Roles Supporting Local Action Plans
Archived Information

Role of States and Local Communities

In every state, and in many local communities, there are examples of how the application of technology has transformed teaching and learning, and improved student achievement. State leaders, such as governors, state legislators, and state utility regulators, are building information infrastructures and supporting teacher professional development (see Appendix C for examples of state support for technology in education). Local community leaders, such as school district officials, school board members, educators, families, students, and other interested citizens, are developing plans to use technology in schools and are raising money to implement them.

These pioneers have a tremendous opportunity to maximize the impact of their efforts by reaching out to those districts and communities that are not as far along. California schools that were wired on NetDay '96, for example, can help the next wave of California schools. Similarly, school districts with effective professional development or technical support programs can share these ideas with others.

Leadership and Planning

Sustained state and local community leadership will be required to meet the nation's technology goals. By putting forth compelling visions of the use of technology in education and fostering a sense of urgency, teachers, parents, educators, administrators, and policymakers at all levels can build public awareness and support for the effective use of technology in classrooms.

Leadership also means setting high standards for the results expected from the use of technology for both students and educators. Alaska, for example, considers technological literacy a content area for which it should hold students accountable.

Building and supporting the infrastructure needed to bring about the increased use of technology in schools is an enormously complex undertaking. Any effort that does not seek out the best thinking available, and that does not reach out to all members of the community will be difficult to sustain. University personnel, museum and library staff and volunteers, and members of other private or industry groups, for example, can all provide valuable expertise and are often overlooked resources.

Families of students are also valuable participants in the planning process, not only in identifying how technology can be used in the classroom, but also in how it can be used to support learning at home. Some state and community plans may include linking schools with homes, enabling students to continue learning with technology at home and parents to communicate with schools and to better participate in their children's education. Indeed, before making investments, communities will want to understand how much they will need to invest and what benefits they will likely receive.

And states and communities can assist each other in the planning process. For example, as more states and districts come on-line, they can share local and state technology plans and specific information about the challenges they face and solutions they have adopted.

Until recently schools could rely on the tools they have always used--paper, pencils, and books--to accomplish their basic mission of equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to be productive citizens. Today, that is no longer true.

-- District Superintendent, Northwest Regional Forum

Ongoing Support for Teachers

States, school districts, and schools play a critical role in ensuring that teachers receive adequate training in how to use technology to improve learning and that they receive the ongoing support they need to use technology well in the classroom. States can begin by setting high standards for teachers' skills in technology. State teacher certification requirements that ask that teachers have a working knowledge of educational technology and how to use it in the classroom to improve student achievement would send important signals to teacher training institutions and prospective teachers.

Once teachers are in the workforce, states and school districts can require and encourage ongoing training in the use of technology. For example, as part of state and local professional development strategies, states and school districts can require in-service training in technology that is both sufficiently sustained and intensive to bring teachers up to speed with this new tool for teaching and learning. States and school districts can also tie pay raises and promotions to training in technology and effective use of technology in the classroom. They also can ensure that teachers have the technical support they need by budgeting for staff to maintain equipment and otherwise provide much-needed technical support.

Teachers can often help each other learn new technological skills. For example, a trained cadre of exemplary technology-using teachers can help train and support other teachers, and, in this manner, sustain a state's efforts over the long term. Or, through the use of local or state wide networks, teachers can communicate with each other, get advice from each other on how to use technology to improve their teaching and their students' performance, and update each other on technological advances.

Finally, states and districts can allocate adequate resources to teacher training and support in the context of their overall technology budget. Today, less than 9 percent of technology funding is allocated to teacher development and ongoing support, but at least 30 percent is necessary for teachers to have the training and support they need to use technology effectively to improve student achievement.


