Education Chat

Chat Transcript: Technology Counts 2005: Moving Technology Dollars in New Directions

Guests Irene Spero, vice president of the Consortium for School Networking; Anita Givens, the director of educational technology in Texas; and Kevin Bushweller, project editor of Technology Counts 2005, took questions on this years report.
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Technology Counts 2005: Electronic Transfer—Moving Technology Dollars in New Directions

GUESTS: Irene Spero, vice president of the Consortium for School Networking; Anita Givens, the director of educational technology in Texas; Kevin Bushweller, project editor of Technology Counts 2005.

Melissa McCabe (Moderator):
Welcome to Education Week‘s live chat on financing educational technology. Last week, Education Week released Technology Counts 2005, its eighth annual report on educational technology. The report tracks the economic and political forces that are influencing technology spending at the federal, state, and local levels. Today we are joined by Irene Spero, vice president of the Consortium for School Networking, Anita Givens, the director of educational technology in Texas, and Kevin Bushweller, project editor of Technology Counts 2005. Let’s start the discussion . . .

Question from Dr. Matthew M. Delaney, NBCT, Whitman-Hanson Regional School District:
This may be a tired, old question, but throughout the recent history of education, we have been subjected to one fad after another that has driven policy and decision-making at all levels. Technology has infused changes into all aspects of life as we know it. Educators recognize that it is not a fad, but a revolution in the very real sense of the word. Yet, much like the arts, technology is the first to be cut and still has not been recognized as one of the essential elements in learning. As educators willing to embrace technology and partner it to raise levels of teaching and learning across the curriculum, we are presented with a dilemma. Realistically, where do you see support for technology in education going from here?

Anita Givens:
The trend for support of educational technology seems to be focused on the specific benefits that technology can provide - for example, if ed tech is essential for data access, analysis, and use of data to impact instructional strategies in the classroom, then support for ed tech should come from each of those areas. Unfortunately, we see the use of technology for data access and to some extent for data analysis but the connection to improvement in the classroon is not as clear. That makes it more difficult to access funding streams focused on improvement in the classroom.

Question from Cheryle Gittens-Bailey, CEO The Sentient Corporation:
State and local spending on education are being challenged throughout our nation. How can interfaith community based organizations, private grants, Federal Government, small and corporate business collaboratives creatively address funding issues?

Irene Spero:
We have a patchwork approach to funding educational technology consisting of state, federal and private sources. Unfortunately we are currently facing a critical challenge in funding education technology at the federal level. President Bush’s 2006 budget request calls for the elimination of the $500 million Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) block grant program, aimed at increasing technology use in K-12 schools. Seventy five percent of states report that EETT is either the only source or the primary source of funds that they award to local school districts for technology EETT is mission critical to educational success and workforce preparedness. If these funds are not restored by Congress, there will be profound implications for schools as they seek to implement No Child Left Behind.

It is important that Congress hear from all stakeholders concerned with education technology funding. Urge your Representative and Senators to support the restoration of funding for the EETT program back to the FY04 level of $700 million. Let them know how you are using education technology to make a difference. For further information on how you can communicate this message to your Congressional delegation, visit the Education Technology Action Network (ETAN), sponsored by the Consortium for School Networking and the ISTE at

The proposed elimination of federal funding for technology assumes even more significance when it is considered along with the fiscal situation in the states. Continuing budget deficits in many states are forcing them to focus technology spending more narrowly. Technology Counts found that school technology directors in 44 states and DC say inadequate funding or strong competition with other priorities are the biggest challenges they face in trying to finance K-12 technology.

But there are some encouraging trends. Last year CoSN surveyed school district leaders on educational technology spending. The report of that survey Digital Leadership Divide ( available at ) indicates that with visionary educational leadership and strong community support some school districts are bolstering technology plans and budgets. The survey reveals that positive attitudes and strong commitment to technology are deciding factors in technology budgeting.

With challenges at the federal and state level, the existence of more and more public private partnerships aimed at funding education technology in schools takes on an additional significance. There are numerous instances in which these public private partnerships (and there are good examples in Technology Counts) are working to pay for technology costs. I encourage you to work in your local community and with stakeholders to identify these efforts.

Question from Jennifer Weinberg, Manager of Product Development, Highsmith Inc.:
How much of a technology budget should be allocated to educating teachers on how to use the technology and integrate its use into the curriculum? Or is this a different budget?

Irene Spero:
The key technology challenge schools face is integrating it into classroom teaching and learning. Teachers have to understand technology before they use it in their classrooms and professional development is the preferred mechanism to make that happen. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) reserves 25 percent of all technology expenditures for “high-quality professional development to integrate technology into instruction.”

