Pennsylvania’s approach and priority for educational technology can be summed up in the name of its major technology initiative: Getting to One. The state is working toward having technology fully integrated not only into classroom life, but also into the operation of schools and districts.
In line with that goal, the Keystone State in 2004 consolidated its office of educational technology, which helps schools with instructional and administrative services, with its bureau of information systems, which has run the internal technology functions at the state department of education. The state’s former educational technology director, Michael Golden, was elevated to a deputy secretary’s post to oversee the newly created Office of Information and Educational Technology.
Golden hopes the move will have practical as well as symbolic benefits. For instance, multiple strategic plans now required of districts could be more easily integrated into one plan, and databases on such topics as student achievement could be made more widely available to authorized users, he says.
New funding for technology emerged in Pennsylvania with the legislature’s passage of Act 183 in November 2004. The law creates a $10 million pot of money that can be spent on educational technology and related services, beginning with the 2005-06 school year. The fund is built with money assessed against telecommunications providers in Pennsylvania, and will be made available through competitive grants, Golden says.
“This is huge for us,” says Golden. “It will enable us to build an infrastructure to make sure all schools have connectivity at affordable rates.”
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania has identified 500 classroom teachers who are leaders in using technology. It hopes to have one soon in each of its 3,000-plus public schools, with plans to help them share their expertise with other teachers.
Principals and teachers for grades 7-12 can apply for $10,000 grants to buy hand-held computers to test their effectiveness in classroom learning. That program will be expanded in 2005-06 to educators at the K-6 level.
In 2005-06, the state will also begin awarding matching grants to cover the cost of providing full-time technology-integration mentors to schools.