Equity & Access
Technology planning, including planning for the acquisition of devices, robust broadband, and wireless connectivity is essential as districts and schools transform to a digital learning environment. Rapidly changing technologies and new ways of using technology for learning suggest that this is an ever evolving process. Districts can expect to almost always be in some phase of planning for technology needs. Technology plans are typically updated every 2-5 years to reflect the rapid changes inherent in technology implementation. Planning for technology is an iterative process that is alive, kinetic, and never truly complete.
Facilitator GuideThe Equity & Access Facilitator Guide provides education leaders with the information and resources they need to conduct a professional learning session. Participants will:
- Learn more about procurement and RFP management
- Identify procurement challenges and success stories
- Collaborate with colleagues and develop solutions for challenges
- Discuss how changes in state/local policies can improvement the procurement process
- Develop and maintain relationships with other district and state leaders
Bringing Broadband to the School
From the Field
As part of this project, the district completed an infrastructure overhaul to boost broadband access throughout the district. The district’s upgrade provided 2.5 gigabits (GBs) of internet pipe into the broadband system and connected the main office and the schools. It also included 1-gigabit switches that provide 1 gigabit to each wireless access point in every classroom. This new broadband backbone permits the seamless download of multimedia content into the classroom and students to create and share content via web 2.0 tools.
From the FieldThe goals of Lamoille Union Middle/High School’s Lancer One Project; Universal Access, Spontaneous Learning, Equity, and Personalized Learning, were established to help meet the needs of students in rural Vermont where 48% of the population qualifies for free and reduced lunch and changes in teaching and learning were needed to increase student success. The district upgraded the school’s broadband infrastructure and provided each student with a tablet to help meet these goals.
The students played an important role in the development and implementation of the Lancer One project, advocating for the project to the school board, guiding the decision-making, logistics and support of the devices. This initiative shifted instruction to more of a project based focus that gave students a new vision of learning. A review team collects data from teachers and students through interviews, observation, and surveys to support a continual improvement process. In the classroom and at home, students describe their opportunities as transformative. Students have increased access to teacher and classroom materials, they have taken ownership over learning, data and grades are shared more frequently and students find easier access to opportunities and connections outside their school community. In the February 2014 survey, 85.4% of students responded that they could, “find information, and learn new skills anytime, anywhere”. Only 40% of our students responded that they could do this prior to the Lancer One program.
ResourcesEasy access to reliable, robust, and cost-effective broadband provides the opportunity for students’ school experiences to include creating engaging text and multimedia projects such as videos, collaborative research with students on the other side of the state or the world, access to online courses not available locally, and the ability to talk directly with authors and experts. Teachers can collaborate with colleagues, participate in professional development online, and immediately analyze the results from online assessments to personalize instruction for each student.
Adequate BroadbandDistricts must determine the extent of the infrastructure and capacity needed to support all users in achieving continuous full connectivity for all functions of the school district. This includes not just the broadband into the district, but also the networking across buildings and in classrooms. The infrastructure needs to be sufficient not only for the present, but also looking to future years, as device and network usage will undoubtedly grow over time. The amount of bandwidth a district needs will vary significantly depending upon the number of devices in the district that will access a network as well as how those devices and networks are used. Uses of technology such as streaming video demand larger amounts of bandwidth than webpage viewing and online reading. SETDA’s paper The Broadband Imperative: Recommendations to Address K-12 Education Infrastructure Needs makes general recommendations both for internet connection to the internet service provider and for connections from the district to each school and among schools within the district. The recommendations were based upon current trends and the real-world experiences of states and leading districts as well as input from experts from the private sector. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted these recommendations as bandwidth targets, and one measure of success of the modernized E-rate program will be the extent to which districts across the country attain them. These recommendations are:
Broadband Access for Teaching, Learning and School Operations 2014-15 School Year Target 2017-18 School Year Target An external Internet connection to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) At least 100 Mbps per 1,000 students/staff At least 1 Gbps per 1,000 students/staff Internal wide area network (WAN) connections from the district to each school and among schools within the district At least 1 Gbps per1,000 students/staff At least 10 Gbps per 1,000 students/staff
Assessing Broadband SpeedsTo assess program needs and progress in providing internet access that meets the current and future needs of students and educators, education leaders must evaluate the quality of their broadband prior to any device deployment and then set a schedule for regular analysis. There are numerous commercial tools that will help with this analysis by showing real time availability as well as real time usage and display such information as a percentage of usage of available bandwidth. Districts need to consider internet connections to the service provider, internal connections between the schools and the district and internal wireless access inside of each building and instructional areas. School speed tests can play an integral role in this process. One commonly used speed test tool is Education Superhighway’s tool. As of the spring 2014, approximately half of the states have used the speed test tool in statewide campaign to provide data to document needs throughout their states.