Professional development should be a major part of technology budgets. CoSN supports the call by most experts who recommend that up to 30% of technology budgets should be allocated to professional development. CoSN’ s Taking Total Cost of Ownership to the Classroom Leadership Initiative provides additional information at on factors to be considered in calculating the costs of professional development.

The recently released National Education Technology Plan recognizes the importance of improving teacher training. The plan correctly points out that teachers need access to research, examples and innovations as well as staff development to learn best practices.

Question from Douglas Levin, Director of Education Policy, Cable in the Classroom:
What benefits might we expect to see from states who are further ahead in implementing data management systems - beyond simply meeting NCLB reporting requirements?

Kevin Bushweller:
The benefits are likely to be greater ability for teachers and schools to target instruction toward the areas where students need the most help.

Also, states that are ahead are likely to be able to identify educational inequities and address those inequities sooner.

Also, student mobility within a state won’t be as much of a problem for districts, because the data management systems will be able to follow students from K-12, and possibly even into college.

Question from Melissa McCabe:
Anita, what would you identify as the major challenges for your state in financing educational technology?

Anita Givens:
The major challenges in financing educational technology are primarily tied to the economic realities facing our state and many others. There is strong support for educational technology but limited resources available. When decisions are made to provide funding for technology, decisions must be made at the same time on what not to fund. One strategy that is gaining support is the flexibility to use various funding streams for technology that may not have been considered in the past. This requires the decision-makers responsible for various funding streams to have the information and data available to understand the benefits in leveraging those funds for technology. For example, many programs allow the use of funds for technology but unless the expenditure can be seen as advancing the purpose of the program and providing desired results, those funds may not be considered for technology related expenditures.

Another challenge is the availability of funds for things like teacher pay increases versus technology. While many teachers would welcome the technology, most would prefer the pay increase.

Question from Karen Kaplan, Executive Director, CT Commission for Educational Technology:
What states have demonstrated that their technology dollars have made a difference in advancing student achievement? What have these states done?

Kevin Bushweller:
Our report did not examine the link between spending and student achievement.

Rather, we examined the economic and policy forces that are changing the priorities for educational technology spending.

There isn’t a lot of research linking the use of technology with gains in student achievement. And that may be one reason why states are focusing their technology dollars, more and more, on developing better data management systems. Because they believe those systems will help them raise student achievement.

Question from Susan Phillips, editor, Connect for Kids:
From the Technology Counts report summary, it seems like NCLB is driving ed tech dollars out of the classroom and into data collection. I’ve also noted some resistance to technology on the part of teachers -- I still know a few who won’t use e-mail, for instance. To what extent do these factors get in the way of schools embracing the pedagogical uses of technology?

Irene Spero:
The attitudes of teachers towards technology use are changing. For example, NetDay, surveyed close to 12,000 teachers in May 2004 about their use of technology in the classroom. The survey found teachers are using technology to enrich their lessons plans and to engage students in learning. Results also revealed that teachers are relying more and more on technology to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind. It also found that older teachers are just as comfortable using technology as younger teachers. Finally the survey found that teachers have definite opinions on technology use and want to be more involved in discussions of how technology is used in their schools.

However, the survey also found that the obstacles most cited by teachers to using technology include inadequate pre-service training, lack of time in the school day to most effectively use technology, and school district firewalls and filters that limit access to valuable online educational resources

Question from Daniel Luzer, Research Assistant, Alliance for Excellent Education:
We really liked the introduction, NCLB Focuses on Data Tools. Are there any plans to do a report on the states’ use of technology for administrative purposes -- for example, in keeping track of students who drop out without giving notice?

Kevin Bushweller:
That’s in interesting technology topic that we might cover in a future report, or in our weekly newspaper, Education Week.

Question from Fred Leason, Sales Director, Inspherion Learning:
If an administrator had the choice between hiring a good teacher or spending the same money on hardware and software for the classroom, which would she/he typically think is best for the students?

Anita Givens:
Most administrators would typically think that a good teacher would be the best for students and if they are filling a vacancy, administrators may not have an option. However, in some circumstances, hiring a teacher and supporting that teacher with hardware and software for the classroom could be accomplished if the salary of an average teacher would be lower than that of a good teacher who may be more experienced or better prepared. There are many variables that an administrator must consider when making such decisions. In some cases, the use of distance learning or other technology options may be best for students, especially when a good teacher may not be the right teacher for the subject or grade level.

