A public-private partnership to fund technology in schools

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What a peculiar state we are in. Our government, ideally, is supposed to function through its separation of powers, but stands today dysfunctional because of it. Because of this dysfunctionality, making changes to our nation via traditional methods is near impossible. And who are the victims of this? We, the people. Yet of all people, those who can least afford to suffer right now are the students.

Most everyone is a student at some point or another in their lives, and soon, today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders. To get us out of this state of dysfunctionality, we’re going to need leaders who are successful students. And to become successful students, we need to obtain the education that will equip us with the skills and worldliness necessary to fix the issues and dilemmas that will be dropped onto our plate with the coming election season.

Early in February, President Barack Obama announced an initiative that will, over the next five years, bring improved technology to over 15,000 schools for greater use in educational purposes, through a privately sponsored $750 million initiative. This is a part of ConnectED, a White House program started last summer aimed at improving education through technology. Funded and supported by several business leaders in such companies as Microsoft, Apple, Verizon and Sprint, Obama’s initiative aims to “strengthen access to technology for 99 percent of all students,” according to the New York Times. This was announced after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) disclosed that it will be doubling the amount of money it devotes to creating high-speed Internet connections to meet the president’s promise, an investment worth well over $2 billion.

Each company involved in the initiative has committed a large share, either in the form of monetary funds to be given to schools, or in the form of actual technology. Apple, for example, has promised to give $100 million in iPads, Macbooks and other devices to many disadvantaged schools. AT&T has pledged $100 million to be used to give middle schoolers high-speed web access on their Internet devices. Microsoft will be giving 12 million copies of its Office application software to high schools. Verizon has put another $100 million into the pot.

The president is using his executive privileges, as well as his business connections, to make real changes. He realizes that change will not come through Congress, so he is taking steps to make change however he can. And by taking these measures, President Obama is doing exactly what our leader ought to do: Invest in our future.

What works about this initiative is that it very well may be big enough to succeed — and not “too big to fail.” These are funds and products given by big-name companies, whose names and actions carry a lot of weight, both in the private and public sector. They are placing an investment into our country’s future by aiding its students. That $750 million is not going to one age group of students or one school district, nor is it being used for one sole purpose, or being used to fund one sole piece of hardware. Its recipients include classrooms in grade schools to high schools. Its goals are numerous: improve Internet speed, give greater access to learning tools like computers and tablets and ultimately move classrooms into the digital age in a big way.

The initiative comes with its own problems, however. Will these funds be sufficient to cause effective change in classrooms on the small scale, or will they only allow the average school to buy one new wireless modem? Built into this plan is the need for time: The $750 million will be used over five years. Immediate change may not be guaranteed. But effective and lasting change never comes overnight. This initiative is an investment in our future. And thus, it is worth the risk.

Overall, the goal is connectivity. It aims at getting students acquainted with Internet, as well as the tools that access it. These changes to education are necessary for our nation to pull itself up and improve. This is important, because it modernizes education. In today’s world, the ability to maintain and create a network on various mediums, whether they be on a computer, smart phone, or tablet, is vital to success. With nearly everyone in America on one, if not several social networking sites, with nearly every piece of news available digitally and with communication so fundamentally advanced by modern technology, students will need the know-how to use this technology to its full potential.

And how do you modernize education? Today, you bring technology to the tech generation. It is how young adults, young students and even small children are learning, connecting with others, and sharing ideas throughout the world. The initiative does just this. For that, I’d say, “Good on you, Obama.”

It is not sufficient for only those graduating from the top-tier schools and the most well-endowed institutions to be our leaders. For today’s problems to be solved, we need the perspective and insight of many different people. We need people who yesterday didn’t have the credentials or the opportunities to arise as leaders, but tomorrow, because of these advances in technology and education, may very well be those who can solve our nation’s crises.

 

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