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SETDA in the News: November/December 2014

Below is a snapshot of some of the news stories referencing SETDA news and views during the last two months of 2014. Topics included everything from E-rate modernization to interoperability and privacy to the beginnings of the conversation about the educational technology legacy for the Obama Administration. During the month of December, SETDA also launched the Guide to Implementing Digital Learning, which is a free web-based resource designed to support school and district leaders as they work to ensure that investments in digital learning spark positive results.

In addition, be sure to check out a sampling of SETDA Says blog posts and our Press Releases from November and December:

For an up-to-date archive and chronicle of notable SETDA mentions online and in the press, be sure to visit the In the News section of our website. And, stay tuned! 2015 promises to be an exciting year for educational technology and SETDA alike.

State Instructional Materials Leadership and the K-12 OER Collaborative

As states have become more aware of the advantages of open educational resources (OER), they have taken a variety of steps to raise awareness among school districts and to speed their adoption via high-profile initiatives and projects. Whether it is Utah creating science OER, or Washington leading statewide efforts to discover and vet OER, or New York creating OER curriculum modules that are incorporated into EngageNY, interest and activity among state leaders is high.  Other states are incorporating OER into state portals or helping teachers discover, vet and use OER.

SETDA has been pleased to support states in both awareness building and, in some cases, implementing initiatives. In the fall of 2012, SETDA released the groundbreaking report, Out of Print: Reimagining the K-12 Textbook in a Digital Age. Out of Print highlights the sea change underway in the K-12 instructional materials market enabled by recent technology and intellectual property rights innovations. With a focus on the ultimate impact on student learning, the report provides examples of lessons learned from recent digital and open (OER) content initiatives by leading states and school districts and offers comprehensive recommendations for government, industry, and educators to ensure that the inevitable shift to digital instructional materials improves student achievement and engagement and efficiently uses scarce resources. More recently, SETDA has launched a policy brief series on issues emanating from Out of Print – the first two of which focus on issues of accessibility and the ownership of teacher-created content.

That is why it is especially exciting to see today the announcement of the release of a request for proposals (RFP) from the K-12 OER Collaborative, which closely relates to a recommendation we made in Out of Print: “…the implementation of the Common Core State Standards provides a unique opportunity for states and districts to collaborate in the creation, acquisition and use of instructional materials aligned with the new standards.” The Collaborative is an initiative led by a group of eleven states with the goal of creating comprehensive, high-quality OER. SETDA supports the K–12 OER Collaborative and its work along with many others, including state content specialists from the participating states, the Council of Chief State School Officers, Creative Commons, Lumen Learning, The Learning Accelerator, Achieve, the State Instructional Materials Review Association, and the Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics.

Kudos to the K-12 OER Collaborative. We look forward to continuing our work together to ensure states and districts have a variety of choices for high-quality instructional materials that can be tailored to meet the individual needs of their students. For additional information about the K-12 OER Collaborative and the RFP, please go to

SETDA Applauds FCC Chairman Wheeler’s Commitment to Addressing School Broadband Needs

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has announced his intent today to take another bold step forward in modernizing the E-rate program. The first step was taken by the FCC in July 2014 after a year of deliberations. In endorsing the SETDA school broadband recommendations, the FCC voted in July 2014 to establish clear goals for the E-rate, while at the same time undertaking a comprehensive restructuring and updating of the program. The second step, taken under Chairman Wheeler’s direction, was the implementation of a suite of FCC administrative actions to improve the efficiency, transparency, and effectiveness of program operations. According to the New York Times, Chairman Wheeler’s current proposal is focused on making $1.5 billion annually in new investments (1) to ensure that affordable, high-capacity broadband is available to all schools – including rural schools – primarily via strategies to encourage infrastructure enhancements and (2) to address the pent up demand for robust internal connections (e.g., WiFi) within schools.

SETDA applauds the Chairman’s proposal, which is expected to be taken up at the December 11 FCC Commission meeting. It addresses the two most significant remaining barriers facing the success of the program, including right-sizing the program to reflect the dramatic uptake of – and increasing reliance on – technology by schools over the last two decades.

