Facebook unveiled its newest education project, the Personalized Learning Plan (PLP), and in doing so underscored the need for greater broadband access in public school classrooms across the country. Born out of a partnership with Summit Public Schools in California, PLP leverages technology to personalize students’ learning experiences and visualize their long-term goals. Personalization enables students to move at their own pace and helps teachers develop coursework specific to students’ individual goals and capabilities. Parents across the country overwhelmingly support personalized learning experiences for their children. I applaud Facebook’s project and the many other innovative efforts underway to leverage technology to restore America’s education system.
Yet, schools like Summit can’t take advantage of the great promise of education technology and the full benefits of personalized learning without broadband. While some students across the country are benefitting from digital tools and resources, tens of millions of students still lack adequate broadband access. That’s why EducationSuperHighway is dedicated to upgrading the Internet access in every classroom in America. It is a problem we can solve by the end of the decade.
With national focus on K-12 connectivity, thanks to President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, and $9 billion in new FCC funding for school broadband and Wi-Fi, the building blocks are in place for our nation’s governors to step up. And they are. To increase opportunities for all Arkansas students, Governor Hutchinson took swift action to overhaul the aging Arkansas Public School Computer Network, increasing speeds from 5 kbps/student to 200 kbps/student. Governor McAuliffe in Virginia has also prioritized K-12 broadband upgrades. Early work to make school broadband prices more transparent helped school districts in central Virginia achieve a 500% increase in broadband bandwidth for only a 15% increase in price.
Projects like Facebook’s PLP underscore the potential for technology to transform education as we know it and to ensure that every student in this country has access to an equal and high-quality education. High-speed broadband is the prerequisite to making that vision a reality. We must ensure students across the country have access to the broadband connectivity necessary to take advantage of the same opportunities as those in Summit’s pilot program. The future of digital learning in the classroom is exciting and full of possibilities — all we have to do is reach out and connect to it.
Originally published on LinkedIn, September 5, 2015.