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Federal ‘Mega-Event’ Showcases School Technology

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — May 20, 2009 2 min read
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Several hundred teachers, administrators, and educational technology specialists from around the country recently joined researchers and national experts in Washington to highlight effective ways to use tech-based resources, including television programs and computer games, to support literacy instruction.

The showcase by the U.S. Department of Education came on the same day this month that President Barack Obama proposed significant cuts to the federal education technology programs that helped launch some of the innovations that were being praised at the event.

The department’s office of innovation and improvement convened more than 300 educators and advocates for what it called a “mega-event” to disseminate research on technology-based programs that have had an impact on student achievement in controlled studies. Those programs include children’s television programs, multimedia lessons, and interactive simulations designed to enhance reading skills.

“The emphasis was on innovation and how to use the stimulus dollars effectively for reading improvement,” Susan B. Neuman, a reading researcher who participated in a literacy panel at the event, wrote in an e-mail. Ms. Neuman was an assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education during President George W. Bush’s first term. She was referring to the economic-stimulus funds, including up to $100 billion for education, $650 million of it targeted for educational technology initiatives.

Products Showcased

The “Technologies and Children: Megabytes for Learning” event included a “street fair” featuring hands-on demonstrations of products that were developed through federal grant programs such as Ready to Learn and Star Schools. Attendees at the May 7 gathering were given an overview of the programs, the research on them, and the online tools that accompany their print and broadcast features.

The department’s celebration of educational technology programs came just as the president was rolling out his fiscal 2010 budget, which would cut the key federal program for educational technology by some 65 percent.

Educational technology advocates said the proposed budget cuts will make it difficult for the department to fulfill its vision for schools to expand their use of technology, despite the funding boost from the stimulus law. Under the president’s fiscal 2010 budget, the Enhancing Education Through Technology program would be slashed from $269 million to just $100 million.

“With the historic level of funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it appeared that the administration was prepared to invest significantly in educational technology, viewing it as an engine of change to modernize our education system,” a statement by four educational technology organizations in the Washington area said. The organizations are the Consortium for School Networking, the International Society for Technology in Education, the Software and Information Industry Association, and the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

“Instead, this cut stalls momentum, ignores demonstrated results, and undermines the progress being made in our nation’s classrooms through effective uses of technology to engage students, improve teacher quality, and individualize instruction for all kids.”

A version of this article appeared in the June 10, 2009 edition of Education Week as Federal ‘Mega-Even’ Showcases School Technology

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