As we at SETDA have reiterated time and again since E-rate modernization deliberations first began, it is a simple fact that access to high-speed broadband is now as vital a component of K-12 school infrastructure as electricity, air conditioning and heating. The same tools and resources that have transformed our personal, civic, and professional lives must be a part of learning experiences intended to prepare today’s students for college and careers. College students rely on technology for academic success and to improve personal productivity. In the workplace, everyone from mechanics to accounts to physicians depends on technology to conduct their work, grow their business, and collaborate with their colleagues – both locally and globally. With easy access to reliable, robust, and cost-effective broadband, we can ensure that each student’s school experience mirrors evolving societal expectations for public education.

For more SETDA views of E-rate modernization, see:

Assessing Claims of ConnectED Progress in ‘Year of Action’

In his 2014 State of the Union, President Obama said that 2014 would be a “year of action” to ensure opportunity for all Americans. On July 10, the White House released an update on progress toward that pledge, including on the Administration’s ConnectED initiative. Here’s the relevant page from the report published by the White House:

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While a number of White House claims in this report of ConnectED progress may strike readers as Pollyannaish, it sure looks to me like the White House has a math problem in at least double counting $2 billion of new public and private support for digital learning tools and services and its likely impact on students and educators. At the same time, its not surprising to see the omission of updates on the status of prospects for the ConnectEDucators program, which has seen a rocky reception on Capitol Hill.

We at SETDA remain committed to working with the Obama Administration, the FCC, and the U.S. Congress (and in partnership with like-minded organizations) to ensure that the needs identified in the launch of the ConnectED Initiative are addressed meaningfully and comprehensively.

Inflated claims of progress simply underscore the work still before us.

SETDA Comment on FCC Vote on E-Rate Modernization

The following statement can be attributed to State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) executive director Douglas Levin on today’s vote by the FCC on E-rate modernization:

“With today’s vote, the FCC has taken a critical step to guaranteeing the 18 year-old E-rate program can continue to fulfill its critical role of ensuring equity of access to learning opportunities and supporting innovations in teaching and learning in a digital age. We thank Chairman Wheeler for his principled approach to modernization, Commissioner Clyburn for her support and leadership in initially launching the modernization effort, and Commissioner Rosenworcel for her steadfast advocacy on behalf of the needs of students and educators.

By acting today, the FCC has set robust broadband access to and throughout all schools and libraries as the E-rate’s primary goal, increased transparency of program operations and provided incentives for applicants to seek preferred pricing and services.

At the same time, today’s vote acknowledges that significant work remains to be done to ensure that specific, predictable and sufficient funding is secured to meet K-12 and library broadband infrastructure needs over the long-term and that schools and libraries – especially in rural and remote areas – have cost-effective options to access the robust broadband needed for teaching and learning in a digital age.

SETDA pledges to continue working collaboratively with the FCC and others to ensure the nation’s educational broadband needs are fully and comprehensively addressed for the long-term through the next steps in E-rate modernization.”

Voices in Support of E-Rate Modernization

Friday is a big day that will shape digital learning opportunities in schools and classrooms for years to come. The FCC will consider a Report and Order (R&O) that would advance E-rate modernization by expanding support for Wi-Fi connectivity in schools and libraries.

If the R&O is adopted by a majority vote in something similar to the form proposed by Chairman Wheeler, the major work of the next few years under a modernized E-rate will be a renewed focus on school broadband access, aligned to the President’s goal of deploying high-capacity broadband to 99% of students by 2017.

If the R&O, however, is not adopted, the prospects for directing new ideas and new resources to this critical national need become much less certain – and it is today’s students whose educational opportunities swing in the balance. Indeed, as Blair Levin – the principal architect of the National Broadband Plan and former FCC Chief of Staff at the time the E-rate was initially conceived and implemented – argues, the current E-rate modernization debate is at its core “about the relative trade off of time and money.” At SETDA, we concur and believe that it is past due time to act. As we wrote in 2012:

It is a simple fact that access to high-speed broadband is now as vital a component of K-12 school infrastructure as electricity, plumbing, air conditioning and heating. The same tools that have transformed and enriched our personal, civic and professional lives are dramatically improving learning experiences intended to prepare today’s students for college and 21st century careers. Given that bandwidth capacity determines which online content, educational applications, and digital learning service students and educators can use effectively in the classroom, it is in the national interest to ensure a baseline broadband capacity in and throughout all schools and to incent continued digital learning innovation.

