Shrinking school budgets and a high drop-out rate have only increased the decline in American competitiveness. One often advocated solution is to create more “smart classrooms” that use instructional software, smart boards and other interactive technologies to make learning more effective for all types and levels of students.
But in some areas, this means much more than updating the hardware technology in use. In rural locations, many teachers and students don't have the high-speed internet access necessary to access the wealth of educational information available on the internet.
Recent progress in this area includes:
An American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) allocation of $650 million for educational technology to build Smart Classrooms – which are equipped with technology to enhance learning including computers and the ability to transfer classroom documents to blackboard websites.
Increasing use of public-private partnerships to rectify the situation. One example is Microsoft’s Partners in Learning initiative, which has already spread to more than 3.3 million students and teachers in six U.S. states.
ARRA also reserved $7.2 billion to complete broadband coverage across the U.S.—and stipulates that all of these funds must be allocated by September 2010.
Many industries in the Information Technology sector stand to benefit. But particularly well positioned are the computer and peripheral equipment manufacturers—who will provide the hardware for Smart Classrooms—and communications equipment makers, who are essential to creating the infrastructure needed by the networks.
Of course, Telecommunication Services providers will be critical to making complete broadband coverage a reality. And given the short-term availability of the funds, money may begin to flow to participating companies much sooner than other ARRA-funded opportunities.