Perceptions Of An Impending High Speed, Broadband Network: Anticipation And Anxiety Among K-12 Teachers, Technical Support Personnel, And Administrators
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The purpose of this study was to solicit educators’ perceptions of a high speed, broadband network being built in the Canadian province of Alberta, the Alberta SuperNet. We interviewed eight administrators, teachers, and technical support personnel in six Kindergarten-to-Grade 12 (K-12) schools that concentrate at teaching at a distance. They perceive the coming network with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. They anticipate enhancing teaching and learning opportunities with multimedia learning objects and synchronous interaction on a faster, more reliable network. They are anxious about its associated costs, its compatibility with their existing systems, and its demands for sophisticated technical skills. This study is part of a larger, multidisciplinary SSHRC-funded project examining the affect of the Alberta SuperNet on several aspects of Alberta society. In 2000, the federal government of Canada announced a four billion dollar plan to build a high speed, broadband Internet throughout Canada (National Broadband Taskforce, 2001). Amidst much criticism (and a key ministerial change), the plan was set aside. Convinced of the appropriateness of the plan, our provincial government took on the segment of the plan that applied to Alberta. As of this writing, the Alberta SuperNet is nearly complete. A central part of our government’s justification for the network is its role in enhancing and extending educational opportunities. As the SuperNet was about to arrive at their doors, we talked to administrators, teachers, and technical support staff in several of Alberta’s Kindergarten-to-Grade 12 (K – 12) distance schools to ascertain their perceptions of this coming network. (In this paper, distance schools refer to schools that undertake all of their programming at a distance through a variety of electronic and paper based technologies.) In the subsequent pages, we will report their anticipations of how it will enhance their current practice by allowing them to use bandwidth intensive applications (e.g., videoconferencing and multimedia learning objects), and their anxieties about increasing expenses, training requirements, and conflicts with existing social and technological systems.