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Creating an Online Education Culture

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Unforgiving. Challenging. Competitive. These are all words frequently used by policy writers describing the global economy ("Living Off Past Investments," Jan. 10, 2007). The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) illustrated the theme of economic competition when it launched the State New Economy Index (SNEI). The SNEI assesses states’ responses to economic transformation resulting from rapid technological change, increased economic competition, and globalization, among other factors. It selected the following quotation by Charles Darwin as an epigraph for its series of reports on the topic: "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change."

This Stat of the Week focuses on the response of state education systems to one of the key changes influencing the development of today's economy: the Internet. To assess state policymakers' efforts to incorporate online tools into teaching and learning, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center created an index comprised of five state technology policy indicators related to the Internet: (1) the establishment of a virtual school; (2) the existence of online cyber charter schools; (3) the availability of online professional development for teachers; (4) the ability of teachers to access collections of online resources for various academic areas; and (5) the availability of subscription services offering materials such as e-journals for teachers. Taken together, these indicators suggest the extent to which states have created an online culture for students and teachers.

The index allocates one point for each of the five policies a state has enacted or put into place. Information on state policies was collected through the EPE Research Center's annual state technology survey and can be found in Technology Counts 2007 or accompanying online state technology reports. The map below illustrates the range of online technology scores.

Florida and South Dakota lead the pack with a perfect score of five. At the other end of the continuum, three states (Montana, Nebraska, and Rhode Island) and the District of Columbia received a score of zero.

Technology in schools is just one of the 21 indicators used in the updated 2002 New Economy Index and found in the 2002 State New Economy Index report. Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader The report's author takes pains to note that the New Economy is not just about the Internet and emphasizes that it is critically important for states to have a workforce with technological skills and the ability to innovate. The PPI report notes the vital role of e-commerce, information technology and other technology-related elements of our current economic and financial system. In addition, it describes the need for more traditional industries and economic sectors to adapt to new technology. Workers involved in such fields as manufacturing and agriculture will need to use technology in order to be efficient and competitive. As Robert D. Atkinson, the report's author, asserts, "states' economic success will increasingly be determined by how effectively they can spur home-grown technological innovation and entrepreneurship."

State education systems will need to produce students who are familiar with technology and competent in its uses. States that have implemented the policies included in the online technology score are providing opportunities to integrate the Internet into the educational experience. These states may be one step ahead when it comes to competing in a global marketplace increasingly characterized by rapid technological change.

For more information on state technology policies, see Technology Counts 2007 or the Education Counts database.

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