Cover I2The NMC and Internet2 have released the report R&E Networks: Pathways to Innovation for K-12 An NMC Horizon Project / Internet2 Strategic Brief. This report reflects the findings from a national panel of educational technology experts that convened in Spring 2015 to discuss opportunities for high-performance Internet in K-12 education.

In their discussions, the panel of experts, representing a range of leadership roles across the US K-12 education system, identified trends within and beyond schools that are currently constrained by inadequate bandwidth and lack of connectivity to R&E networks. The goal of the report was to document opportunities, challenges, and recommendations for K-12 stakeholders to consider as they address the demands of digital learning relative to the adoption of high-speed R&E networks.

Download the Report

Key findings include:

Developments in Technology Driving Demand for Bandwidth in K-12 Education
The technologies and digital strategies that the expert panel identified as important for near-, mid-, and long-term educational transformation were Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), cloud computing, online learning, and flipped classroom. Enabled by R&E network bandwidth, these developments will ultimately empower students to control their own learning and to access opportunities to engage with content anytime, anywhere.

Key Trends and Challenges Driving Demand for Bandwidth in K-12 Education
The key trends and challenges that the expert panel identified as influential to the movement toward reinventing the classroom include “Expanding Equity and Access,” “Personalizing Learning,” and “Using Student Data to Understand Learning.” Although the most difficult barriers to digital transformation are human, many solutions can be enabled with a robust infrastructure that supports new ways of teaching and learning.

Recommendations for Fostering Educational Innovation
After a detailed analysis of the current state of R&E networks in US schools, four recommendations were provided for education policymakers as well as to K-20 community members to further the potential of K-12 education innovation. They are 1) Connect to an R&E Network; 2) Make R&E Network-Enabled Teaching and Learning Opportunities Visible;  3) Focus on How the R&E Network Supports Learning; and 4) Actively Participate in the R&E Network Community.

“This strategic brief addresses the immediate need for schools in the US to embrace R&E networks’ advanced infrastructure and the vast potential this innovation offers,” said Larry Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of the NMC. “The panel’s findings show that these robust, high speed connections allow students to interact with a number of sophisticated learning tools, such as videoconferencing, immersive environments, and virtual laboratories.”

“While we’ve made great strides over the last 20 years in getting nearly every school in the United States connected to the Internet, today just being connected isn’t enough,” said James Werle, Director of the K-20 Initiative, part of the U.S. UCAN program at Internet2. “What really matters for schools is a reliable, scalable, high-quality, and affordable broadband connection capable of meeting the current and future technology demands of students and teachers. The research and education networking community can be an important part of the solution, not only for K12 schools, but for other community anchor organizations as well.”

The subject matter in this report was identified through a qualitative research process designed and conducted by the NMC that engaged a body of national educational technology experts around a set of research questions designed to surface significant trends, challenges, and developments in technology that are driving or impeding the progress of R&E networks in K-12 education. The resulting work, which could be described as the “collective wisdom” of experts, was used as the basis for the NMC and Internet2 collaborative research team’s analysis, the results of which are detailed in R&E Networks: A Pathway to Innovation for K12.

Dr. Marcia A. Mardis, who is the current Internet2 President’s Fellow (2014-2015), led and coordinated the writing of the strategic brief for NMC and Internet2. Mardis is an associate professor at Florida State University’s nationally ranked School of Information where she conducts research on the affordances of broadband for K-12 teaching and learning.

Mardis emphasized, “Numerous international, federal, and state initiatives call for digitally rich learning environments, but implementation breaks down in the scaling of digital learning. The results in this report underscore the primacy of high-speed, high-quality bandwidth and networking to ensure that we can realize global educational access and equity.”

This strategic brief is available online, free of charge, and is released under a Creative Commons license to facilitate its widespread use, easy duplication, and broad distribution.