EPP: K-12 Schools as Anchor Institutions

 

Two recent FCC orders have opened the door for schools, libraries, and other public institutions to design more effective wireless Internet services and serve as an Internet anchor to surrounding communities. This workshop aims to build momentum for a framework and pilot program that can take advantage of the access and learning opportunities enabled by these FCC orders.

In an order reforming universal service and the E-rate program, the FCC enabled schools and libraries to lease fiber, provide Internet access to the surrounding community and residential education programs, and extend the learning day with off-campus wireless learning devices. In a separate order on “white spaces,” the FCC opened the door to a repurposing of the unused spectrum in television bands for a wide range of new applications. Schools and other providers will soon use this spectrum as a super Wi-Fi signal that enables Internet access far beyond the range of existing wireless connections.

Together, these regulatory innovations could lead to a blossoming of Internet availability and digital learning tools in rural and low-income areas that currently lack broadband Internet infrastructure. Our workshop addresses the legal, technical, pedagogical, and social challenges of bringing about these opportunities.

First, how can schools and libraries work within the FCC’s legal and technical framework and function as effective network anchors even in the face of limited network management expertise and low IT budgets? The FCC has largely left the door open as to how schools will build and manage these new network spaces; we need to locate ambitious institutions prepared to meet this technical challenge.

Second, how can schools and libraries maintaining these networks best educate students and members of the surrounding community to engage with the Internet in a positive, safe, and productive manner?

Finally, what modifications do we (along with Moodle, ck12.org, Sakai, etc) need to make to existing media, blogging, and social networking tools to promote effective and widespread digital learning within schools and beyond the school day? What idea-sharing and collaborative platforms remain to be built? What are best practices in building educational interfaces?

In conjunction with funding offered under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, these FCC orders offer a real chance to figure out how to deploy extremely low-cost wireless Internet access to schools and communities that desperately need it. This workshop will spur creative thinking about how to enable schools to prove the educational and civic value of widespread community Internet access.