Idaho House Bill No. 543: Idaho Education Network

A recently passed piece of legislation has the potential to dramatically change the way education and training is delivered in Idaho public schools, universities, and the community. This bill is Idaho House Bill 543 (H.543), which establishes a state broadband network, called the Idaho Education Network, or IEN.

The Idaho Education Network is defined as the “coordinated, statewide telecommunications distribution system for distance learning for each public school, including two-way interactive video, data, Internet access and other telecommunications services for providing distance learning.” The IEN also includes connections to each institution of higher learning and other locations to facilitate distance education, teacher training, and other related services.

The State Department of Education is to assume the duties of the IEN, with the Department of Administration providing administrative oversight, implementing the goals and plan of the Network, specifying duties of the State Department of Education, providing for annual appropriations for operations, and creating the Idaho Education Network fund.

There are many reasons why this legislation has tremendous implications for education in Idaho. One of the most obvious is creating equal opportunities for all students in the state. Students in remote school districts will be able to take courses not offered by their local school districts by having access to high quality distance learning. Through this Network, students from all areas of Idaho would be able to access advanced high school curricula, concurrent college credit, and ongoing teacher training.

Phase one of the IEN dictates that all high schools have high-speed Internet access in the first phase of the project, with at least one two-way interactive video classroom in each high school after that. In subsequent phases, recommendations may be made for connectivity to each elementary and middle mschool, libraries, and migration of state agency locations from current technology and services.

Institutions of higher learning in the state will be able to distribute college credit telecourses, teleconferences, and other instructional and training services through the structure of the IEN, potentially increasing the reach and numbers of their student population.

This legislation has the potential to transform teaching and learning in Idaho. But, as educational technologists know, providing the infrastructure is just one part of the solution. Strong leadership and consulting, along with a quality professional development program will be essential, to ensure the best and continued use of these technologies.

Check out my resources I’m collecting on the IEN and emerging broadband technologies at http://delicious.com/boisebarbara/ien (You can also subscribe to this bookmark feed if you want.)

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