By Adam Petrovsky, GovEd Practice Leader, Logicalis US
Since the early days of the Obama administration, we’ve seen a dramatic push to significantly change America’s aging K12 education system. Programs like “Race to the Top” have raised achievement goals and helped more students define their college and career goals while “No Child Left Behind” has become more flexible. The signature K12 program under the Obama administration, however, has been the ConnectED program which is driving the importance of personalized learning in our schools.
As part of the ConnectED initiative, introduced in 2013, 99 percent of American K12 schools are expected to have access to next-generation broadband by 2018. But better access to bandwidth is just the first step in a comprehensive plan that opens the door to a whole new technological world for K12 students that will deliver personalized learning profiles and pathways for each student, evaluations that are based more on measurable competencies than grades, the development of a flexible technology-based learning environment, and the development of a more structured emphasis on college and career readiness.
The single most significant ConnectED stumbling block for many K12 administrators, however, has been a lack of direction about the kinds of technologies to implement and the best ways to roll them out to deliver the desired end results.
Implementing personalized learning is a huge undertaking that requires the assistance of a multi-disciplinary team of experts who can guide school officials and district IT teams through the process. It’s not just about bandwidth and devices – it’s about the strategy for rolling out the program, keeping the network and the kids who use it safe from cyberthreats, and the development of best practices that can be shared with other districts nationwide.
To help K12 officials wrap their arms around this huge undertaking, we’ve outlined five important steps along the road to success with personalized learning.
Internet Access is Key
One of the top objectives that must be met before personalized learning can become a reality is to deliver next-generation broadband access – either at school or through the local public library – to every student in America within the next two years. This requires assessments of existing infrastructure, strategies for introducing or increasing bandwidth based on long-term usage plans, and the capability to tap into both public and private funding to pay for it.
Infrastructure Can’t Be Ignored
Delivering bandwidth to every classroom is a tall enough order, but this isn’t just about one teacher per classroom accessing the Internet and sharing that information on an overhead projector anymore. This initiative is meant to give every student Internet access, which means there may be as many as 30 notebooks or tablets per classroom – as well as each student’s mobile phone – all accessing the Internet via wi-fi simultaneously, a change which places significant demands on the school’s network and infrastructure, not to mention creating a need for significantly enhanced security, identity and device management, and application management techniques to protect the students from unwelcome content and to protect both the school’s intellectual property and each student’s personal data from breaches.
Your Success is Only as Good as Your Strategy
The Learning Management Systems (LMS) being developed to satisfy this initiative are significant and powerful toolsets for educators and students alike, but they are as complex to deploy as any major business application. K12 CIOs may want to find a consultant that specializes in LMS solutions and to work with that consultant and its team of strategists to design and implement a plan that examines every aspect of personalized learning from content and student interactions to the most technical details involved in product selection, Internet usage, security and rollout before taking their first steps in the direction of personalized learning initiatives.
Because the devices most schools will deploy are mobile devices, it’s critical for K12 CIOs to engage the right kinds of specialists at each stage along the way – and that includes mobility experts that can help them from device procurement through deployment to students. Together, district IT experts and mobility specialists can develop a comprehensive mobility strategy that addresses the best ways to roll out and use these learning tools while minimizing damage and loss.
Best Practices Need to Be Shared
While no two schools are identical in the ways they will choose to implement personalized learning initiatives, there are some important similarities that can be shared nationwide to develop a set of best practices. As a result, this is something everyone from the superintendent and district CIO to individual school principals and faculty should be prepared to discuss at regional, state and national association meetings.
Want to learn more? Worried you can’t afford the kind of telecom and Internet access your school needs to implement a personalized learning program? Let Logicalis show you how E-Rate can help. Read a brief case study to see how one high school provided better bandwidth for its students. Then, explore Logicalis’ most recent GovEd news as well as its GovEd website here: http://ow.ly/SfWY305HFmS