A Fiber Future: How Will High-Speed Fiber Networks Affect School Communication?

I’m very lucky.

Remember a while back, when Google had cities across the country competing over who would get their new Google Fiber network? The one with speeds 100 times faster than our current broadband speeds?

Well, they picked my town.

For the last year, they’ve been building their fiber infrastructure here in Kansas City, Mo. and across the state line in Kansas City, Kan. Recently, my friends and neighbors and I watched with great anticipation as Google announced how they would connect Kansas City neighborhoods to this network.

We found out that the neighborhoods that showed the most interest would get the fiber first, and the public services in their neighborhoods (like schools) would get connected for free. Fortunately for me, my neighborhood will get Google Fiber. Unfortunately for my school district, it is in a part of the city that has to wait for the next round of installations.

This gives us some time to understand the implications for our schools. The Park Hill School District has a fiber network between its buildings, so we already benefit from these top speeds in our communication between schools. But will a fiber connection to the rest of the world open up new opportunities?

Fast connections will allow easier, more reliable video conferencing, which not only presents opportunities for classroom collaboration and professional development across distances, it also enables virtual town halls for community engagement and live streaming of district events.

Google Fiber is offering an option for low-cost connection and free internet. There might also be possibilities for increasing the availability of free WiFi hotspots. This could help us bridge the digital divide, connecting low-income families so that their children can use online learning tools and so that we can more easily communicate with them.

What else will be able to do when Google Fiber comes to my district? I’m still brainstorming – do you have any ideas?

2 Replies to “A Fiber Future: How Will High-Speed Fiber Networks Affect School Communication?”

  1. How exciting! I wish I could vote up your schools’ fiberhoods!

    I think the biggest impact for schools will come from bringing “free” 5mbps Internet to low-income homes. That has always been an obstacle to moving more of the educational process online.

    After that, I think there’s potential for cost savings to snowball forward. For example, once you have an extremely reliable high-speed connection to the Internet, why not switch most users from locally hosted and managed Microsoft Exchange and paid licenses for Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc to the free Google Apps for Education suite? As you rack up cost savings and switch to more online services, you start to tip the scale away from traditional text books and toward issuing 1:1 devices using open curriculum.

    And that’s when you start really impacting education — students will be better prepared for technology use in the real world, you can reclaim book storerooms as instructional space, teachers can adapt the curriculum as they’d like, students can guide their own learning at their own pace…magical stuff.

  2. Dave – Interestingly, we’re already moving toward those exact things in Park Hill, even with regular broadband speeds. I think you’re right about the low-income homes.

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