A new educational internet program for Nebraska K-12 schools was unveiled Wednesday through a partnership of several state organizations and institutions.
“ConnectEd Nebraska” will be powered by eduroam and provides students and educators with free and accessible guest wireless networks at participating schools. The project was founded by the Nebraska Department of Education, the office of Ed Toner, chief information officer, Network Nebraska and the University of Nebraska.
The program is funded by federal COVID-19 funds and is free to Nebraska school districts for three years.
“In the spring of 2020, the NDE administered a public survey designed to prioritize COVID-19 relief funds in a way that most benefits Nebraska students, families and school communities," said Matthew Blomstedt, the state’s education commissioner, in a media release. ”Respondents identified the top need as enhancement of technology infrastructure, including Wi-Fi and broadband access. ConnectEd Nebraska is committed to fulfilling this need, providing consistent wireless access to Nebraska educators and students no matter where they teach and learn.”
Nebraska was selected as one of two state networks in the country to pilot a support organization approach to eduroam for K-12 schools.
When students and teachers from any participating school are at a location with eduroam, they automatically connect to the internet with their home school credentials. ConnectEd Nebraska allows any Network Nebraska K-12 public or nonpublic entity to provide access to its wireless networks to users from other eduroam-connected schools.
School districts opting into the program will not only save money, but time also, as eduroam authentication is automatic and access is immediate. It provides a secure connection to wireless internet at schools during classes and events or when visiting other participating schools for activities and sports. The same credentials also may be used when taking classes at higher education campuses.
“Due to collaborative efforts on behalf of state agencies and the University of Nebraska, our state was eligible to bring this program to Nebraska schools,” said Toner, the state’s chief information officer. “Recent FCC data indicates 12% of Nebraskans under the age of 18 do not have access to a reliable internet connection at home, showing that Nebraska’s students rely more heavily on our schools for access to the internet.”
The University of Nebraska system began using eduroam in 2012, making it easier for students, faculty and staff to connect to Wi-Fi as they move between campuses and visit other eduroam sites around the world.
The more eduroam sites that exist, the more useful the service becomes, said Bret Blackman, University of Nebraska chief information officer.
“The University of Nebraska is thrilled to join with our State of Nebraska partners in supporting the expansion of eduroam across the state,” Blackman said. “Access is our primary mission, and extending eduroam is one more way we can help reduce barriers for students and all Nebraskans.”
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Want to learn more?
If you would like free Wi-Fi in your school and community, visit connectednebraska.com. Superintendents and school leaders will have the opportunity to adopt the program for their schools at “Administrator’s Days — NDE Day” in Kearney on Wednesday, July 28.