If At First You Don’t Succeed . . .
With a promise and a plea, an online network to support teachers in the use of technology was launched in December for the third time in less than three years. Proponents swear it’s going to work.
“What we are announcing today is truly the beginning of a powerful network of teachers across the country,” said Linda Roberts, director of educational technology at the U.S. Department of Education. “I want to make this plea to all of you that you get involved; more importantly, that you think about and use technology to accomplish the goals you put in place for your kids.”
President Clinton announced the creation of the 21st Century Teachers Initiative in 1996. The project was intended to recruit 100,000 technology-proficient teachers who would each help five colleagues learn to use technology in the classroom. Education groups and Apple Computer endorsed the initiative, but they offered little money or help, and the project never got off the ground. The McGuffey Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group, took over the effort in 1997, but again with few results.
What makes this latest relaunch different, organizers say, is that it finally has financial backing. In January, the University of Phoenix, a for-profit institution that specializes in online graduate courses for adults, promised $1 million for the project over three years. The money will be used, in part, to hire a full-time fund-raiser and to pay stipends to teachers who are organizing state-level chapters in New Jersey, North Carolina, and Maryland. The initiative’s Web site will offer teacher members--membership is free but required--a place to exchange advice and teaching materials that involve technology. The address is www.21ct.org. Teachers are invited to register at the Web site.
Most parents with children in school music groups are wracked with guilt if they miss a performance. But in Clark County, Nevada, parents can skip concerts with a clear conscience. Since last May, the district has aired online a dozen or so live music events from schools. Anyone can listen in by logging on to the district’s Web page at www.ccsd.net. The user must have a Macintosh or Pentium-class computer equipped with RealPlayer software, a free version of which is available at www.real.com, the Web site of Seattle-based RealNetworks Inc. Internet broadcasting seems tailored for a district like Clark County, which has 250 schools and 200,000 students scattered across 8,000 square miles, including the city of Las Vegas. District administrators conceived of broadcasts as a way to help parents who sometimes have to drive long distances or juggle shift work to see a performance. After one recent concert, the district received a grateful e-mail message from the PTA president in a remote village that had five students taking part in a performance held in Las Vegas.