Putting E-rate Funding to Work: A Peek at One Oklahoma School’s TransformationContributors: Donna Eason
What is E-rate?
Since 1998, E-rate has been the largest source of federal funding for schools and libraries. The program has contributed $47B to support libraries and schools in building wireless networks and Internet connections. Since program modernization by the Federal Communications Commission, $2.6B has flowed to applicants for network equipment and maintenance costs with a goal of assisting schools and libraries in implementing innovative “digital education” curriculum.
People often ask the following questions about E-rate:
- What educational benefits has the E-rate program delivered?
- How do these benefits extend to classrooms?
- What is “digital education” all about?
The answer is simple. By allowing schools to buy network technology, E-rate has been the means to a very worthy end—to enable schools to implement authentic learning practices for students and innovative professional development activities for faculty with the goal of improving academic achievement.
E-rate in action in Oklahoma
On a recent webcast, we featured Howe Public Schools. Located in rural, southeastern Oklahoma, Howe is a small district of 650 students. Most students come from low-income households, including a significant number who are members of the Choctaw nation.
“Reimagining education is not about technology or devices, it’s about moving to a truly individualized and differentiated learning experience.”
Dr. Lance Ford, Educational Technology Advocate
Dr. Lance Ford, a Cisco educational technology advocate and educator who teaches at Howe Public Schools, shared that Howe, in spite of its small size, made a commitment to revitalizing its network infrastructure and integrating technology into teaching and learning at all grade levels.
Here are five ways Howe is using technology to change the way students learn:
- Students are able to attend an expanded number of courses—e.g., advanced courses and special electives via two-way live distance learning with other schools—beyond what the district could offer on its own. Students have access to content that’s tailored to their interests, so their motivation to learn remains high.
- Virtual field trips enable Howe’s students to develop a vision of the world beyond their local town. Outside experts are able to connect live with classes and augment the curriculum with specialized expertise and lessons.
- Student research experiences have morphed into collaborative projects where students learn from each other as teachers act as learning coaches instead of lecturers.
- Teachers can customize their professional development so that they can focus on the areas most important to them and their students.
- Learning continues in Howe beyond the classroom. The school network supports connectivity from school buses so students can continue their studies on long rides between home and school.
Managing the changes needed to implement this curriculum wasn’t easy, but Howe has remained focused on an incremental approach to its technology investments. E-rate funding and federal grants—such as the RUS-Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant—have provided much needed financial support.
To learn more about the teaching and learning initiatives at Howe Public Schools, check out our recent webcast.