FCC Awards Grants for Pilot Digital Literacy Programs

The California Technology Agency received notification that two California schools districts have been selected by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to receive grant funding for pilot Digital Literacy programs. The Riverside Unified School District and San Diego Unified School District were two of twenty awarded E-rate Deployed Ubiquitously (EDU) 2011 Pilot Program awards, announced by the FCC on March 9, 2011 by Chairman Julius Genachowski. The funding is part of an overall award of $9 million given to EDU projects by the FCC.

“We are very pleased that the FCC selected these two innovative Digital Literacy projects from California for its EDU pilot program,” said Christy Quinlan, Acting Secretary of the California Technology Agency. “We applaud the FCC for its ‘outside-the-box’ thinking in conducting a trial of off-premise wireless connectivity for mobile learning and research in schools and libraries. We hope these pilot programs will build a case for permanent E-rate support for such projects, because schools and libraries are community anchor institutes that are trusted by its community members.”

Last year, the FCC launched the “Learning On-the-Go” wireless pilot program to explore how E-rate can help schools and libraries offer off-premises wireless access to the Internet. Using mobile wireless connectivity in school and at home, students can learn using personalized and interactive programs on learning devices like digital text books, that are tailored to their skill sets. Digital textbooks allow parents and teachers to better monitor student progress and extend learning into the community and after school hours. Due to low cost, mobile learning can advance digital equity, particularly for low income or socially disadvantaged children.
The pilot program had 95 applicants and only twenty projects were funded, impacting 35,000 students across 14 states. The FCC will evaluate the program’s effectiveness and decide whether to allow E-rate funding for similar off premises wireless access to the Internet in the future.

According to the FCC, the EDU projects will receive a total of approximately $9 million for the 2011-2012 funding year.

The two California projects are:

• Riverside Unified School District (Riverside, CA)
This program utilizes netbooks, tablets, and laptops for its middle school students at four schools. About 70% of students residing in Riverside have access to free wireless connectivity and low-income students can obtain a free refurbished computer for home use through a digital inclusion training program called School2Home. Riverside USD uses a cloud-based learning and content management system, which provides a blended learning environment so students and teachers can continue discussions and learning beyond the school walls and times. Riverside USD also collaborates with partners, such as textbook publishers, to provide content in a digital format to students.

• San Diego Unified School District (San Diego, CA)
The San Diego Unified School District has established a Mobile Learning Program to seamlessly integrate ubiquitous, one-to-one computing and other 21st century technology into all teaching and learning throughout the curriculum. Its program will serve 6th grade students in eight middle schools and school-wide in two middle schools.