Recommendations From Governors’ Task Forces on Education: Technology: Can Dollars Be Spent More Effectively and Efficiently?

September 10, 1986 4 min read

Will Technology Make Learning and Teaching Easier?

The United States spends more money per capita on education than any other industrialized nation. Next to defense and Social Security, education is the largest public portion of the gross national product.

While we all recognize the value of this investment, we must continually ask ourselves how those dollars can be put to the most effective I and efficient use. Because our nation is the technological leader of the I world, one answer leaps forward: We should use the technology we have created to help our schools ....

Despite more than a billion dollars in purchases and an incalculable amount i’n donations nationally during the past few years, schools generally have not become more productive through the use of technology. This situation must change, and we can help.

As a nation, we have not invested in the research and development needed for technology to be useful for the student or the teacher. What is spent for research and development is scattered . ... As a result of this deficiency, we should not be surprised that there is not enough solid evidence about what works best. Nonetheless, some things are clear. We should be thinking about a variety of machines--satellite television, videodiscs, robotics-not just computers. Not enough school districts are planning their use of technology. One recent study found that while 96 percent of the nation’s school districts were using various kinds of technology to improve instruction, only 14 percent had developed policies about how they were going to use the technology . .. .

Training, and lots of it, should proceed based on what we know to be cost-effective. One reason technology failed to achieve its potential in the past was that not enough high-quality training was provided for teachers and others who are to use technology in our schools. As governors, experience in our own offices has shown us that if individuals are to use technology effectively, they must understand how it can make them more productive. Otherwise, it is wasted.

No single school, or even an entire district, is a sufficiently attractive market for those who create and sell hardware and software. The enterprise has paid a price because of this reality. Noncompatible computers, software, and other machines are stacked in closets. We need to help reorganize the marketplace. This is not a back-door suggestion to control the curriculum or the text. States are the natural level of government to help aggregate markets. In fact, this situation is not parochial in scope. Because the manufacturers of these high-tech machines and software have ‘a national market, multistate market aggregation may be required to significantly influence manufacturers’ action. Perhaps one of the most important things we can each do is encourage technology demonstrations in schools. It is essential to restructure the school, but how technology can be useful in that restructuring remains elusive. We must encourage experimentation. We need to find out more about how computers can help teachers and administrators change the way they do business, how staff and student ratios can be changed, and how students can learn at their own pace. John H. Sununu Governor of New Hampshire

Task force chairman


Activities That States Should Strongly Encourage:

1. All school districts will develop written plans regarding the use of various technologies, prior to purchase of any equipment.

2. All prospective teachers should learn about effective and emerging uses of technology in their respective curriculum areas.

3. Every university teacher-education department should develop relationships with as many schools that use technology as possible, to bring together education professionals of all levels to share ideas on the most effective use of technology, to use outstanding district administrators as adjunct faculty, and to provide internships for undergraduate and graduate college students.

Efforts for Which States Should Provide Technical Assistance 1. Help school districts and schools write informed, appropriate plans on the use of technology. Such assistance could come from the state department of education, intermediate units, universities, and outstanding school- or district-based educators.

2. Help school districts, schools, and universities develop and establish continuous training programs on the appropriate uses of technology and ways to incorporate it into their curriculum.

3. Share data on costs and achievement from experiments being conducted within their respective states.

4. Aggregate purchases and establish wider markets. Activities for Which States Should Provide Financial Incentives and Assistance:

1. Encourage appropriate local-district planning for the use of technology by providing financial support to help districts purchase equipment to implement the plan.

2. Establish and improve training programs for educators about cost-effective ways to use educational technology.

3. Encourage and assist school districts that are willing to experiment with ways to restructure school environments to increase educator productivity by using various forms of educational technology.

4. Encourage greater cooperation among the states through the creation of consortiums and other technical- assistance arrangements.

5. Establish independent institutes for research and demonstration of technology in education, modeled on the National Science Foundation.

6. Recognize each state’s most creative technology-using educators.

7. Make technology more available for students from low-income families.

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A version of this article appeared in the September 10, 1986 edition of Education Week as Recommendations From Governors’ Task Forces on Education: Technology: Can Dollars Be Spent More Effectively and Efficiently?