Connected Nation: Ensuring Schools are Tech Ready

How important is technology in our nation’s public schools? If you ask students, teachers, and parents, it can mean the difference between a future filled with hope and one lived in poverty.

“We want our children to go on to live life even more prosperously than we are. Without technology, they are doomed,” said Bryant Miller, a father interviewed for a new National Geographic documentary film entitled, Without a Net.

“Public education should be the great equalizer,” Arne Duncan, former Secretary of Education, told the filmmakers. “The goal is to break cycles of poverty to give kids the tools, skills, and knowledge they need to enter the middle class. A huge percentage of the jobs of the future are going to be in the technology space.”

It’s a truth that those of us at Connected Nation (CN) believe—America’s children must have access to the internet and technology to live proactive, fulfilled lives. Our mission is to ensure that everyone belongs in a Connected Nation. As part of living out that mission, we are helping school districts identify their technological abilities, and, more importantly, identify where they are lacking in providing technology for their students and teachers.

“We understand that technology provides opportunities for our children no matter where they live or the economic challenges their families may have,” said Lindsay Conrad, CN’s Director of Public Policy. “Our staff believes if we go into these schools, into the classrooms and really assess what each teacher or school is able to do for students and what they can’t yet do, the districts will be able to identify the real areas of need and find solutions to help more students, more children in need.”

Connected Nation has experience helping school districts assess their technology challenges and opportunities. CN partnered with the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development to undertake the Alaska School Broadband Audit in 2015. This report included validated data gathered through surveys, site visits, and interviews.

Less than a year later, Connected Nation completed the Utah School of Technology Inventory report. The 14-week study looked at both public and charter schools through a partnership with the Utah Education Telehealth Network (UETN). The study was so successful, garnering a remarkable 100% participation rate, that CN and UETN have just launched another iteration of the technology assessment for Utah schools. Working under the provisions of Utah Senate Bill 222, CN is conducting a statewide inventory of technology that has been deployed in Utah’s public schools.

“We are already gathering data on the education technology landscape at more than 1,000 school sites via a custom online portal,” Conrad said. “The resulting information will help guide decision making on future investments in education technology across Utah.”

Connected Nation’s hope is that by identifying the areas of the greatest needs, Utah’s kids will have an even greater chance at succeeding and competing as they grow. Utah’s lawmakers and education leaders are taking proactive action for their state’s youth.

This effort comes at a time when technology is the key every kids needs to unlock their future. The statistics show it. The U.S. Department of Labor recently noted that “by 2020, 77% of U.S. jobs will require computer skills.”

But, perhaps, Bryant Miller’s daughter, Jameira, who is in the 12th grade put it best when she told the filmmakers behind Without a Net, “At my high school we lack computers. At any given moment 1 student out of every 8 can use a computer. What I want from high school is just an opportunity to get a good education so that I can go to college. Whatever field I choose to go into, computers are definitely useful.”

Learn more about the ways Connected Nation can help your school or school district improve its technology and internet access by e-mailing us at info@connectednation.org or lconrad@connectednation.org.

Watch the full Without a Net documentary below or head to National Geographic’s website.

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