Rhode Island continues to stress professional development in its push to infuse technology into its classrooms. For the past several years, the state department of education has organized a series of two-week summer seminars for educators interested in tapping the potential of technology to improve their teaching.
Those sessions have included an option specifically for teachers who want to learn how to use hand-held computing devices to organize literacy instruction in grades K-3. Another, more general track is designed to meet more varied interests. For example, a group of foreign-language teachers has learned how to use computers to let their students communicate with people in other countries.
A third module in summer 2005 will show educators how to create electronic portfolios of students’ work. Such portfolios are one option that districts can use to satisfy new performance-based graduation requirements that the state approved two years ago. Educators apply each year to be in the seminars, and the state gives preference to those from schools with the most students in poverty.
With about 250 educators taking part each year, by now state officials estimate that the training has included more than half of Rhode Island’s 11,000 teachers. Many participants come away from the sessions with free hardware, software, and other equipment for their classrooms. The state pays for the professional-development efforts through $1.5 million in its annual grant from the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology program, which is part of the No Child Left Behind law.
Through a separate initiative, Rhode Island puts up about $3.4 million of its own money each year to help districts meet a wide array of educational technology needs, including hardware. A recent budget proposal by Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, a Republican, recommended the same level of funding for fiscal 2006.