• What kinds of research and development are needed to make broadband use effective for learning?
I would contend that we’re asking the wrong question. Rather it should be, “What kinds of research and development are needed to make emerging technology applications effective for learning?” Then, it follows that if broadband is needed to deliver the applications, then broadband should be provided. We (the U.S.) should be way beyond determining whether broadband is needed. Bandwidth demands continue to escalate for education due to new higher bandwidth applications, more computers, and more learners. Therefore, it is imperative that a fiber-based, scalable transport infrastructure be placed to every school and campus building in the United States. Further, if we are to become (not remain) competitive in this global economy, we are going to have to get a lot smarter about the way we develop, inventory, store, and retrieve learning objects and more systematic in the way that we employ standards to create learning opportunities for our students. High bandwidth transport and abundant Internet access are key components to providing a 21st Century learning environment to teach 21st Century skills.
• What strategies can be employed to help children use broadband-based technology to learn and express themselves together in new ways, including through use of blogs and wikis?
Most, but not all, of today’s middle school, high school and college youth are very “connected” with real-time collaborative and social networking applications that help them build virtual communities of interest, ranging from Second Life to group texting to videogame teams across multiple countries and time zones. And then…they must go to class/school for the most restricted seven hours of their 24-hour day, as many of these emerging technologies are blocked or filtered. I believe that our challenge in education is to revolutionize and modernize our approaches to teaching and learning so that the researching, sharing and creation of new information can be relevant, authentic and exciting for students. I am enough of a pragmatist to believe that certain classic knowledge is irreplaceable, cannot be substituted, and must just be taught, and not learned by chance discovery. For example, in science, it is much more efficient for students to be taught Newton’s three Laws of Motion and the Law of Universal Gravitation than for them to learn them randomly by exploration or discovery. However, the relevance and excitement enters when students collaborate with other teams from other states as they authentically research a new safety technique to prevent fatal car accidents, thus creating an unforgettable experience as to the meaning and relevance of Newton’s Laws. The collaboration, the Internet research, and the organization and facilitation of the learning environment are the jobs of the modern “learning facilitator”, formerly known as a classroom teacher. All of these technologies require broadband.
• Where are examples of educators or technologies using broadband today in a way that allowing their students to learn and grow in more meaningful ways?
There are examples all around us. Look to Nebraska, Kansas or Wisconsin to see how their IP video distance learning systems have flourished. Rural students are now able to get all the classes they need to enter college and dual credit college classes besides! Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Kentucky are leading the country in their development of federated digital content repositories that house rich media resources. Michigan was the first state in the country to require students to take an online course for high school graduation. The National Repository of Online Courses (NROC) was developed by the Monterey Institute in California and is now licensed to a number of states as high school, college and AP courses with multimedia and web-based resources. Some states like Pennsylvania and New Mexico have deployed statewide K-20 learning management systems so students can seamlessly move from elementary to secondary to higher education under one single username and password. Nebraska is just one of a number of states in the process of implementing a statewide online assessment system for K-12 achievement testing. A number of state college systems are cooperating on the implementation of student information systems and financial and accounting systems run across a single statewide network.