(Photo courtesy of bendbroadband)
It’s a fact: We’re becoming more and more reliant on the internet across all sectors of society. It’s not just businesses that simply couldn’t function without email and online access. In education, digital conversion is profoundly changing the nature of teaching and learning.
Just as email inboxes replaced fax machines, the textbook is on the way out and the iPad is in. With it comes not only a world of opportunity, but also the need for a solid internet connection.
For years, BendBroadband has been helping local nonprofits by providing free Internet service as part of the company’s commitment to giving back to the Central Oregon community. And as iPads and other devices infiltrate schools, ISPs are taking responsibility for ensuring that children have equal opportunities through access to technology.
Toward that end, BendBroadband is working closely with the Family Access Network, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Oregon and Bend Area Habitat for Humanity to identify local low-income families and provide them with low-cost internet services so children in those families can maximize the potential of their school-provided devices.
Since the Fall of 2013, Bend-La Pine Schools have been transforming from a paper-based environment to a primarily digital world by putting a “technology learning device” – an iPad in grades 3-12 – in the hands of every student at five pilot sites. The goal, according to Bend-La Pine’s website: “continuously improving student engagement, and personalizing and improving the learning of each student.”
As a result, there’s a generation of children out there who have more information and learning tools at their fingertips than ever before.
“What’s happening in the local education system is so exciting, because it levels the playing field of learning for all of our kids,” says Stephanie Senner of BendBroadband. “And we play an important role in that process by making sure every child in Central Oregon has the same opportunity to fully benefit from technology, regardless of their family’s income or home life.”
A 2014 survey of the program’s pilot year found that 94 percent of teachers believe technology use in the classroom can enhance student learning. The survey also found a 36-percent increase in the number of teachers who reported asking students to conduct research at least weekly or monthly, and a 27-percent increase in the number of students who said they were asked to collaborate online with classmates at least weekly or monthly.
In other words, Bend La Pine’s initiative encourages students to work collaboratively and engage in independent research, vital skills that are needed to succeed in today’s workforce and that are enabled and enhanced by technology.
“It’s a cliché because it’s true: Our children are our future,” Senner says. “We’re pleased to play a part in ensuring they’re ready for that responsibility.”
BendBroadband’s Community Partnership program provides free Internet access and video services to almost 50 nonprofit organizations. Each year, 501(c)(3) companies are invited to apply for this annual service grant which covers complimentary High-Speed Internet connection and modem rental or a complimentary video subscription.