We all get tired of the seemingly endless political and legal conflicts in government, but it’s especially frustrating when these battles pose a threat to our children. Right now, Idaho’s school kids and their teachers are hoping that an essential educational tool won’t be removed from their classrooms. That tool is the Idaho Education Network, and it’s surprising that anyone would consider removing this fundamental feature from Idaho’s schools once they understand what it is and what it means for Idaho’s future.
The Idaho Education Network (IEN) was established to provide affordable and reliable Internet access to all of Idaho’s schools and to connect those schools together, providing more educational options, such as college level courses, as well as collaborative school and community learning opportunities via the IEN distance learning classrooms. Today, more than 200,000 students at more than 500 schools across Idaho rely in the IEN for their Internet access, therefore it’s difficult to conceive the impact of its demise.
Before the Idaho Legislature made broadband Internet access to schools a reality several years ago, districts struggled with the availability and affordability of the Internet access needed to ensure that Idaho students are prepared for a technologically advanced society and workforce. The tremendously successful IEN implementation guaranteed that all students in Idaho, both rural and urban, had the same high level of access to the educational opportunities that exist beyond the classroom walls.
With the ever-increasing demand for cloud-based services, school districts rely on the consistent support and service that has been provided. Students love the result, and their academic futures are dependent on this service. The ability to access college credit courses, engage in distance learning opportunities, and connect with classrooms and resources across the state and around the world, is something that parents, students, and all Idahoans should expect from Idaho’s education system.
The IEN came to Twin Falls in 2010. In our school district we have 3 classrooms using the IEN to broadcast courses to other schools in Idaho. Several of our students use the service to improve their education outcomes. The classes offered to other students through the service include Psychology, Linux, AP Computer Science, HTML, and Mobile App Development.
To make this possible our district counts on the support and service from Education Networks of America, the telecommunications service provider that helped to build and now supports the IEN. Making this happen hasn’t been easy for anybody, and ENA’s support staff and team of engineers have been an invaluable resource. The company’s employees here in Idaho and nationally have been trusted partners.
Let’s all hope the current legal fights don’t put an end to all that’s be achieved by this essential program, because it’s changing student’s lives for the better all across Idaho. I know the students and families in my school district are grateful that we are leaders in technology-based instruction with the assistance of the IEN. We need to resolve this issue quickly for Idaho’s students.
Wiley Dobbs is the superintendent of the Twin Falls School District.