementation issues such as device selection, responsible use policies, privacy, and security associated with creating effective connected schools.

“This update serves as a roadmap for schools and districts looking to modernize the technology infrastructure needed for digital learning, providing both concrete advice and aspirational recommendations,” ED officials wrote. “No matter what stage districts or schools are at on the journey to digital learning, this guide will help them move forward.”

Emily Ann Brown covers education technology and STEM education issues for LRP Publications.

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