Computers, the Internet and other technology have the potential to revolutionize schools and learning, but not without good policies, a study released today (10/19/01) by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) says.
"We are looking at the multitude of ways in which technology will fundamentally alter the traditional notion of American education. The very basics of the school building, the school day, even the classroom teacher at the blackboard, with students sitting at their desks are all open for reconsideration," said NASBE Executive Director Brenda Welburn.
The nearly $7 billion that America spends annually on technology and learning has resulted in "islands of innovation," according to the report Any Time, Any Place, Any Path, Any Pace: Taking the Lead on e-Learning Policy. But, the authors note that the quality of programs varies across the country and poor and minority children have little or no access to technology.
Twenty school board members from 16 states worked for eight months studying the impact of technology in an effort to give education leaders a tool to develop sound e-learning policies.
The task force, headed by Maine's State Board Chief Jean Gulliver, came to the conclusion that e-learning is valuable and "should be universally implemented as soon as possible."
"Our work is a clarion call to policymakers to set thoughtful and coherent policy on issues surrounding e-learning and technology in schools. And I am very pleased that it offers concrete state examples on a range of topics, including online assessments (tests) and online courses,"said Gulliver.
The NASBE study found that by restructuring the public schools to maximize technology states could give tests online and provide high quality teaching to all students regardless of where they live. But the report continues that states would have to make major strides in providing access to equipment and the Internet at schools.
The authors hope the report will be a handbook for lawmakers facing a new education landscape. Corine Hadley, a member of the task force and president of Iowa's State Board of Education said that technology, whether in the classroom or at home, changes basic ideas about when, how and where schools teach. "The implications for the teacher-student relationship, standards, assessments, accountability and traditional geographic boundaries are fundamental issues with which state and local boards of education will have to wrestle."
Florida, Kentucky and Illinois have already set up virtual high schools and each offers a different model. Still, many states are resistant to such sweeping change.
The Milken Family Foundation, Lightspan, Inc. and NetSchools Corporation supported the research for the report.