Broadband Funding OptionsThere are federal grant programs that districts can investigate to be sure they are taking full advantage of possible funding sources related to access.
- Most schools and libraries are eligible for E-rate discounts for specific services and products related to telecommunications services, telecommunications, internet access, internal connections and basic maintenance. The amount of the discount depends on the level of poverty and location of the school or library. Schools should consider researching their E-Rate eligibility.
- The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Loan and Grant Program (DLT) is designed specifically to meet the educational and health care needs of rural America. Through loans, grants and loan/grant combinations, advanced telecommunications technologies provide enhanced learning and health care opportunities for rural residents. Eligible purchases include: Interactive video equipment, audio and video equipment, terminal equipment, data terminal equipment, inside wiring, computer hardware and software, computer network components, acquisition of instructional programming that is a capital asset, acquisition of technical assistance and instruction for using eligible equipment.
Spreading Broadband Throughout the School
From the Administration
“60% of schools in America lack sufficient Wi-Fi capability to provide students with 21st Century educational tools…. Far too many schools have no Wi-Fi at all. For those that are lucky enough to be connected wirelessly, such networks often don’t meet the capacity needs of students and teachers.”
Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman, FCC Blog, June 6, 2014
The Wi-Fi gap in U.S. schools is a concern that federal, state, district and school leaders are addressing nationwide. The increase in the number of devices available on campus (both district and student owned) coupled with the increased dependence on digital content requires dependable, high speed, Wi-Fi access.
As districts and schools consider Wi-Fi access, planning is essential. Districts that have had substantial experience with Wi-Fi and companies that assist districts with networks and Wi-Fi agree that a 5-year plan with updates every year can provide a solid basis for a network that is effective. Following are some interconnected questions to consider as you begin to plan for high-speed Wi-Fi across schools and districts. The answer to one most probably will affect the answer to others.
Requirements of the network
- How many devices will the Wi-Fi network need to support now and how many devices in the short and long term future?
- How will those devices be used in the near term and in the longer term?
- Will students be reading documents and doing searches or will they be creating content such as video and uploading it?
- In addition to tablets or laptops what other types of devices on campus will need Wi-Fi access (printers, digital media players, microconsoles)?
Deployment of the network
- In addition to the devices in the classrooms, how will Wi-Fi access in “common areas” (cafeteria, hallways, courtyard, fields, etc.) on school campuses be used?
Security of the network
- What levels of access and permissions will be needed for students, teachers, administrators IT staff and guests?
- How will BYOD be handled?
Management of the network
- How centralized will the management of the network be across the district?
- Can the IT department implement the Wi-Fi network or are consulting or outside vendors required?
- Is the WLAN architecture sufficient to handle the requirements among schools?
Budget for the network
- What type of new or upgraded equipment will be required to implement or increase Wi-Fi access?
- How will W-Fi implementation impact short and long term budgets?
On July 11, 2014, the FCC adopted an E-rate Modernization Order that was intended to modernize and streamline the E-rate and expand funding for Wi-Fi networks in schools and libraries. The Order also adopted SETDA’s bandwidth targets from The Broadband Imperative. The Order attempts to provide more predictable and more equitably distributed funding for Wi-Fi networks while at the same time beginning to transition support away from legacy services. To address the critical need for Wi-Fi networks, the order set a target of providing $1 billion in annual support for internal connections. Schools can spend $150 (pre E-Rate discount), one time per student for a 5-year period beginning with funding in FY2015.
Homework GapLearning does not stop at the end of the school day, and access to digital learning resources should not either. However, many students do not have adequate access to the internet at home—often referred to as the “homework gap,” the gap between students whose internet connections at home are slow or non-existent—and those who have home connections with adequate speed. This is a problem disproportionately common in rural and underserved communities. As more and more educators use digital devices and digital instructional materials for learning, connectivity at home for students is an essential component of a 21st century education—not something merely nice to have. Access to technology tools and resources offers new learning opportunities to support deeper learning and best prepare students for college and careers. When students have access to high-speed reliable internet both in and out of school, they can take online courses, complete online homework assignments, participate in virtual activities and collaborate with peers.
Policies for Safety and Security
Providing broadband and Wi-Fi access to teachers and students requires addressing policies to help protect student privacy, to encourage digital citizenship and to support student safety. Schools implementing high access, digital learning environments should consider policies related to responsible/appropriate use of the network and devices.
Acceptable Use Policies
- Schools and districts typically implement acceptable use policies (AUP) for students, parents and faculty members that have access to school devices and/or the school- based software or broadband services to help ensure student safety and security and to help protect the school’s equipment and servers. AUPs vary based on school and district implementation programs, and should be customized based on the user groups. Each school or district should review annually current policies, templates and supporting documents related to device usage and management, broadband access and permissions and contact forms.
