In its National Broadband Plan, the Federal Communications Commission included as one of its primary goals the expansion of robust broadband connections into every public school and library in the country. Earlier this month, in furtherance of these goals, President Obama spoke at TechBoston, a pilot public school in Boston, in support of what the White House has deemed “Education Month.” Dubbed a “model” school by the President, TechBoston “integrates state of the art technologies into all learning opportunities” so that all of its students will be better prepared for higher education and future employment opportunities. This visit, along with several other stops at educational centers across the country over the last month, illustrates the federal government’s ongoing commitment to increasing the use of educational technologies.
Many stakeholders, including the U.S. Department of Education, educators across the country, and a growing number of parents, acknowledge the importance of using technology to enhance learning and strengthen academic success. Broadband is quickly becoming the medium of choice for delivering new content, tools, and services designed to create a more engaging and productive learning environment.
As part of the push for more wireless broadband in education, educators have begun to embrace the potential educational benefits of tablet computers and netbooks. These devices have a variety of advantages in the classroom because they are affordable, portable, and have an interface that is simple in comparison to traditional personal computers. Digital textbooks are also being embraced by educators for a wide variety of reasons, including the fact that they can be easily updated and are interactive, allowing students to test their knowledge and watch multimedia presentations.
Most importantly, using new technologies to increase educational achievement will not only create an appealing educational environment, but it will also engage students in learning critical digital literacy skills. Being able to succeed in the 21st century means being able to effectively use new technologies at work and, increasingly, to find a job. This is essential considering the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that unemployment rates for multiple minority groups were nearly double the national rate at the end of 2010. Thus, developing and honing digital literacy skills at a young age will undoubtedly empower minorities as they enter into higher education and finally take steps into the “real world.”
In honor of “Education Month,” policymakers and educators should work together to incorporate digital literacy skill development into curricula to ensure that students are able to effectively use broadband-enabled tools for learning purposes now and for employment purposes down the line. Parents must also play a larger role in the education of their children by reinforcing these skills at home.
Ultimately, ensuring that our children master 21st century skills will put them on a path toward success in our rapidly globalizing digital economy. Together, we must choose to embrace broadband as a tool of empowerment and allow our children to learn more than ever before via innovative educational technologies.
David Honig is MMTC’s President and Executive Director. He co-founded the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) in 1986. MMTC has represented over 70 minority, civil rights and religious national organizations in selected proceedings before the FCC, and it operates the nation’s only full service, minority owned media and telecom brokerage.