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Clinton Calls for National Education-Technology Effort

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Capping off a series of campaign-style appearances in California last week, President Clinton called for the formation of public-private partnerships to ensure that every American classroom is connected to the Internet by 2000.

Saying it could serve as a model for the nation, the president announced a new private-sector project to link all of California's schools to the information highway by the end of the current school year.

"We must make technological literacy a standard," said Mr. Clinton, speaking to public school students and education officials at the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco. "Preparing our children for a lifetime of computer use is now just as essential as teaching them to read and write and do math."

Although California is home to many computer and technology companies, Mr. Clinton noted that it ranks 45th out of the 50 states in the ratio of students to school computers.

Under the plan announced last week, an alliance of more than 50 information-technology companies has pledged that by the end of the current school year, all 12,000 public schools in California will have access to the Internet via modem or direct high-speed connections. One-fifth of the schools will be wired into local networks as well.

The schools will also receive free access to America Online, a national commercial on-line service, and at&t has promised to provide voice-mail services.

Among other companies participating in the partnership are Sun Microsystems Inc., Apple Computer Inc., Oracle Systems Corp., 3Com Corp., Silicon Graphics Inc., Applied Materials Inc., Tele-Communications Inc., and Cisco Systems Inc. No estimates of the project's cost were available.

Technology Goals

The president also said he plans to outline a national plan for enhancing education technology in coming weeks, which he said would be structured around four goals:

  • Every K-12 student should have access to modern computers in the classroom;
  • Schools should have access to the Internet in order to connect with other schools as well as the vast array of resources in the outside world;
  • Educational software should be as compelling and engaging "as the best video games and as meaningful as an expert tutor;" and
  • Teachers should have access to training and support to teach students about new technologies.

Mr. Clinton acknowledged that he was calling for an "enormous effort" that would "take the same spirit and tenacity that built our railroads and highways."

"What we are doing is the equivalent of going to a dusty adobe settlement in early 19th-century California and giving every child a slate and a piece of chalk to write with," the president said.

Mr. Clinton's remarks followed a demonstration of education technology at the Exploratorium,a science museum that has a national reputation for its hands-on teacher-training programs. (See Education Week, Aug. 5, 1992.)

Andrew Blau, the director of the communications-policy project at the Washington, D.C.-based Benton Foundation, an effort to ensure noncommercial public access to the Internet, called the president's plan "a good start."

"What I see here suggests to me that the administration has been paying attention to experience in the field among teachers, parents, and scholars," he said. "The good news here is that [Mr. Clinton] is not just focused on hardware and software, but also 'know-ware'--the critical component of the skills level of teachers."

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