On November 19, 2014, President Obama launched the ConnectEd initiative to support digital learning, and I was part of the ceremony.
The ConnectEd initiative is a collaborative partnership between the White House, private businesses and schools across the country aiming to connect 99 percent of students to high speed wireless and broadband Internet over the next five years. The initiative stems entirely from student and educator demands, and the Obama Administration is working closely with both groups to ensure its optimal success.
“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee,” Obama said at the ceremony, “the least we can do is expect that our schools are properly wired.”
For part of the event, President Obama and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz spoke to student journalists from around the country, including myself. One of the most interesting facts I gained from speaking with Muñoz was that that less than 40 percent of public schools in America have high-speed internet access in their classrooms, which was astonishing to hear. Coming from a district with broadband Internet, I assumed most other schools were the same, but I was wrong. Muñoz believes that providing students with access to technology will drive innovation and allow for individualization, leading to more effective learning.
Although our exchanges were brief, Muñoz seemed very interested in us, and asked many questions about our thoughts on ConnectEd and American education.
After meeting with Muñoz, the other students and I went to the Red Room to meet President Obama, but stumbled across the Assistant Secretary of Education, Deborah Delisle, along the way. Delisle personally interacted with each of us and asked about our experiences with technology in schools. Every conversation was unique and showed her interest in hearing from students directly.
Like Muñoz, the president was very excited to meet with us and said it was crucial for us to be at the ConnectEd event. In fact, everyone I met that day seemed genuinely interested in what students had to say about our educational experiences and stressed the importance of us being there.
At the event, I learned that the first step of the ConnectEd initiative is the Future Ready pledge, which was signed by superintendents from across the country that day. Obama says he is confident that his administration will be able to connect 99 percent of schools and students to high speed Internet, I am weary about the long term nature of the project and worry it will get lost in the shuffle due to the possible party shift in coming years. Nonetheless, however, I do look forward to watching ConnectEd unfold around the country and think it is important for the future of education.
One thing is for sure: “Every child deserves a shot at a world-class education,” Obama said. I think it’s time for students to play a role in shaping that world-class education, and Student Voice, ConnectEd and the Future Ready initiative are making that possible.
Tess Harkin - Public Relations
Tess is a student at American University, studying Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics and Government. She is an Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Scholar, as well as an alumna of the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership program. Tess is a Connecticut native, but considers herself a New Yorker at heart. She has previously interned with GimmeMo and the Smart Girls Group, written for HuffPost Teen, and currently works at the Content Coordinator for the Campaign for a Presidental Youth Council. In her spare time, Tess can be found playing with her puppy, drinking coffee or making her next travel plans.