Rerun Next Net Day

by Jean Tower

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Back in 2008 I wrote, The Next Net Day.

I suggested there might be three things we could get communities of volunteers behind:

Bandwidth

Schools all over Massachusetts deal with their bandwidth issues separately, individually. There are a variety of providers, from telephone companies to cable television companies, that schools work with for Internet access, and erate goes only so far. I wish the state would work with businesses to negotiate really good deals for high bandwidth (synchronous 15, 20, 50, 100 Mbps?) Internet access that all schools could take advantage of.

Computers

I wish schools could, to some extent, get out of the business of providing computers (or some kind of computing device) for students and teachers. I think it would be a good idea if a “new net day” coalition created a student/educator computer purchase program that was more than a token discount. I think that if teachers and students could get really amazing deals on laptops that they would actually prefer to use their own laptop and bring it back and forth to and from school. This would free school computer dollars up for computers for the lower elementary grades, some specific application computer labs, administration, and to have computers on hand for those who, for any reason, do not have their own computer to use. This idea is not without its problems. Issues to resolve would be protecting school networks from viruses, spam and adware; making sure each computer has the necessary suite of software; developing a way for lower income students to also have a laptop, and probably a dozen other issues I am not yet thinking about. Still, I think that the more personal computers we allow into our schools and onto our networks, the fewer computers schools are on the hook for buying, maintaining, repairing, upgrading, replacing . . . .

Professional Development

It seems like there is never enough money for professional development. There are plenty of ways a “net day” group could help. One strategy would be matching fund grants for schools to get some money to use toward professional development for every dollar spent on technology. Another idea would be for a coalition to provide “train the trainer” training for corporate volunteers to develop them into a valuable support and mentor corp. Professional development might offer the most opportunities for partnerships – there is so much high-tech expertise in corporations, couple that with a desire to contribute to the greater good, a mentor training program, and a free way to collaborate and the possibilities start to become apparent.

Update for 2013:

Bandwidth: Sadly, bandwidth is still an issue and schools are still negotiating their own bandwidth. If a strong coalition could do anything, bandwidth would be a great thing to tackle. Make it inexpensive and easy for schools (even in rural areas) to get high bandwidth connections. Find federal dollars to bridge the home-school connection so that families can be connected for learning in their homes.

Computers: Today, rather than say computers, I would say devices. (Although I notice I did write “computers or some kind of computing device.”) If a net day type of effort could make it possible for families to easily lease to own (or choose to buy outright) a device with a set of apps and an insurance package, this would be a boon to school districts. Instead, we are each wrangling this beast on our own. An easy menu of options that we could point our parents to would be a benefit.

Professional Development: As for professional development, there has been lots of growth in personal learning communities, online and hybrid learning, and “unconference days” for teachers. There is still a gap, because the teachers who avail themselves of these opportunities are a self-selected group. The risk-takers and those eager to use technology and master digital work flows are running ahead but leaving behind teachers with less enthusiasm, fearlessness, or motivation. For schools and districts to make sure we are moving everyone along, we need to be able to offer professional development just-in-time, on company time, during the work day, on an ongoing basis. A corps of trained volunteers might be one thread of a richly woven cloth of support, professional learning opportunities, and formal training to help teachers master not just technology, but technology for teaching and learning.

Are we any further along than when I wrote The Next Net Day in 2008?

 

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