Why Edtech Owes Barack Obama a Debt of Gratitude
Education technology has swept the nation and is reshaping schools. Recent years have seen innovation in the way students gather information, practice skills, collaborate with peers, and demonstrate knowledge.
And without the leadership of Barack Obama, many of these edtech advancements would not be possible.
Let’s take a look at Obama’s two major edtech initiatives and their results.
In June 2013, Obama announced his ConnectED initiative. Most notably, the program was intended to connect 99 percent of American students to high-speed wireless and broadband in their schools and libraries.
Obama stated, “In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, why shouldn’t we have it in our schools? Why wouldn’t we have it available for our children’s education?”
At the time, only 30 percent of school districts had access to high-speed Internet. By May 2016, this number had increased to 70 percent. By September of 2017, 94 percent of school districts met federal high-speed Internet access targets.
Computer Science for All Initiative
Later, in January 2016, Obama unveiled his Computer Science for All initiative, which aimed to empower students with the ability to succeed in and contribute to today’s technology driven society.
The initiative outlined plans to:
- Provide $4 billion in funding to expand computer science training for teachers and increase access to quality instructional materials
- Involve governors, mayors, and education leaders in boosting computer science opportunities
- Increase access to professional learning communities and inclusive, accessible computer science curriculum
- Gain commitments from organizations in support of the computer science initiative
Congress never approved the requested amount of funding, but millions of funding in computer science education was allocated via government agencies, including $120 million from the National Science Foundation.
The initiative also resulted in numerous commitments and action from organizations and school districts. You can read the full list here, but examples include:
- Cornell Tech began developing a model for CS education in rural/exurban areas.
- Google launched a new career preparation program for college students and expanded access to quality computer science opportunities.
- Girls Who Code added 5000 free after-school programs.
- PBS provided free CS resources to children, families, and educators in underserved communities.
Ultimately, the Computer Science for All initiative sparked collaborative action to get computer science education—and technology—into schools across the nation.
During his time in office, Obama recognized the early potential of edtech to improve teaching and learning. He launched initiatives to promote and fund edtech, as well as to increase accessibility in schools across the nation.
Without this early leadership, many edtech programs and companies wouldn’t exist today—and many students wouldn’t have access to the educational opportunities technology provides.