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Bridging the Connectivity Gap in Our Nation's Schools

Blog

Posts on tylerthigpen.com explore: 

DEEP LEARNING: How we might renovate our instructional approach and achieve for preK-12 teachers and students a wholesale transition to 21st century teaching and learning

QUALITY LEADERSHIP: How we might apply the best aspects from the public, private, and charter sectors to make U.S. public schools and districts the best in the world; or 

LIVING FAITH: Intersections of faith and public life, so that we might "act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8).

Bridging the Connectivity Gap in Our Nation's Schools

Tyler Thigpen

Really grateful for the chance to publish with the Harvard Kennedy School Review

Here's an excerpt...

The conversation that most haunted Marshall Chambers—former director of strategic initiatives for Barrow County Schools, a rural district in Georgia—happened in 2001 at one of the district’s high schools.

Chambers, himself a graduate of Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia, was lamenting a talented student’s decision not to apply to the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“Why won’t you apply, Miranda? You’ve got what it takes . . . You’re Georgia Tech material!”

“Thanks for askin’, Mr. Chambers, but I just don’t see no point. Especially since I’m gonna end up working at Walmart like everybody else.”1

Tired of hearing similar answers that, for Chambers, lacked possibility and promise, he teamed up with teachers, local business leaders, and undergraduate professors to make use of his high school’s newly installed high-speed broadband connection and bring the university to his students. The next year, using video technology, the high school’s physics class joined in virtually on one of Georgia Tech’s nanotechnology laboratories to get an inside look.

That year, not one, but twelve of the twenty-five students in the class applied to Georgia Tech. They were the first applicants to Georgia Tech in the high school’s history.

Today, Chambers directs Georgia Tech’s Direct to Discovery program, which deliv- ers research labs into K–12 classrooms using high-speed networks and videoconferencing. This allows researchers to actively participate in K–12 outreach from the convenience of their labs and gives K–12 teachers and students access to “rich, up-to-date content that inspires, motivates, and empowers experiential learning.”2

Granting safe, high-speed Internet access for the entirety of the school day to every student in the United States and subsequently integrating Internet use into teaching and learning as quickly as possible will help us attain immediate and far-reaching improvements in our preK–12 system. Unfortunately, however, stories like the one in Barrow County are not the norm in our nation’s schools.