Technology Billionaires Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) think education turns on faster Internet. To that end, the pair has collectively contributed a total of $9 million to the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that focuses on improving connectivity in schools.
But is Internet connectivity really the key ingredient to a good education?
The main line certainly thinks so.
"It's the backbone. We have to actually think not just about the sustainability of the current traffic, we're talking about exploding traffic," Raj Adusumilli told NBC news recently, assistant superintendent for information services in the Arlington Public Schools in northern Virginia.
Or from Doug Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association: “It used to be OK that some students could access these opportunities and others couldn't, and the big shift is now there really is an expectation that all kids need to access" these opportunities.
image via educationsuperhighway
Faster Internet is not going to educate a child, however; there’s a big difference between knowledge and information, and all faster Internet does is boost information.
Fast Internet is not bad, of course. It does help teachers access the widest range of information, and it makes tools like tablet computers more useful.
The point that is often lost, however, is that education is a complex process that includes many factors—some of which, such as the home environment of the student—can hardly be tackled by schools even if they wanted to address the issue.
It is convenient to seize upon a single issue and try to solve all the problems of our education system with one neat fix, but we’re not going to change the game just with faster Internet.
I’m not the only one who realizes this, either.
Randi Weingarten, no less than the president of the American Federation of Teachers, has noted that while increased Internet is good, it is only just a start.
"Let me just say on the record, it's great that they want to help deal with the digital divide,” she said. But she also added: “I'd like for them to help with other things as well but it's great that they want to help with the divide."
Tablets, broadband, cloud-based resources all help with education, no doubt. But we need to not think we can just throw money at our education problem and solve the issue. We need to have a deeper, more sustained critique to fix the trouble.
So while the efforts of Gates and Zuckerberg are nice, it is just the start—and we need to keep that in mind.
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