We are not alone at SETDA in believing that moving forward with the current proposal is the right thing for today’s students. Consider just some of the many other notable national and state voices in support of advancing E-rate modernization:

We offer our thanks and deep appreciation to the leaders of these agencies and organizations (and many, many others not listed above) who have worked tirelessly to support E-rate modernization and dramatically improve broadband access in schools and libraries. The R&O before the FCC represents a strong first step at a time that we cannot afford further delays or continued uncertainty. E-rate modernization won’t be done – not by a long-shot – but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

More from SETDA on E-rate modernization:

Select media coverage on E-rate modernization:

FCC Chairman Wheeler’s E-Rate Proposal: A Pragmatic First Step Forward

SETDA is supportive of the major elements of FCC Chairman Wheeler’s E-rate modernization proposal as the first in a series of steps the FCC must take to modernize the program to meet the needs of students and educators in a digital age. The main reasons for our support are because the proposal:

  • 2327713880_ac85910b1c_mAddresses the problem of inequitable access to educational opportunity by better targeting program funds to technologies and services directly related to teaching and learning and dramatically increasing the numbers of students who will benefit. SETDA shined a light on this issue in our landmark 2012 report, The Broadband Imperative, which has served as a clarion call to policymakers and education leaders to ensure all students are able to access the educational resources and opportunities they need via broadband no matter their zip code or socioeconomic status.
  • Doubles federal investment in technologies that deliver high-capacity broadband for learning. The Chairman’s proposal will dramatically increase investment in broadband access in and throughout schools and classrooms in the years to come. Over 43 million students in more than 100,000 schools will reap the benefits of this increased investment for the first time in at least the last five years. This targeted funding represents a 75 percent increase in funding for internal connections in rural schools and a 60 percent increase for urban and suburban schools.
  • Supports long-term planning for digital learning by increasing the certainty of year-over-year support under E-rate for Wi-Fi and related services. The ‘shift to digital‘ is well-underway in K-12 education and with it comes the need for ongoing budget and investment for broadband, for learning devices, for software and content, for professional development, and for technical support. The Chairman’s proposal will provide districts and states with greater insights into the federal support they can expect to receive under E-rate, so other public and private resources can be devoted to the necessary and complementary investments required to support student learning in a digital age.
  • Generates information to support future decision making by re-evaluating the types of information collected via E-rate applications and increasing the transparency of program operations. Before the current E-rate modernization proceeding launched, we knew far too little about the actual quality of connectivity of schools and classrooms, the reasons why the gap between what we need and what we had was so large (despite 18 years of prior investment by E-rate), and where E-rate program operations either contributed to that gap or simply didn’t help to close it. Moreover, better information will encourage new partnerships with the private sector and new ideas from state and local governments about how to address some of the most persistent and pernicious challenges facing public education – challenges which have resulted in significant educational achievement and attainment gaps among student populations across classrooms, schools, districts and states over time. We need better information and new strategies and tactics to address these longstanding challenges, and the Chairman’s proposal will help ensure we have the tools to do so.

There are resources available to learn more about the E-rate modernization proposal under consideration at the FCC. These include a fact sheet on the proposal, a blog that provides answers to common questions about the proposal, and a new report, Modernizing E-Rate: Providing 21st Century Wi-Fi Networks For Schools and Libraries across America, which details on a state-by-state basis how students, schools and libraries will benefit under the proposed changes.

The current proposal before the FCC is an important first step forward in a series of steps the agency must take to modernize the program. Based on extended analyses of available data on program operations and school needs, it represents pragmatic and necessary progress, but alone is insufficient to addressing the complete needs of schools and students. We are encouraged that Chairman Wheeler has and continues to underscore that fact, including signaling his openness to seeking permanent increases in funding for the program, while in the mean time moving forward now to ensure that students are able to begin to reap the benefits of E-rate modernization as soon as possible and certainly not later than the 2015-16 school year.

