BY NATE BELL –
Classroom teachers and students weren’t the only ones hitting the books again and doing homework last week. The Education Committee spent the “back to school” week studying what lies ahead for Arkansas students when it comes to technology and digital needs for classrooms.
The Committee heard its first report from the Quality Digital Learning Study Committee. This study committee was formed to facilitate efforts to establish and maintain the necessary infrastructure and bandwidth required to deliver a quality learning environment in school districts around the state. The lack of broadband capacity in rural communities negatively impacts student’s ability to learn about many relevant topics and technologies. Low bandwidth capacity also has a negative effect on economic development. We know that for every one percent increase in broadband saturation, employment increases by at least .2%.
More than 80 percent of Arkansas school districts have recently experienced bandwidth challenges and 78 percent of our school administrators want to implement technology initiatives but can’t due to bandwidth limitations.
Our schools cannot continue to use the same technology and methods they did a decade ago if our children are going to receive an education that prepares them for life. The top 10 in demand jobs in 2010 didn’t even exist in 2004.
During the recently completed session we passed legislation requiring 9th grade students in the 2014-2015 school year to complete at least one digital learning course before graduation.
One example of what a digital learning course might include is teaching high school students how to use data and charts to support reasons why they need a car. Another example could be a science class using digital projectors and software to study and present about the solar system.
Future economic growth and jobs will depend on how well our students can compete in the digital age. We must do everything possible to ensure that every Arkansas student has the opportunity to succeed.
“Intelligence and virtue being the safeguards of liberty and the bulwark of a free and good government, the State shall ever maintain a general, suitable and efficient system of free public schools and shall adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education.” Arkansas Constitution Article 14 Section 1