Obama will announce the new initiative, ConnectED, on Thursday during a speech at a high-tech middle school in Mooresville, N.C.
The initiative calls on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide virtually all American students with high-speed broadband and wireless access in their schools and libraries by 2018. The initiative should also give students and teachers the tools needed to take advantage of high-speed Internet access.
For the administration, this set of reforms is needed to level American schools with their international counterparts, like schools in South Korea that all have access to high-speed Internet.
To meet this goal, the FCC will be tasked with using E-Rate, its existing program to assist schools and libraries to improve connectivity. Obama also asked the federal government to provide the necessary funding for the initiative. The White House noted that this initiative doesn’t need Congress’ approval.
The initiative aims not only to provide high-speed Internet and improved equipment, but also to improve teachers’ technical skills. To reach this goal, the Department of Education, working alongside states and school districts, will invest in training teachers to better prepare them to take advantage of new technologies.
For the Obama administration, this initiative is an imperative of the digital age. The potential that this kind of reform represents has been already discussed in the past. A 2010 study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pointed out that “while broadband is not a panacea for education reform, it is positioned to serve as an essential vehicle for delivering content and tools that can be used to spur student engagement, enhance learning outcomes, facilitate collaboration and innovation among educators, and enable cost savings in the administration of education.”