E.D. Panel Urges Technology Training for Teachers at All Levels
Boston--Teachers at all levels, from kindergarten through college, should be trained to use technology where appropriate, and each state should have at least one school-based demonstration site to display the best applications of technology, according to a series of recommendations drafted by the National Task Force on Educational Technology.
The group of 25 industry and education leaders was selected last year by former Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell to explore ways that collaboration between the publicprivate sectors could help im-prove American education through the use of technology.
At its first meeting last November, Mr. Bell asked the group to produce a report of the same magnitude as "A Nation at Risk"--a report that would serve as "a source book for all of American education" on the uses of technology. (See Education Week, Nov. 7, 1984.)
Meeting here this summer for the fourth, and possibly final, time, the group reaffirmed the existence of a crisis in American education. Participants reached a consensus that the appropriate use of existing and emerging technologies would make "a major contribution to the resolu-tion" of that crisis, especially in the areas of teacher training, individualized instruction, the content of instruction, and the efficient use of school facilities and administrative personnel.
While the task force agreed in concept on several recommendations, it has yet to approve the final wording and to adopt a series of strategies to aid officials in implementing the recommendations.
Nonetheless, the panel's discussions this summer suggest the directions the group plans to set for technology in education.
William Ridley, chairman of the task force and vice president for academic strategies at Control Data Corporation, called the demonstration centers a key recommendation and said he envisions they would open after a year of planning, with funding from various sources. The centers would be housed in unused school buildings and teachers and students would participate on a volunteer basis.
School districts would contribute the per-pupil cost for participants; industry would provide equipment and expertise; and the states would fund the salaries of the personnel involved in the year of planning.
"Experiments currently going on ought to continue," Mr. Ridley said, "but there should be a concentrated, holistic, comprehensive program to hasten the process."
It is not known whether thes report will be endorsed and supported by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, who, unlike Mr. Bell, has not been an outspoken advocate of technology in education.
"At this point, he's not as accessible as his predecessor was," Mr. Ridley told his colleagues at the meeting. "We don't know what his position is. To my knowledge, he hasn't made a statement on technology."
"I do not believe this Secretary will make as much fanfare about it as Secretary Bell would have," said Elizabeth VanderPutten, staff director of the task force for the National Institute of Education. "Number one, he isn't as interested in technology, and number two, it isn't his task force. But you never know. Sometimes these things have a life of their own."
Mr. Ridley told his task-force colleagues that he was unable to arrange a meeting with Mr. Bennett but that he had met briefly with Chester E. Finn Jr., the assistant secretary for educational research and improvement.
The "official reaction" to the task force, according to Loye W. Miller, press secretary for Mr. Bennett, is that "we'll be glad to see the report, and we'll consider it on its merits."
Regardless of the report's fate, Mr. Ridley urged his colleagues to create a "document of hope."
"Our real goal is to improve learning in this country," he said. "Our goal is not to perpetuate technology. Technology is a means to the first goal. We have to hold out that hope to [educators] and give them steps to take to get there."
The group agreed that:
All current and prospective teachers need to be trained to use technology as a tool for instruction, classroom management, and their own continuing education.
Teacher training has to be a cooperative effort among school districts, schools of education, state departments of education, and model centers.
Technology should be used to create "flexible environments that will allow students to move through the curriculum at varying speeds to mastery."
Educators should "explore changes in basic curriculum made possible by present and emerging6technologies and the needs of an information society."
Technology in education means more than computers; it also includes "old technologies," such as film-strip projectors, overhead projectors, and other audio-visual aids, and "emerging technologies," such as the networking of computers, the convergence of video and computing capabilities, and the use of satellites to transfer information.
Educators must plan for the integration of technology and create budgets that reflect the full cost of that integration, including staff training, software, maintenance, and infrastructure, such as telephone lines for telecommunication.
Careful forecasting of technology-driven expenditures should be encouraged, "ensuring that the forecasts and resulting budgets recognize the relatively short useful life of most hardware, software, and technological training."
The development of software should be a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors, including curriculum specialists, methodology experts, graphic artists, and programmers.
Instructional software should be packaged for both school and home use.
Extensive field-testing should be conducted before software is marketed.
Software-licensing agreements should be developed that address the concerns of industry officials, who complain of illegal copying, and education officials, who contend they cannot afford to buy copies of software programs for every student.
The government ought to offer incentives to companies involved in the school market.