Two years ago when I arrived in Buffalo, we did not have Wi-Fi in our school. The teachers had tablets, but limited access to the web. The only way our students and teachers could access the internet was in our computer labs.
At the ConnectED to the Future event I recently attended in Washington, D.C., President Obama stated, “In a world where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should expect the same in our schools.” He is right. Internet access has become essential and is needed by all, and schools provide an ideal setting for our youngest citizens to gain initial access.
In order to address this challenge, we launched a one-to-one initiative, providing high-speed Internet access to all students and giving each of our third through eighth graders a tablet. We felt this was a journey that every staff member should embark upon, and not just a select few. More importantly, we believed that from an education standpoint, this was the right thing to do, knowing that the digital divide further exacerbates the achievement gap.
This is the journey we’re now on in our part of the Buffalo community. Our goal is to create classrooms where students are given daily learning challenges and are skillfully guided by teachers who support them in sifting through available information toward solutions. For us, technology is a powerful lever to facilitate this kind of teaching and learning.
Our road has been incredibly challenging and messy, but delightful. And we’re still in the early stages. As one of my many colleagues pointed out, the key to our students’ success in Buffalo, and really America, lies in our ability to 1) provide them with the tools to facilitate this learning and 2) give teachers the appropriate professional development to execute this vision for learning.
After attending the event, I feel better about our future prospects. I listened to how other districts are being creative in providing afterhours access. Moreover, I now understand that our pledge to create future-ready students places us on level ground with countries like Singapore and Korea.
It is a long road, but it is definitely a fight worth fighting. After listening and learning from various leaders like President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and Richard Martinez, Superintendent of Pomona Unified in California, I realize that this is truly the direction in which education is headed—to ignore it would be detrimental to our students and our country’s prosperity.
Ayinde Rudolph is principal of Westminster Community K-8 Charter in Buffalo, N.Y., a Promise Neighborhood school.