Education

Federal Study Details Major Barrier To Internet Learning

By Andrew Trotter — January 10, 2001 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The World Wide Web can be shaped into a vibrant educational tool serving all learners if more money is devoted to research and development and if governments clear away many conflicting and obsolete rules, a federal panel has concluded after a 10-month study.

“Technology offers tremendous potential for improving the delivery of education, and we should not squander this opportunity,” Sen. Bob Kerrey, D- Neb., the chairman of the Web-based Education Commission, said as the panel’s report was released here last month. Congress authorized the commission in 1998 to advise lawmakers on how to develop the Web as a medium for learning.

Despite the Web’s potential, “significant barriers” to using the global computer network as a teaching tool remain, said Mr. Kerrey, who has since retired from the Senate and has a new job as president of the New School University in New York City. The main hurdles identified in the study include providing widespread, affordable access to broadband communications, which allows two-way transmission of digital video; better training for teachers and school administrators; and more high-quality, online educational resources.

The 16-member panel also called for better protection and privacy for online learners, and advocated sustained funding at the school level to acquire and maintain new technology.

Policymakers also need to break down “regulatory barriers that were not intended to be barriers,” said Rep. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the vice-chairman of the commission. “We should quickly repeal them or modernize them to reflect the value of the Internet in education.”

For example, he said, some federal funding and scholarship aid are contingent on students’ logging a certain amount of time in the classroom. But with online learning, Mr. Isakson said, “seat time is sort of irrelevant.”

Hearing From the Field

Over a span of 10 months, the commission received oral and written testimony from hundreds of organizations and individuals concerned about the use of technology in schools. The commission has now wrapped up its business, but its report, “The Power of the Internet for Learning: Moving From Promise to Practice,” released Dec. 19, will remain online at www.webcommission.org.

The recommendations in the 129-page document stretch far beyond federal action—and in most cases hinge on collaboration among federal, state, and local governments, school boards, the information technology and education industries, and the education research community.

Many of the report’s conclusions echo those of other groups, including the CEO Forum, composed of 22 high-ranking executives of high-tech companies and educational organizations, and the Clinton administration’s President’s Committee of Advisers on Science and Technology, which called for more research and teacher training, better digital content, and greater access to online technologies.

But the Web commission’s report goes beyond those efforts to reflect the growth of online university and high school programs, the impact of billions of dollars of federal E-rate discounts on telecommunications services for schools and libraries, concerns about the so- called “digital divide” between Americans with greater and lesser access to new technology, and other developments.

On two central issues—copyright of online materials and funding for technology—the commissioners did not find clear solutions, however.

“We were lobbied very hard” by publishers interested in protecting the value of their content in a digital world, said commission member Richard J. Gowan, the president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, S.D. Teachers, meanwhile, were passionate about not losing their traditional “fair use” right to use copyrighted materials in instruction, Mr. Gowan said.

Overall, the report sends a “strong message that the Internet gives us great capacity and great advantage for learning, but there are hurdles and important things we need to provide to make it work well,” said Anne L. Bryant, the executive director of the National School Boards Association in Alexandria, Va. Ms. Bryant is also a member of the CEO Forum.

Critics of the use of technology in schools were unconvinced by the panelists’ findings. “You could predict their conclusions by looking at their witness list,” said William L. Rukeyser, who runs Learning in the Real World, a Woodland, Calif.-based organization that questions the growing use of technology in schools.

Others expressed similar concerns. Colleen Cordes, a member and editor of the Alliance for Childhood, based in College Park, Md., questioned the educational and physiological appropriateness of having young children spend time using computers. The alliance recently called for a halt to the introduction of computers into elementary and middle schools.

It remains to be seen whether Congress will make the commission’s report a foundation for action, said Frank B. Withrow, a former director of the federal Star Schools program who has also worked on various school technology programs for more than 30 years.

“A large part of it will depend on the direction set by President- elect Bush and [his nominee for secretary of education] Rod Paige,” he said.

Mr. Withrow noted that the Houston public schools, where Mr. Paige has been superintendent for seven years, is known for its use of technology in education. With that in mind, he said, “I’m optimistic.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 10, 2001 edition of Education Week as Federal Study Details Major Barrier To Internet Learning


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP