Vermont doles out none of its K-12 education aid explicitly for technology, but it has tried to use federal and private grant money to make educational technology resources available for school districts.
In 2004, the state education department published grade-by-grade expectations for students’ technology skills, and those standards have now been supplemented by online models for assessing the skills. By fall of this year, officials hope to have added activities for specific grades and academic-content areas that teachers can download from the department’s Web site and use to work on developing students’ technology skills.
In addition, a $1.5 million grant to the state from the IBM Corp. has started to transform teacher preparation, professional development, and relicensing through the use of online materials. For example, some Vermont math teachers now use video software to identify and share superior teaching practices. The three-year development phase of the grant expires in June 2005, but state officials say IBM plans to foot the bill for use of the software for teacher preparation, professional development and relicensing and for math, starting in July 2005
Also coming to a close in June 2005 is the state’s agreement with the telecommunications giant Verizon Communications Inc. to provide a videoconferencing network that school districts used for free. Without the technology set-up provided by the agreement, poorer districts are likely to have trouble affording both the high-quality videoconferencing and broadband Internet access that the company had provided to schools at no cost, according to William Romond, the education department’s technology coordinator.
The videoconferencing network continues to bring together educators from across Vermont for professional purposes, and in the past year has allowed secondary students to witness open-heart surgery, among other opportunities.
“We feel we will have something in place” that will allow many schools to continue to have access to video conferencing, even if some quality is lost, Romond says. In the longer run, a statewide collaboration involving state government and institutions of higher education might be part of that solution, he adds.