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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary: Lawmakers Discuss Education Technology Issues

May 6, 1997

At a hearing of the House Science Committee, Technology Subcommittee, House members discussed the federal role in supporting the use of technology in education. Witnesses included teachers and experts from the private sector and academia involved in providing technology training, support and equipment for schools.

All witnesses agreed that teacher training -- both inservice and the training of new teachers -- is crucial if technology is to be used effectively in the classroom. "We teach teachers not to look at technology as another add on to their already busy day, but as a powerful tool to deliver even better instruction on the current curriculum," stated Kalani Smith, an Instructional Specialist with the Montgomery Public Schools.

Members quizzed the panel on the federal government's role in supporting educational technologies. Witnesses agreed that federal support for seed grants in technology education like those provided by the National Science Foundation were important. Paul Reese of the Ralph Bunche School in New York City, an educator involved with several NSF technology education grants since the mid-1980's, stressed the importance of NSF's role in seeding the use of the World Wide Web as a powerful educational tool. He also disagreed with an assessment made by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) that the country's effort in developing educational software should be graded a D. Reese noted that some of the educational software first developed under NSF support is of very high quality and now used widely in schools.

Committee Chairwoman Constance A. Morella (R-MD) called on communities and parents to take a more active role in promoting and understanding the role of technology in schools. "While federal funding is important, money alone is not the answer. We must encourage communities and families to become actively involved in the process. We must focus on the need for teacher training in order to effectively implement technology into the classroom," Morella said.

Kathleen Fulton with the University of Maryland at College Park formerly of the Office of Technology Assessment discussed the difficulty of assessing the effectiveness of technology in the classroom. Fulton then described a five level framework for looking at technology effectiveness provided by Chris Dede of the National Science Foundation. Benchmarks for technology effectiveness include: impact on student motivation, improvement of curriculum content, earlier introduction of advanced concepts, improved student interactions with the outside world, and standardized test scores.

Panelists also discussed the need to involve the private sector in bringing technology into the classroom and that technology should support the educational process not drive the process.

Other panelists included Joseph Hofmeister with the Cincinnati Country Day School in Cincinnati, Ohio and Tip Kilby with Computers for Classrooms of Atlanta, Georgia.