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Working Together to Bring Mobile Solutions to School Districts

Earlier this month, San Diego hosted the 2013 Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) conference, themed as Audacious Leadership: Disruptive, Innovative Leaders are Defining a New Vision and are Building 21st Century Learning Environments.

This event brought together educational leaders from all parts of the U.S. and many parts of the world who are working to leverage technology to create engaging learning environments. Additionally, CoSN announced the Designing Education Networks (DEN) initiative, a project funded by Qualcomm Wireless Reach that aims to provide guidance and resources for school district technology decision makers who are developing wireless infrastructure to support a one-device-per-student 24/7 learning environment.

CoSN and Qualcomm are committed to DEN because they believe that increasing access can be transformative and mobile technology has an important role to play as schools work to improve educational outcomes, personalize learning and overcome the barriers of time and space for each learner.

Economically disadvantaged families increasingly lack the ability to use technology to seek jobs and access online government resources, and their children are also increasingly unable to connect to formal education opportunities that are moving online.

And although the number of computing devices in schools is growing, technology is not ubiquitous in most classrooms. According to MDR Research, only 13 percent of U.S. classrooms have a one device per child technology environment. And, if you are from a U.S. family of modest income ($30,000 or less annually), you are 50 percent less likely to have broadband access at home compared to families with incomes over $75,000. However, a Pew Research study tells us that mobile phones help bridge the digital divide by providing Internet access to less privileged students. In fact, 21 percent who do not otherwise go online say they access the Internet on their cell phone and 41 percent from households earning less than $30,000 annually say they go online with their cell phone.

A decade ago, IT leaders in education designed networks, computer labs and technology with a “1 computer for every 5 students” ratio. Today, school districts are faced with the ratio of “3 devices for every 1 student” and shrinking budgets. DEN is designed to ensure cost saving decisions and encourage efficiencies that enable long term value for a school’s technology investment—whether that district is large or small, urban or rural.

DEN will provide a toolbox of resources to educators who are assessing and implementing wireless infrastructure and device programs.

The fastest growing and least understood area of education networks is off-campus access. Denver Public Schools and Civic Canopy—a community organization encouraging after-school activities with students, parents and the schools—are working together to improve sharing of data and resources while addressing security and privacy of students.

Over the next year, DEN will aid IT leaders in delivering to schools the backend technology infrastructure needed to meet the demands for today and the future. Hear more about DEN from visionaries in education here and watch for the new DEN website coming in June.

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