By David McFaddin and Thomas G. Floyd
Kentuckians are witnessing a transition in education as students, teachers and parents become increasingly more dependent on technology. Nearly everyone owns a wireless device and they rely on the convenience and advantages that high-speed Internet provides.
A student now has expansive global resources in the palm of their hand. In November, U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Arne Duncan discussed how printed textbooks are becoming obsolete while digital platforms and curriculum soar, providing students with a new, more interactive way of learning. Distance learning expands not only to higher education, but allows school districts to help students work at their own pace and in their own environment. It also provides youth in rural areas access to more classes, teachers and resources.
The benefits of technology in our schools are countless and invaluable, but to give our youth every advantage possible, it is vital that students have access the best services, knowledge and resources available. In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that only 36 percent of eight-graders read at or above proficient levels, and only 31 percent perform at or above proficient levels in math. This is unacceptable and we must ensure that Kentucky education does not fall behind neighboring states.
To do that, Kentucky must act quickly and lay a foundation that will provide students with access to wireless tablets and devices along with the high-speed broadband necessary for these tools. Part of this foundation includes removing roadblocks that deter investment in new wireless infrastructure. This involves the modernizing of Kentucky’s communications laws – many of which were enacted long before the transition to wireless networks. Current laws focus on telecom providers investing in the old copper network instead of in the infrastructure that consumers and businesses rely on in the new economy. Kentucky students are missing out on the innovation and opportunity that is available to students in surrounding states.
For Kentucky’s education system to progress, providers must be given every opportunity to invest in our state and build advanced communications infrastructure – not force them to allocate valuable resources to outdated technology. In order to do that, barriers must be removed to allow for innovation and investment, specifically in rural areas, by modernizing our communications laws.
Technology without strong wireless infrastructure is practically useless. Technology with robust wireless infrastructure will facilitate educational innovations, expanding opportunities for students in highly personalized ways. Let’s move Kentucky forward by ensuring we have a regulatory framework in place to encourage the right kind of infrastructure investment that will improve the educational opportunities for Kentucky’s students and grow the jobs that they will one day hold.
Thomas G. Floyd is superintendent of Madison County Schools.
David T. McFaddin is AT&T’s regional director of Kentucky external and legislative affairs.