Access, Opportunity and #Internet4Schools

The day that my dad brought home a set of encyclopedias was an important family event. He called all of us into the front room as he unpacked each book one by one. To my parents, providing this access to knowledge was critical and I distinctly remember my dad telling us that within those books was the key to our future. He certainly believed it anyway.

My parents did the best that they could to make sure that we had access to as many opportunities as possible so paying what had to be a small fortune at the time in order to support our academic and cultural development was something that they were quite proud of…even if the books were published before I was born which meant that in essence, they were obsolete and missing quite a bit of culture.

As lacking as our encyclopedias were, I remember my parents saying, “Go look it up!” whenever we inquired about pretty much anything. Our learning ritual was that I would search for the information, read aloud a pretty insignificant blurb and then learn what I needed through discussion with my parents as they filled in the blanks with memories that our encyclopedias did not and could not contain.

While I did enjoy this critically important bonding time, I think that we can all agree on the importance of having the type of access where a simple act of curiosity can lead to places where discussions from a single family’s dining room table can extend to others around the world…where discussions about history that happen in private can be recorded, uploaded, shared and referenced for years to come…where a desire to learn doesn’t end at the conclusion of a book but is transformed through that learner’s realization that they too can create the information that they seek…but in their own way.

…Where a kid who is curious as to why she doesn’t see any lawyers, doctors, architects, engineers, astronauts, computer programmers, mathematicians or teachers that look like her can reach beyond her city limits and not only connect but be inspired to pursue her own dreams.

This is the type of access that my father desired before he knew that it existed. This is the type of access that I want for MY KIDS…YOUR KIDS…ALL KIDS!

There is a movement (#internet4schools) to create and share a 15-second video about why the FCC should expand high speed internet access to schools and vote “yes” to E-rate which they should certainly do. However, I want to challenge us all to go a little bit deeper.

  • When you do have access, how will your students not just seek information, but create it?
  • How will you address student device equity and accessibility? (BYOD isn’t the answer for all situations or all students)
  • How will you make sure that the devices in school buildings are not only working but maintained to their highest capacity and replaced when needed?
  • How will you guarantee that student connectivity isn’t limited to test prep technology but used collaboratively and creatively?
  • How will you empower learners to use the power of access to create the schools, communities and worlds that they want to grow in?
  • How will you make sure that the problems that kids solve in school are not just “real and relevant” but relatable?
  • How will you support teachers through job-embedded development and empower them through the same learner driven growth that we want to see in our students?
  • How will you make sure that important community, cultural and global discussions aren’t ignored but are represented through discussions, research and if desired, student-led activism?

and finally…

How will you make sure that all students are given every opportunity possible to learn, develop and grow through entrepreneurial minded instructional design and development through real global connections and experiences?

At the end of the day, the FCC can grant all of the access possible but if we aren’t collectively ready to implement certain changes with fidelity, we all still lose.

More importantly, our kids lose.

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