Online Education Benefits Economy

Working folks and students alike can benefit from using high speed Internet to enhance their careers and lives – and, in turn, benefit the community and our economy. Adults can take online classes from home to brush up on skills, earn higher degrees and certificates, or continue lifelong learning. Many websites require high capacity connectivity to the Internet to download graphics and video streaming of demonstrations or talks. Our young people are growing up as “Digital Natives” where computer literacy and skills are a prerequisite to compete in the world economy. That means dial up is not adequate today, and will most certainly not be adequate in the near future.

“The rest of society is involved in this high speed world, but many of us here cannot take advantage of it so we are already behind the curve. Why should we suffer because we live in a beautiful place? It is an injustice to the community.” says Don Armstrong, Fort Bragg Superintendent of Schools. Catherine Stone, Mendocino Superintendent of Schools, says, “We need to have no child left behind technologically too.” Geisce Ly, Dean of the College of the Redwoods, wants to offer more online classes but says it is “tough” without adequate connectivity in homes.
Mrs. Stone says that Mendocino kids start on the Web in kindergarten with pen pals in different countries. Third graders learn keyboarding skills. As they move through the grades, students are taught how to do research on the Web. Instant learning results from the world’s resources available online. Blogging and text messaging are a way of life for young people to share what they see and do constantly. Most students on the Coast cannot continue this important “after-school learning” from home.

Paul Tichinin, County Superintendent of Schools, offers more insight into why our students, and our communities, need high speed connections. Students, particularly those who are ill or home schooling, need to access the Web from home for homework. He says that socialization is a big part of the school experience, much of which kids now do via online meetups; they feel cut off without it at home. Administrators need it for webcasts, trainings and video conferences online which save time, money, and fuel.

Schools are designated as evacuation centers in an emergency, and broadband is essential to emergency communications. Heaven forbid we should have a pandemic when people are isolated in their homes, but if we do, the Internet will be used to send information that keeps the community connected.

Equality of access to online education allows everyone to collaborate and compete globally. Digital technology is dictating our kids’ future. They want and deserve to be part of that future. We owe it to them, and our community’s future, to make broadband available to all sooner than later.


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