As schools transition to digital learning as defined by Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a civil rights law, America is seeing an upsurge in educational technology adoption. ESSA’s programs aims to close achievement gaps brought about by inequity in education, including the digital divide. Federal funds enable K-12 institutions to invest in educational technologies–devices, electronic equipment, platforms, digital instructional content, online assessments, and more–with the goal of improving student outcomes. In effort to personalize the learning experience, schools and districts are rolling out initiatives such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and 1:1 programs, and they are making the transition from print to digital curriculum. However, the digital shift entails more than obtaining shiny new devices and procuring the latest online programs for personalized learning experiences. As schools deploy iPads, Chromebooks, and computers, these connected devices, in the hands of students and teachers, stream torrents of data across school networks on a daily basis. Thus, the move to digital is coupled with the demand for stronger Wi-Fi networks and high speed broadband services capable of supporting numerous connected devices. District technology officers are well aware that network infrastructure is a key component of digital learning. Without reliable and robust Internet services and regular system maintenance, even the most innovative digital tools and online programs are insufficient in helping schools reach their objectives: students and teachers will simply stare at the “buffering” symbol while waiting for Web pages to load. Additionally, school networks serve as the lifeline to academic progress. Students from low-income households often rely on their school’s Internet connection because their family cannot afford Wi-Fi or high-speed Internet at home. Therefore, school districts that lack the resources to modernize connectivity infrastructure and keep network services running and up-to-date, face major obstacles in achieving educational equity.
Funds for federal programs essential to educational technology-related initiatives also require schools to implement tools, devices and programs according to regulatory requirements. For instance, schools must ensure that they remain in compliance with FERPA by properly vetting all devices and systems as specified in ESSA. Moreover, when online programs fall outside of the educational context, schools are no longer allowed to act en loco parentis under COPPA. Thus, by assigning students under age 13 to access sites and apps without Verifiable Parental Consent, schools may be in violation of privacy regulations impacting funding and raising the possibility of legal claims. In regards to E-Rate, schools and school districts are subject to the Children’s Internet Protection Act which requires applicants to fulfill compliance mandates prior to receiving discounted services from Internet providers.
About ISAFE Enterprises
ISAFE Enterprises is a hybrid organization (non-profit and for-profit LLC) focused on helping educational and commercial organizations comply with statutory regulations safeguarding child privacy. We offer a suite of technology services and solutions which enable identity management and age-appropriate e-safety instructional programming which meets and exceed regulatory requirements. We are on the cutting-edge of technology and education.
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