As Connecticut nears completion of a statewide electronic network for education, officials there are seeking ways to ensure that it gets put to good use.
By fall 2005, all of the state’s 166 districts are expected to be plugged into the Connecticut Education Network, a web of fiber-optic links that lets schools use such high-speed Internet applications as videoconferencing. The network has been four years in the making and cost the state some $41 million.
In fiscal 2005, the state for the first time used $4.2 million in bond funds to help districts improve their own technology infrastructures so they can take full advantage of the network. Awarded through competitive grants, the money is meant to eliminate transmission bottlenecks that occur when a district’s network is too slow to keep up with the state network.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, has proposed spending $5 million in bond funds for the same purpose in fiscal 2006. She also recommended spending $3.4 million to maintain the state network and to provide technical help to districts using it.
Looking ahead, the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology, an advisory group established by the legislature, recently recommended that the state begin putting new content on the network. Among other ideas, the panel suggested posting such items as curricular materials and online student assessments that could gauge student progress against state standards.
“The idea is that the connectivity is in place, now let’s get innovative with it,” says Rob Vietzke, the network’s project director.
If the governor gets her way, computer technology also will play a greater role in honing students’ writing skills. Her proposed budget for fiscal year 2006 includes $15.5 million to buy laptops for every student to use in every 9th and 10th grade public school English class in the state. Students would use the machines to run software programs that evaluate writing samples and provide immediate critiques.
With Rell in the governorship, educational technology is likely to be a priority for the near future. As lieutenant governor under Gov. John G. Rowland, who resigned in the spring of 2004, Rell had been the administration’s lead advocate for improved school technology.