Major tech companies are giving away $750 million worth of products to help bridge the digital divide. During a speech earlier today, Obama gave details about the pledges from the tech companies, along with a commitment to connect more schools with broadband Internet.
- Apple’s pledging $100 million in iPads, Macbooks, products and teacher training.
- AT&T is giving $100 million in mobile broadband for 3 years to middle schools and for teacher development.
- The Verizon Foundation is giving $100 million to educate teachers, with the Verizon Innovative Leading Schools program, among other initiatives.
- Autodesk will offer free design software to every secondary school.
During the State of the Union, Obama announced that Apple, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon would help connect 15,000 schools and 20 million students to speedy Internet.
“Now, this is an extraordinary commitment by these business leaders, but they’re business leaders, so they’re not just doing it out of the goodness of their heart. They want the country to do well, but they also understand that they want educated customers,” said Obama. “They want customers who are able to get good jobs, who are going to be using these tools in the future. They want that next young architect coming out of here to be familiar with using that iPad so that they’re designing buildings and using their products.”
Research on the effectiveness of broadband in schools is more scant, however. The Urban Institute found that broadband in the home slightly decreased math and reading proficiency [PDF], while an experimental study in Portugal found the same for broadband in schools [PDF]. The authors cite heightened distraction as a potential explanation.
Though, technology could allow schools to also radically change their curriculum, which would teach a different set of skills that may not be captured by test scores. So it seems like the government is funding a project that we don’t entirely understand the outcome of.