Headline from today’s CNN Money section in USA Today: “High-speed Net could change life in Berry, Ky.” Access to high speed Internet access IS critical, but I keep thinking that the question we need to be asking in educational technology circles is, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR BANDWIDTH? Sure people can check stocks, sports scores, log in to check bank balances and other web-enabled administrative tasks– but what about content creation? The article mentions a small town resident who is so frustrated with the speed of dial-up Internet that she doesn’t bother uploading images or sending them to friends and family. I can relate. No doubt, Berry, Kentucky and every other small community around the globe needs to have available access to high speed Internet. But access alone is woefully inadequate, especially if a community is looking to turnaround longstanding trends of population losses to urban centers, as Berry evidently is.

My suggestion for the community would be to adopt a radically different educational curriculum approach. Rather than having students merely consume and regurgitate the traditional curriculum as everyone in their school system has doubtless been attempting to do for decades, adopt an innovative approach which focuses on project-based learning and students regularly creating authentic knowledge products which reflect their learning and understanding. Have the students regularly use technology to create digital stories and collaborative products like wiki pages which are accessible for a global audience. Embrace the idea that to become media literate and technologically powerful, students must WRITE THE WEB and not merely read and access it.

Coming from an area of West Texas filled with small, rural school districts, I am fairly sensitive to many of the issues raised in this article. Population shrinkage in rural communities is a problem. But I think it is naive to think that simply bringing broadband Internet access to a community is going to reverse that trend. Bringing the fast pipes could serve as a catalyst for change, but my guess is a lot more things will have to happen (which will require strong and visionary leadership for both the community and the schools) for a real turnaround in the local economy and population to happen for the long term.


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