Technology Planning

The use of technology requires planning, because without certain key ingredients (such as adequate professional development and technical support) technology's benefits will probably not be realized. Here are some questions to ask while planning for the use of technology. There is no one best way to answer them, and the answers may change over time for schools and districts.
    How will the technology be used? Will the uses be electronic mail, satellite-delivered instruction, access to electronic databases and libraries, multimedia software for instruction, "tool" software such as spreadsheets and word processors, access to resources for students with disabilities, or administrative uses such as record keeping, publishing, and communicating with parents?

    How will the introduction of technology affect the way the school works? How will the school adjust to make the best use of technology? How can the technology be used after school and by community members in continuing education? How can technology be used to improve all aspects of the school's or district's operation?

    Will school buildings need to be retrofitted? How can these costs be minimized? What features should be introduced into new buildings?

    How will teachers' needs be met? Will teachers have adequate professional development and time to learn how to integrate new tools into their instructional practices? Will teachers have access to enough ongoing technical support? Should evaluation and certification criteria for teachers be changed to support the use of technology?

    How can the community be involved in the introduction of technology in the school? How will members of the community be involved in the planning process? How can resources such as cable and telephone companies and community organizations be utilized?

    How much will the changes cost, and what will the results be? Will the changes be worth the expense? What research exists to support the plan? How will educators know if the plan's objectives have been met?

    How will decisions about purchases be made? Will these decisions be part of a larger education improvement plan in the district or school? How long will the equipment purchased remain usable? How will funds be allocated among hardware, software, training, and ongoing support? How will funding be distributed among schools? Who can give you sound advice about technology purchases?

    How can technology benefit all students? How will students with disabilities benefit from the changes? How can technology benefit gifted and talented students? How can technology benefit students at risk of dropping out or who are not performing well? Will there be a standard minimal technology base in all schools?

The planning process can be difficult, but it is also vital to success. Key resources for planning include state and district technology coordinators, local telephone and cable companies, and the Department of Education's Regional Technology in Education Consortia (see Appendix D for further sources of information).

Modern Multimedia Computers in the Classroom

Schools, school districts, and states can pursue several creative strategies to ensure that all teachers and students have access to modern multimedia computers in their classrooms. To reduce the costs of purchasing existing technology, states can reap savings through bulk purchasing by creating master bid lists that schools and districts can use to order computers and other equipment. Schools and districts can also network computers in new ways (for example, by connecting a powerful server to a number of less powerful computers) to create cost-effective access to technology. States can also work closely with private industry to develop lower-cost computers specially designed to meet the needs of teachers and students.

Effective Educational Software and On-Line Learning Resources

States and districts have an important role to play in ensuring that effective educational software is available for students and their teachers. As more and more states and communities develop their own standards of what students should know and be able to do, the demand grows for educational software that helps students learn basic and advanced skills in all of the core subject areas. To ensure that suitable software is available, states and districts can work closely with software producers to develop software that meets the needs and goals of their students. To create a large enough market to spur the private sector to produce high-quality software appropriate for schools, states or districts may band together to support the development of high-quality software that helps to teach the basic and advanced material and skills they expect their students to know, purchase software in bulk, and tailor their procurement processes for the specifics of the software marketplace.

Today, there is already a great deal of educational software available to schools. But teachers need help in identifying which products will help them in the classroom. States and school districts can assist by evaluating software and developing lists of high-quality software for schools and teachers to use.

Even the one computer I have had in my classroom for the past year has made a big difference. The computer touches students in a unique way and sparks enthusiasm for learning.

-- Elementary School Teacher, Southeast Regional Forum

Adequate Financial Support and Equitable Access

While some states and communities have already committed themselves to investing hundreds of millions of dollars to connect schools, others will need to find creative ways to redirect existing educational funds to support the use of technology in education. One promising possibility is for state leaders to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the recent passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which makes it easier for states to adopt rules that lower the costs of connections and services to schools.

Many local communities do not have the resources to reach the nation's technology goals. Recognizing this, states could distribute funds based on need or through competitive grants with preference given to the neediest districts. In many cases, state and local efforts to ensure equitable access could be enhanced through collaboration with private and nonprofit organizations and the federal government.

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Last Modified: 08/23/2003