Bandwidth is the Library Card of the Modern Age

The Internet is an increasing source of excellent quality video content. This video is an example – from National Geographic and their daily update:

Diving in the Maya Sacred Pools
gives UP TO DATE information on current discoveries in science. In this video, divers discuss how they have found some ancient artifacts in Belize and also you can see the fascinating way that they go through the bottom of a pool into an area where water comes out of the spring. You'd have to see it to believe it at the beginning! (So cool.)

The point is that the Internet is our library and that between features like this and services like Discovery Streaming, you can have access to the video you need.

I know schools that still have very slow Internet service. One school that has no Internet access (the administration believes it is a distraction.) The fact is that the payment for bandwidth is really a subscription fee.

When you pay for the Internet you receive:

  • Streaming video
  • Streaming audio of all kinds
  • Access to live events with leaders in society
  • Tons of down-loadable resources
  • Free Lesson Plans
  • Access to your state's standards database
  • Free cloud-based software of all kinds
  • Access to other students and teachers around the world
  • free videoconferencing (skype)
  • free encyclopedias and databases such as the Encyclopedia of Life
  • and more.

 It befuddles me why schools would debate the cost of bandwidth if they look at all of the services that libraries often pay for. In fact, bandwidth is truly the library card of the modern age.

We talk about the digital divide because those who do not have bandwidth are denied access. They cannot enter the library. Why would we intentionally keep people out when it is within our power to allow access? Why would we add barrier after barrier in our new card catalog by blocking educationally-beneficial sites.
Why do we seem so afraid of learning? Yes, there are places that we should monitor and filter but often it seems that we are straining out gnats and swallowing camels by thinking that the only services that are worth anything must be paid for. How about just unfettered access to the Internet where teachers can request to have valid URL's unblocked.

Modern Age Library Litmus Test

Answer these questions to see if your school is truly allowing access to the modern library card of the world?
1. If I have a specific site that I need to use for classroom use, I have the ability to request that the site be unblocked? (  ) 1 – Yes   (  ) 0 – No

2. When I request for a site to be unblocked for a valid educational use, it typically takes:
(  ) 5 – Same Day approval
(  ) 4 – Next day
(  ) 3 – Same Week
(  ) 2 – Next Week
(  ) 1 – Same month
(  ) 0 – Are you kidding?

3. Who approves your request for a website to be unblocked?
(  ) 5 – I have a URL to unblock it myself by logging into the filter
(  ) 4 – Curriculum
(  ) 3 – Administration
(  ) 2 – IT Department
(  ) 1 – the office manager
(  ) 0 – Are you kidding?

4. When you find a useful site that is not blocked and begin using it heavily in the classroom, which is most likely to happen:
(  ) 5 – Nothing
(  ) 4 – Someone may ask me what is going on in my classroom.
(  ) 3 – I will be E-mailed notifying me that if the site is not legitimate it will be blocked.
(  ) 2 – IT department gives me grief about bandwidth
(  ) 1 – It is blocked within days.
(  ) 0 – It is blocked within hours.

5. At my school we are:
(  ) 5 – Encouraged to use Internet resources and have an open environment of sharing those that meet classroom standards.
(  ) 4 – Encouraged to use Internet resources and some share the tools
(  ) 3 – Internet resources are allowed but not encouraged.
(  ) 2 -Approved resources are allowed, although very few are approved.
(  ) 1 – using an intranet and everything must be on our local server.
(  ) 0 – Not allowing Internet access.

OK, so add up your numbers.  The maximum score is 21. If you're there — wow, count yourself lucky. When you get down towards 10, you're really dealling with walls.  Less, than 10, and you're severely limited from accessing the “library” of the modern age.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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1 comment

Jonathan Wylie September 19, 2010 - 2:34 pm

I largely agree with you, but there are always going to be students who take advantage of the bandwidth issue. Maybe that is an issue for educators to try and deal with to teach students how to use the network appropriately, but in our district, the tech coordinator allows only certain devices to access the network by restricting MAC addresses to those that he has approved. He did this because many students were streaming music and youtube videos direct to their portable devices during study hall periods, etc. and using up all the bandwidth. I can see he has a point, but I also think that it is a shame it has come to that.

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