A Laptop in Every Backpack

Christopher PiehlerAs I sat down to write about schools’ ongoing struggle to pay for classroom technology, I got a great assist from the news when U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, introduced legislation that would reactivate the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) Act. Baldwin’s bill would authorize a billion dollars a year to fund the use of technology for learning. Money would be available to help districts acquire “digital tools, devices and content” and support the work of technology coordinators in gaining “the skills and knowledge” they need to manage digital learning programs.

Now, EETT may never become a law, but it’s heartening to see a federal legislator act on the need to earmark funding specifically for educational technology. Without this targeted spending, schools and districts will continue to invest precious time and money writing grants, managing crowdsourcing campaigns and having bake sales in a never-ending effort to cobble together enough money to provide their students with the basic equipment of 21st century learning. I, for one, would love to live in a world where educators spent less time raising money and more time teaching kids.

Baldwin is not the only federal leader whose actions could help schools navigate a changing technological landscape. The recent decision by the FCC that broadband networks should be regulated as a public utility was an important recognition that Internet access is now as fundamental to American life as electricity — certainly for schools, a decent broadband connection has become an absolute necessity.

But connectivity isn’t enough. The Internet is merely a river of information. In order to drink from it, each student needs his or her own cup, so I believe we should add “access to a mobile device” to the list of basic, funded requirements for education. With a combination of EETT funding and thoughtfully managed BYOD environments, putting a device in the hands of every student should be an achievable goal.

About the Author

Christopher Piehler is the former editor-in-chief of THE Journal.