SETDA in the News: June 2014 Roundup

The headline stories of the month of June 2014 center around President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, which is appropriate as the initiative is marking its one year anniversary. Forward momentum continues for E-rate modernization with our encouragement –  and SETDA stepped forward to highlight the first-ever showcase of the $2 billion in donated school technology products and services targeted to benefit students and teachers (including those in the Virgin Islands and Guam!). Other big stories of the month highlighted two new issue briefs we released on digital content and OER.

Here’s the June 2014 roundup:

In addition, be sure to check out a sampling of SETDA Says blog posts from the month of June:

For an up-to-date archive and chronicle of notable SETDA mentions online and in the press, be sure to visit the In the News section of our website.

SETDA Applauds Momentum at FCC in Advancing E-Rate Modernization

The following statement can be attributed to State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) executive director Douglas Levin on the announcement today that the FCC will be taking up an e-Rate Modernization order at its July 11 meeting:

“In June 2013, President Obama called for connecting 99 percent of America’s students – at speeds of no less than 100Mbps and with a target of 1Gpbs – to next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless within their schools by 2018. In response, the FCC launched an ambitious effort designed to ensure that every school in the U.S. had affordable, scalable access to high-quality broadband service to meet student learning needs in line with the President’s connectivity goal. Over the last year, the FCC has received thousands of comments from the full spectrum of program beneficiaries and participants, and it is now time for the FCC to act.

In prior filings with the FCC (summarized here), SETDA has asserted the importance of – and our support for – many of the reforms that are slated to be taken up at least in part by the FCC in the current order, including:

  • Prioritizing support for broadband under the program as its primary goal, including by adopting SETDA broadband capacity targets;
  • Ensuring that e-Rate supports a baseline broadband capacity to and throughout all schools in the nation (via Wi-Fi), including rural and remote schools;
  • Increasing transparency of program information, including of prices paid by program participants for broadband services;
  • Providing incentives for applicants to seek preferred pricing and service through multi-year and bundled consortia/statewide contracts;
  • Reducing the complexity of the program and burden for participants to access benefits, while maintaining appropriate safeguards for waste, fraud and abuse; and,
  • Providing specific, predictable and sufficient funding to address K-12 broadband infrastructure needs, which will necessitate increased investments in the program.

It is imperative that program reforms in support of these and other related aims we have advocated for are in place as soon as possible and certainly not later than the 2015-16 school year.

SETDA applauds the momentum at the FCC – and we pledge our support to continue to work with the Commission and others to ensure that the nation’s educational broadband needs are addressed swiftly and comprehensively in this and future orders. Working in partnership with the states, the federal government continues to have a critical role to play in the deployment of high-speed broadband to schools, classrooms, and communities sufficient to meeting the evolving needs of teaching and learning in a digital age.”


RSVP by June 26 to Attend SETDA’s ConnectED Private Sector Showcase

On Saturday, June 28th, 2014 from 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm ET in International Salon 1-3 at the Marriott Marquis, Atlanta, Georgia, SETDA will be joined by representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and the companies that have committed $2 billion in educational technology resources under President Obama’s ConnectED Initiative to share information about their commitments and how educators can take advantage of them.

This first of its kind event is free and open to the public, although an RSVP by June 26 is required to attend. The event is being held in conjunction with the invitation-only SETDA Emerging Technologies Forum and adjacent to the 2014 ISTE Conference and Expo in Atlanta, GA.

ConnectED is intended to enrich K-12 education for every student in America by leveraging the power of technology for learning, including through public-private partnerships with leading technology companies. To date, President Obama has announced that ten companies have pledged $2 billion in support toward advancing ConnectED goals. SETDA is helping the companies highlight their commitments with an interest in ensuring that students and teachers most in need of support benefit from these unprecedented offers of public-private partnership. Companies that have made ConnectED commitments include: Adobe; Apple, Inc.; AT&T; Autodesk; Esri; Microsoft; Prezi; Safari Books Online; Sprint Corporation; and Verizon.

For further details, please visit:

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