Below, are sample documents that may help to manage user expectations by establishing policies for responsible internet use examples:
- Greene Central High School in North Carolina sample acceptable use policy, signature page, and laptop consent form
- Fairfax County Virginia Acceptable Use Policy
- iPad Procedures: Lamoille UHS, Hyde Park, Vermont
- A Student-Centered Universal BYOT Policy Template For Schools
Three federal laws are crucial as a base for local policies on student data privacy and they also play a role in considerations for policies related to appropriate use of technology. Those federal laws are The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and Children’s internet Protection Act (CIPA).
- The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. New regulatory changes for FERPA became effective on January 3, 2012. Among other things, the 2012 changes to FERPA expanded the requirements for written agreements and enforcement mechanisms to help ensure program effectiveness, promote effectiveness research, and increase accountability. In February 2014, additional guidance summarized the major requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) that relate to educational services, and urges schools and districts to go beyond compliance to follow best practices for outsourcing school functions using online educational services, including computer software, mobile applications and web-based tools. The Department of Education has established a Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) within the National Center for Education Statistics, which serves as a “one-stop resource” for the P-20 education community on privacy, confidentiality, and data security. Since its launch the center has developed a PTAC Toolkit that provides resources on data sharing, security best practices, and other relevant topics.
- Congress enacted COPPA in 1998. Most recently, it was amended in December 2012 to take effect on July 1, 2013. The goal of COPPA is to put parents in charge of what information may be collected online about their children under the age of 13. The rule applies to operators of commercial websites and online services (including mobile apps). COPPA allows schools to act as “intermediaries” between website operators and parents in providing consent for the collection of personal information in the school context. For example, when a district contracts with a vendor for homework help, individualized education modules, online research and organizational tools, or web-based testing services, the vendor doesn’t have to obtain consent directly from the parent; the school is authorized to speak on behalf of the student. However, the Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center also advises schools to inform parents of its practices in their acceptable use policy. When student use of a web service extends beyond school activities, the center adds, the school “should carefully consider whether it has effectively notified parents of its intent to allow children to participate in such online activities.”
- Schools with E-Rate funding must enforce a policy of internet safety and certify that they are enforcing a policy of internet safety that includes measures to block or filter internet access for both minors and adults to certain visual depictions. CIPA requirements include maintaining an internet Safety Policy, a Technology Protection Measure and a public notice or hearing. A technology protection measure is a specific technology that blocks or filters internet access. The school or library must enforce the operation of the technology protection measure during the use of its computers with internet access, although an administrator, supervisor, or other person authorized by the authority with responsibility for administration of the school or library may disable the technology protection measure during use by an adult to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purpose.
Examples of Planning with Technology in Mind
As with technology planning that follows a general structure but plays out somewhat differently in each district, technology plans share similar elements even though no two technology plans are exactly alike. There are two main types of technology plans: stand-alone and integrated. Whereas some states mandate long range independent technology plans that focus largely on technology issues only (i.e. stand-alone), others are integrating technology planning into strategic and school improvement planning across the education enterprise (integrated).
SETDA’s State Education Policy Center (SEPC) provides details on state and district technology planning requirements including information on states that require both independent and integrated technology plans. Eighteen states require independent district level educational technology plans and 22 additional states do not require but strongly encourage technology planning.
Following are examples of state requirements for district plans that focus largely on technology issues.
- Beginning in 2014, Florida Statutes (F.S.)1011.62(12)(b) requires each district’s school board to submit to the state department of education a Digital Classrooms Plan (DCP) that has been adopted by the district’s school board. The district plan must meet the unique needs of students, schools and personnel in the district. The state has funded a DCP allocation has been established to assist districts in this effort.
- Independent district level educational technology plans are required by Nevada and are revised every 3 years. The district technology plans are used as part of the biennial needs assessment.
- Independent district level educational technology plans are required by Virginia and are revised every 6 years. The technology plans are reviewed to ensure alignment with the state educational technology plan, assess progress toward meeting state goals for educational technology integration, and ensure that state and federal requirements are met.
Following are examples of plans where technology is a more integral part of school and district-wide planning.
- Connecticut requires district level educational technology plans as part of each LEAs comprehensive or school improvement plan. The plans are revised every 3 years. The state provides planning support through online webinars, face-to-face trainings, e-mail and website support. The district technology plans are used as a guide for common practices across the state. Future plans will be used for deploying district wide technologies including online assessment testing and blended learning systems.
- The Digital Learning Advisory Council (DLAC) in Wisconsin was charged with developing a comprehensive plan for PK-12 digital learning in Wisconsin that would serve as a living digital learning document to provide recommendations to the State Superintendent on initiatives that advance PK-12 digital learning.