Question from Jan Richter, Advocacy Director, Connect for Kids:
As you report, more states, spurred by NCLB, are using technology to manage data on student progress. What about high schools and graduation rates? Do you have an data, or plans to report on using data-management technologies to track students who drop out without giving notice -- a key issue when a third or more students fail to complete high school on time?

Kevin Bushweller:
That’s an important topic. And we would expect that many states are including in their data-management systems tools to examine those kinds of statistics.

Plus, NCLB requires states to include graduation rates in measures of high schools’ Adequate Yearly Progress, commmonly referred to as AYP.

Question from Melissa McCabe:
Anita, could you also discuss the variances in spending across the states on educational technology? Our Technology Counts report found that CA allocates a relatively small amount of state dollars to educational technology, whereas your state, Texas, contributes a lot more. What accounts for those variances in spending across the states?

Anita Givens:
The variation in spending across states is most likely dependent on several factors, including the economic situtation, the leadership and support for technology at the policy level, and the priorities at the state and local level. In Texas, there has been strong leadership and support at the policy level since the mid 80’s and funding was made available to support those policies over many years. Only when the economy shifted so significantly did we see the decrease in funding for technology. As technology use is embedded in the system of education in states, funding to support the system must also include funding for that technology foundation. Not every state has been able to make that commitment and sustain it over time.

Question from Ray Phelps Hardin County School System North hardin High School Radcliff Kentucky:
Technology is vital to todays society. However, it is commonplace just to know how to operate the technology (i.e. calculators). Technology knows the answers students don’t. Don’t students need to know the material to make them well educated citizens and not just be button pushers?

Kevin Bushweller:
No. Students should not just be technology button pushers. They should learn how to use technology to enhance their understanding of academic subjects as well as the world around them.

This is why it’s always important to think of technology as a tool for learning. If it’s not being used to enhance learning, then what’s the point?

Question from Steven M. Garcia, Supervisor of Secondary Social Studies, Harrison Central Schools (NY):
Educators seem focused on hardware and software “add-ons” as representative of technology in education. Why don’t we see more emphasis on research connecting Internet-based learning experiences and its the impact on teaching practice (Henry Becker’s work)?

Anita Givens:
Since the Internet is relatively new and especially new in providing learning experiences in K-12 education, the focus on research in this area is just beginning. It would be very useful to have more research of such learning experiences but traditionally, research takes years and the changes possible will continue to occur very rapidly. The results of the research may be about practices already deemed obsolete because of the rapid rate of change in an Internet environment.

Question from John Emekli, idocuments:
President Clinton and former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley partnered with states and local school districts to move forward education technology initiatives in relevant, effective ways. There’s also little doubt President Bush has made education one of the cornerstones of his Adminstration. Today, given the new and different demands that NCLB places on all levels of government, how effective have the federal, state, and local levels been in using technology to navigate the demands brought about by NCLB? Further, what do you all see as the biggest needs that school districts need to fill with education technology today? Thank you very much.

Irene Spero:
School districts and states are embracing technology to meet the accountability demands required by No Child Left Behind. Technology tools are available that make it possible to collect, analyze and report data in new and powerful ways. School districts are using these tools to not only meet accountability mandates, but also for school improvement and increasing student achievement. CoSN’s Data driven Decision Making Initiative ,, contains powerful examples of the use of technology for accountability and school improvement.

School districts must invest in technology leadership. In most school districts technology is a stand-alone department often removed from the key decisionmakers. If technology is to become an integral part of teaching and learning, it is important for school districts to provide the necessary resources for leadership that will reshape and improve administration, teaching and learning.

Question from Melissa McCabe:
Kevin, why don’t you end the discussion by quickly outlining the shift in funding priorities that Technology Counts uncovered?

Kevin Bushweller:
Before NCLB, there was more emphasis on putting instructional technology in classrooms. Now the emphasis is shifting toward putting in place data-management technologies that monitor states’ progress in meeting the federal law’s ambitious student-achievement goals.

Plus, the Bush administration feels that targeted federal aid for educational technology has run its course. It wants to integrate technology funding into other programs.

Technology also no longer generates as much buzz as it did during the tech boom years of the late 1990s. Now, there is a perception that there is not as much of a need to spend a lot of money on technology.

Still, others counter that money is needed to maintain and update technology.

Melissa McCabe (Moderator):

We’ll have to end the discussion here. Thanks for all of your thought-provoking questions.

I’d also like to thank Irene, Anita, and Kevin for answering those questions.

You can access the report at Technology Counts 2005.

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