Roles Supporting Local Action Plans
Archived Information

Role of Higher Education and Private and Nonprofit Sectors

A number of individual businesses, foundations, and colleges and universities are already making significant contributions towards reaching the nation's technology goals by supporting the improvement of state and local infrastructure, developing instructional resources, and training current and future teachers in the use of technology in the classroom. Yet, collaborative efforts -- efforts in which multiple organizations pool their expertise and resources -- promise to yield even greater results for schools. The success of NetDay '96, for example, was made possible only through the cooperation of several telephone, cable, hardware, and software companies and thousands of individual volunteers.

There are many opportunities for institutions of higher education as well as for the profit and nonprofit sectors to contribute to reaching the technology goals set forth in this report. For example, they could support professional development, develop instructional materials, collaborate with elementary and secondary schools, and conduct or sponsor research on the use of technology in education.

Supporting Professional Development

The colleges and universities that prepare teachers clearly play a critical role in ensuring that all teachers have the training they need to use technology effectively in the classroom to improve student learning. Teacher preparation programs can make a difference by requiring a working knowledge of technology for graduation, and by focusing on teaching with technology, not merely teaching about it. Colleges and universities are also important sources of expertise for in-service professional development programs that help bring teachers who are currently in the workforce up to speed in technology.

Private and nonprofit sectors can support ongoing professional development in numerous ways. For example, some corporations are developing on-line professional support networks that can provide classroom teachers with immediate help in solving an Internet glitch, provide tips on how best to find information about Walt Whitman on the Internet, or share lesson plans that effectively integrate technology in the classroom. Other corporations have developed professional development programs that provide intensive technology training to teachers and follow-up consultation once teachers are back in the classroom.

Professional organizations might support teachers by developing easily accessible electronic data banks of lesson plans tied to state or voluntary national standards, such as the widely used mathematics standards, that have been used and validated in the classroom. Professional organizations can also recognize the importance of improving teachers' skills in technology by developing awards programs that recognize teachers who effectively use technology in their classrooms.

Instructional Materials

Institutions of higher education and the nonprofit and private sectors can support the development of high-quality instructional materials in a number of ways. Software developers -- whether private sector or university based -- can collaborate with states and standards-setting organizations to design software that is directly linked to local curricula. They can work closely with cognitive scientists to ensure that new software is based on the best and most up-to-date research on effective teaching and learning techniques. To help schools and teachers sort through the thousands of software titles available, institutions of higher education and nonprofit or professional organizations could also work to develop methods of evaluating the effectiveness of software and the extent to which they are geared to particular state standards, and make that information widely available to software purchasers.

Technology is important to all the schools across the country, because without technology we'll be second all the time. We don't want to be second. We need to be number one. In order to be smarter, we need to have technology. I always say this: if you don't take risks, there is no success.

-- High School Student, Southeast Regional Forum

Collaboration With Elementary and Secondary Schools

Colleges, universities, research laboratories, and private companies are increasingly collaborating with schools in recognition of their civic responsibility and in efforts to learn more about how to develop effective educational technology strategies.

Examples of individual organizational efforts are noteworthy. One leading telephone company, for example, recently announced a major teacher-training initiative to which it plans to commit $150 million over five years. Another effort, that of a foundation of a hardware firm, began funding several sites with ten $2-million-a-year grants for education reform in 1994. Yet another has focused on linking schools with homes to enable parents to communicate with schools and to understand better and participate in their children's education. Grants support all aspects of education improvement, including hardware, software development, and teacher training.

Research on the Use of Technology in Education

Almost every aspect of technology in education--hardware, connections, and instructional content--is changing extremely rapidly. Today's most up-to-date computer may be surpassed by new technology in only a few years. In the next century, telephone connections to the Internet may be supplemented by wireless or cable connections or by new technology not even yet imagined. Universities, the private sector and research centers can continue to engage in and sponsor research on the use of technology in education to ensure an adequate base of research to guide school efforts.

To ensure that research addresses critical issues in educational technology, researchers can collaborate with schools and educators to focus on key issues. Depending on the needs of particular states and communities, this means developing software that reflects the most current knowledge of effective classroom practice, developing universally accessible technology that meets the needs of all learners, including those with disabilities, or developing low-cost options for hardware, networking and connections in the school setting.

Researchers can make additional strides in ensuring that the results of their work are effectively disseminated to educators and policy makers. For example, if a researcher evaluates the feasibility of a wide range of in-school networking options, evaluation results can be made available through on-line databases to other schools and districts that are trying to make their own decisions about whether and how to network their classrooms cost-effectively.

From Vision to Reality

The United States and the world are now in the midst of economic and social change every bit as sweeping as any that has gone before. It is nothing short of revolutionary--computers and information technologies are transforming nearly every aspect of American life. Continued success as a nation will depend on providing our children with the skills and knowledge necessary for high-technology work and informed citizenship.

This means that all students will have to achieve far more than they have been asked to in the past. They must be held to high standards that make clear what they should know and be able to do in the core academic subjects. And students must be afforded the opportunities provided by state-of-the-art educational technology, because we know that without those opportunities, their future hangs in the balance. Reaching the president's technology goals will ensure that technological literacy becomes the nation's "new basic" alongside reading, writing, and arithmetic. The quality of our nation's future depends on it.

All sectors of society have an enormous stake in making technological literacy a reality among the nation's students. But what remains to be done looms large. Students challenged by poverty and disability are too often denied the opportunities they so desperately need.

Indeed, the challenge articulated in this report is as much for the nation to come together as it is to bring technology to America's schools, for we will have to work together--collaborate in new ways with new partners--if we are to make this vision a reality. It will take nothing less than innovative and enterprising leadership with vision, dedication, and persistence to ensure that America's children meet the future with a wealth of opportunities and full measure of optimism. Let us provide our children with the tools they will need for life long success.

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Last Modified: 08/23/2003