Almost 100 years ago, the poet Kahlil Gibran wrote of children: “...Their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.” When I think about the students in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools and about their futures, I realize that the world that they are growing into will be very much different than the world that my generation grew into. Life moves forward, not backward, and it is our job to help our students move forward into their world.
To do this, we have a goal as a system: “Every student will graduate prepared for college and careers in a global society, and at every level, students will be on-track and on-time for success.” One of the things that every student will need to graduate prepared for college and careers is a strong experience with and ability to use technology. Unfortunately, in a district where more than 85% of our students are eligible for free/reduced lunch, many of our students would not ordinarily have access to technology at home. That is the reason that, back in 2007, our district made the decision to lease a laptop computer for every high school student.
Now in the sixth year of the Laptop for Learning program, our students have used their laptops to move away from being merely “consumers” of information ten years ago, to being “producers” of information and knowledge today. Among other things, they have used their computers to create impressive multi-media presentations, to design provocative works of art, and to sequence DNA in a plant that had never been sequenced before.
Even with this tremendous power in their hands, many of our students have suffered by not having 24/7 access to the full power of technology that comes from having access to the Internet. For that reason, I was thrilled when I learned that Google Fiber was going to bring high-speed connectivity to Kansas City, Kansas. Having access to blazing-fast Internet speeds, both at school and at home, will open up our students’ lives and accelerate their learning, in a number of ways.
First, it will help to connect them to the world, allowing them to use technology both to see the world and to bring the world to them. Next, it will allow us to “flip” the classroom, giving students access to high-quality videos at home, where they can learn at their own pace, while classroom time can be used for practice, working collaboratively with other students under the guidance of their instructors.
Finally, it will help us to share all of the wonderful things happening in our schools with our community and the world. We will be able to broadcast musical and theatrical performances, debate and forensic tournaments, athletic events, and even academic “assessments,” where students demonstrate their knowledge of a subject through a live “demonstration.”
High-speed fiber will make a tremendous difference for this community and for our students. I am thrilled that Kansas City, Kansas has been given the opportunity to participate in the beginning of this amazing revolution.