Inside: Technology

COMPUTER IMMERSION

The state of Texas has begun a Technology Immersion Project that will provide more than 7,300 students at 13 schools with wireless laptop computers.

The goal of the program is to “change the culture of the whole school,” says Anita Givens, director of educational technology at the Texas Education Agency.

Each student and teacher at the 13 schools will have a computer. The agency says that Texas schools have an average of 2.9 computers per classroom, but not enough for all students to have access at one time.

“Before, teachers didn't make assignments that required every student to use technology, as (students) didn't have access in the classroom, and teachers couldn't give online homework because some students wouldn't have a computer or Internet access at home,” says Givens.

The computers come loaded with educational software, and the project also provides online instructional materials in several curricular areas, online assessment capabilities to monitor student progress, training for teachers and onsite technology support.

E-RATE REFORMS

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee is continuing to hear testimony on waste and fraud in the E-rate program, which subsidizes technology infrastructure purchases for schools and libraries.

The committee, which is considering reforms for the $2.25-billion-a-year program, heard testimony this summer from San Francisco school officials, who had uncovered a fraudulent E-rate award to the district of nearly $50 million.

“The E-rate proposal that was purportedly submitted on behalf of the San Francisco Unified School District… was fraudulent in almost every respect,” testified George M. Cothran, investigator with the San Francisco city attorney's office. “The proposal resulted from a bid process that was rigged from its inception.”

San Francisco Superintendent Arlene Ackerman helped uncover the corruption soon after joining the district in 2000. Subsequently, NEC Business Network Solutions Inc., pleaded guilty to wire fraud.

Ackerman told the committee that despite the problems with the E-rate, the subsidy program has been beneficial and should continue.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), ranking member of the committee, says the misconduct lawmakers are investigating includes bid rigging, fraudulent price inflation, kickbacks and illegal “in-kind” donations.

IMPROVING TECHNOLOGY IN LARGEST DISTRICT

Technology is a key to any strategy to improve New York City schools, says the city council's Committee on Technology in Government.

In “Expanding Digital Opportunity in New York City Public Schools,” the committee outlined 10 principles to enhance the use of technology in schools. Among them:

  • Judge technology strategies by their contribution to teaching and learning.

  • Ensure that students have continuous access to technology — at school, after school and at home.

  • Wire all schools with broadband connectivity.

  • Establish reliable technical maintenance and support.

  • Provide sufficient funds.

MAINTAINING EQUIPMENT

Percentage breakdown of staff who were primarily responsible for technology support in public schools, 2002:
Full-time paid school technology director or coordinator 38%
District staff 26%
Teacher or other staff as part of formal responsibilities 18%
Part-time paid school technology director or coordinator 11%
Consultant or outside contractor 3%
Teacher or other staff as volunteers 3%
Other 1%
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
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