One of the biggest trends in education today is personalized learning where students have some control over how they learn. While there are many types of personalized learning, one factor needed for all models is the ability for students to connect to a high-speed Internet connection from virtually anywhere while at school. E-rate modernization has not only helped schools boost their connectivity, but more than 10,000 districts were able to invest in Wi-Fi networks in the past four years.
This is thanks to the Category 2 funding available via E-rate as mentioned in our newly released report, Expanding Digital Learning to Every Classroom, Every Day. Despite this progress, more than 2,000 districts have yet to take advantage of these funds to boost their schools’ Wi-Fi. These districts are at risk of losing more than $300 million in funding if they don’t use at least a portion of their E-rate funds in 2018-19.
One district that has taken advantage of giving students robust Internet access anywhere on school property is the 500-student Wilder School District in Idaho. Wilder embraces a type of personalized learning that allows even its elementary school students the power to decide when to study which subject. The rural district’s two schools share the same property and Wilder has covered both schools and every space in between with wireless access points.
Students can—and do—work anywhere on campus, from hallways to courtyards to cafeterias. “Wherever a student could be learning, that’s where we have access points,” said Superintendent Jeff Dillon. “Every one of those points allows students to stream HD-quality video wherever they are. I’ve never heard of a student that’s just waiting around. They have instant connectivity to online textbooks and content.”
Students are so engaged in their learning, Dillon says, that more than 40% of them chose to attend summer school to continue their education. This year, the superintendent is allowing students even more flexibility. While high school students already have the option of spending a week or more on just one subject if they choose, now Wilder will allow students to go back to previous year’s classes to improve their grades by doing additional work.
Dillon said many of his rural students aren’t thinking about college when they enter high school in the farming community. By the time they hit junior year, they may have changed their mind. For some of these students, a few bad grades early in high school can wreck their applications to attend college. Dillon said allowing students to continue to master coursework from previous years would deepen their learning and improve their high school transcript.
Collectively, more than $1.4 billion in E-rate funding for Wi-Fi is at risk if school districts do not act this year. Discover your school district’s share on Compare & Connect K-12.
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