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In today's society, success is often contingent upon being well-versed in new technologies. Workforce employees are expected to be computer literate, and therefore schools are expected to offer students the opportunity to become so. However, the potential benefits of technology in education go well beyond teaching students basic computer literacy.

A technologically advanced school system can help administrators collect student data accurately and efficiently. Teachers can use e-mail to share experiences and collaborate with other teachers and classrooms around the world. Parents can access homework guidelines and receive timely feedback from teachers. The Internet alone offers vast resources that can help students improve school-related projects, make important mentor contacts and make informed decisions about how to approach higher education.

These advantages are not lost on America's education policymakers. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, 80% of school-age children had access to computers at school in 2000, compared to just 60% in 1997. What the data do not show, however, is whether those computers were up-to-date and how the students were using them. Therein lies the most pervasive question regarding technology in education: How do we ensure schools are effectively using the best resources technology has to offer in order to enhance student learning?

The answer requires taking a look at the complex factors that influence each state's technology infrastructure. Schools serving low-income families often have fewer resources, outdated computers and lack of technical support. Rural schools may have problems getting broadband phone lines for efficient Internet use. Teacher training might be too focused on computer operations, rather than on how to use technology as a tool for instruction. Technology expenditures may have been planned to cover initial purchasing costs and not ongoing technical support and maintenance. As teachers adjust to new accountability requirements they may have less time for technology training. Growing enrollments and teacher shortages may take priority over updating technology systems.

As schools struggle to implement effective, sustainable systems that compliment their curricula, even more questions surface:

  • How do we ensure these technological resources are used in ways that enhance rather than detract from instruction?
  • How do we create a secure and appropriate Web-based environment?
  • How do we identify the technology skills that students need for the school and workplace?
  • How do we develop quality online educational content?
  • How do we accommodate students with no computer access at home?
This ECS Issue Site is designed to address all of these questions. The Access/Equity section speaks to the geographical and socioeconomic gaps in technology access. The Finance section offers research on how states are investing in technology and features strategies for business and community involvement. The Infrastructure section outlines best practice models and suggestions for planning education technology systems. The Instruction section addresses the use of technology specifically as a learning tool and provides examples of Web-based courses and teaching strategies. Finally, the Teacher/Faculty Training section outlines the programs available for training teachers and administrators, as well as examining the current needs and requirements for ensuring schools can make the best use of new technologies. All of the sections include links to the best resources the Internet has to offer for teachers, administrators and policymakers.

 

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