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Forget the Books. Bring on the Broadband.

What would a typical student’s experience be if we embraced broadband and digital technologies in the classroom?  This is the question posed in “A New America Through Broadband” featured in the Washington Post and co-authored by Blair Levin and J. Erik Garr. Levin and Garr are also the leaders of the team that prepared the National Broadband Plan.

Their answer is worth reading. They are suggesting we take a step back from the debate about what should be included in a textbook, and propose we reconsider using textbooks at all. They ask us to imagine us using available technology to create a classroom where students, teachers and parents are empowered simply due to the access of more information.

For a student that means using e-books and having the choice to click through to additional materials when they come to a homework problem that stumps them.  Students can connect to an online tutor for concepts they don’t understand, or watch videos

For teachers, new technology could mean having a report every evening that shares what students’ understood and where they stumbled.  It frees them from grading homework or repeating information the next day.

For parents, it could mean knowing that their child’s homework is done via an email, and avoiding fights about textbooks left at home, and handling student frustration. fully supports this idea. We have been offering students a path towards empowerment for over a decade.  When our “Johnny” or “Jane” gets stuck he/she clicks through to a professional tutor who is available to help them overcome that night’s learning obstacle.   We do this several thousand times a night and over 5.6 million times over the past several years.  And it works.

Students learn.  They build their confidence. They go to school prepared.  Adding more ways for students to have access to the individual help they need through e-books and video lessons encourages students to actively engage in their learning process.  The reports and real-time tools integrate teachers and parents into the experience to continue to support and guide the learning process.

So why aren’t technologies like e-books and real-time online tutoring standard tools in the 21st Century Classroom?  Our founder and CEO George Cigale posted some possible reasons in How to Deliver High Quality Education.

But the good news is that change is possible and it is happening.  Often it’s outside the classroom.  In states like Alabama that have offered online tutoring to every child with a library card for the past several years;  in the U.S Military where the Department of Defense offers families around-the-clock access to online tutors.

We predict that more schools will make this change too. Innovative, forward-thinking teachers, principals and superintendents are ready to take the next step.  They’re ready to extend the learning day into children’s homes with technologies that prepare “Johnny” and “Jane” for a global, competitive work force.

How do you envision technology and broadband access changing our classrooms and homework routines?

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