Information and Communication Technology (ICT) increasingly makes education more accessible and more universally and equitably available to all. ICT also enables more efficient delivery of quality teaching, more effective learning, and better educational management, governance and administration.
Many countries are realizing the importance of connecting their educational institutions to the Internet and, as a result, have developed e-learning and m-learning strategies for connecting schools and students. Countries also realize, however, that in defining their National School Connectivity Plans, it is also important to identify how well their plans dovetail with teachers’ ability to implement them. Do teachers have the experience and knowledge to incorporate ICT into lesson plans, teaching methodologies and curricula? Are there funds devoted to procuring ICT-related connectivity and other resources?
Connectivity provides many benefits including access to an ever-growing volume of educational information, opportunities for collaboration and the use of online applications. In addition, it is important for students, as well as teachers, to learn information and communication technology skills to enable them to participate in the evolving knowledge society. School connectivity also helps enhance educational administration through the electronic exchange of forms, data and other information. It also achieves cost efficiencies by automating manual tasks and reducing expenses associated with textbook printing and distribution. The benefits are particularly attractive for remote schools where Internet access provides the vehicle for online learning and access to educational content.
The policies that enable schools to benefit from Internet connectivity can also be leveraged as vehicles to provide connectivity to marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities, the elderly, the unemployed, minorities and indigenous peoples. This module can thus also serve as a tool for considering the ways in which access to the Internet can benefit groups with special needs.
Although many of the benefits identified are only achievable through broadband connectivity, that connectivity can be achieved through a myriad of technologies. All forms of connectivity, including fixed and mobile broadband, as well as satellite broadband, must be considered. In addition, there are multiple types of devices and media for delivery of ICT. Given the importance of ICT to the educational process, multiple delivery modes should be considered, including, for example, “m-education” initiatives or simulated access to a selection of Internet resources through e-reader devices or other such devices.
This module mainly examines primary and secondary school connectivity, since this is the emphasis of most ICT infrastructure-for-education initiatives. Total Cost of Ownership is also considered, however, particularly since many small and remote, rural schools lack access to electricity grids, affecting their connectivity costs and hindering their participation in Internet connectivity initiatives.
Section 1 elaborates on the benefits of school connectivity. Section 2 identifies international and regional goals and targets with respect to school connectivity. The role of planning for achieving school connectivity, including key elements for consideration in implementing and funding Internet access in schools, is described in Section 3. Section 4 examines the potential of leveraging the investment in school connectivity to serve a wider audience outside school hours.
The module primarily concentrates on ways to achieve connectivity itself and does not consider in detail the next step of incorporating connectivity into the school environment. Section 5focuses on topics such as broadband curriculum, training and online content, along with a number of cross-cutting issues including child online protection and one-to-one computer initiatives required for the next step. The one-to-one computer model is discussed in detail in Module 2. Section 6 provides several case studies on different countries experiences on providing Internet access to schools.