We know that technology allows students to control when, where and how they learn in ways that not only improve their learning but also better prepare them for their future. According to a recent infographic from NUITEQ, specific benefits of technology in the classroom range from improved retention of information to increased ability to research and connect. The infographic also points out some new ways students will be using technology to learn as they progress to higher education, as nearly half of all college-level courses will incorporate e-learning by 2019. To help prepare students for these courses, we need to offer e-learning activities beginning in grades K-12.

Unfortunately, the infographic also illustrates some stark deficits in technology integration. Eighty percent of K-12 schools don’t have internet access that will meet their current learning needs, let alone allow them to grow as their technology needs become more sophisticated. And 39 percent of schools serving low-income households say that their school is “behind the curve” when it comes to technology.

However, there are ways to improve these statistics and give all of our students the learning environments they need.

Increasing Wi-Fi Bandwidth

As a school’s need to access more interactive materials and collaborate using video increases, its network must grow to handle these new demands. The growing need for an expanded network can be met by increasing the number of Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the school building to ensure that every classroom and technology hub has a strong connection. Schools can also increase the bandwidth available during the day so connections don’t slow to a crawl during a lesson.

If you’re looking to fund such an expansion, E-Rate and other federal grants are available for improving infrastructure. Schools or districts can also seek out funding from private foundations or other grant-providing organizations, especially if they’re in a high-poverty area that would see a significant benefit from increased bandwidth.

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Improving In-Class Access

Without enough devices, it’s impossible for teachers to effectively use technology in the classroom. Chromebooks offer a way to provide powerful computing and collaboration tools to many students and teachers at a reasonable cost. Additionally, older computers can be converted to Chromebooks using CloudReady, helping stretch a school’s tech budget even further.

Helping Students Access Technology at Home

1:1 programs are wonderful for giving each student access to the same technology tools, leveling the playing field between high- and low-income students. But many of these students may not have internet access at home, depriving them of the research and collaboration benefits these programs can provide.

To address this issue, some districts have negotiated with local internet providers to allow parents to pay reduced rates — or to allow the school to provide this as part of their technology budget. In cases where this isn’t an option, schools can work to stay open after hours to allow students to complete their online work while on the premises, or they can partner with the local library to ensure that students can access the internet there. If nothing else, teachers can help students find local coffee shops and stores that offer free Wi-Fi to patrons.

Technology integration has become a necessity. Even though teachers report that not every classroom is hitting the mark, there are options that can increase access and use in class, which can dramatically improve student learning. The key is to get creative and find the best ways to use the resources you have.

Looking for innovative ideas on how to implement the newest tech trends in your classroom? Whether you’re focusing on improving student literacy or moving toward a digital curriculum, our ed tech solutions will give you the tools you need to make a difference.

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Jennifer Roland

Jennifer Roland is an experienced ed tech writer, having worked on various ISTE publications for 12 years before striking out on her own. Her work has appeared in Ed Tech: Focus on K-12, NPR-affiliate KQED’s education blog MindShift and edCetera. Jennifer’s first book, "The Best of Learning & Leading with Technology," was published by ISTE in 2009. Follow her posts about ed tech and marketing at edtechcopywriter.com. Follow her on Twitter: @jenroland

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