Broadly Speaking

In thismonth’s Broadly Speaking, we speak with Judy Hamilton, CEO of ClassroomConnect.

 

T.H.E.: You havepresented before Congress on more than one occasion. One of the discussionpoints had to do with applying lessons learned from e-business to education.What are your thoughts on that discussion?

 

Hamilton: Thetechnology cycle in education is following what happened in business. There wasa point when businesses decided to fund technology for their employees in orderto extend productivity and collaboration. Now our country is spending on thetechnology infrastructure — hardware, wiring, etc. — and putting this equipmentin schools. Contrary to business, however, there has been much less emphasis onmaintaining and replacing equipment in schools, or on providing technologytraining and providing the complementary materials that educators need.

A raw Internet connection d'es not help ateacher who is working with 30 students. Teachers need materials that help themsee the value technology can bring to their teaching and to students’ learning.It has been proven that with as little as 30 hours of training, a teacher istwice as likely to use the computer in the classroom. Right now the Internet isleading to new ways of teaching, and this trend will continue into theforeseeable future.

 

T.H.E.:Realistically, what do you see changing the way the Internet is harnessed forlearning? Can the “digital divide” be bridged?

 

Hamilton: I havehopeful feelings about this. Most people usethe Internet as the world’s largest library, but it also offers great collaboration and community betweenfamilies and schools, and between students in many classrooms. When theInternet, and the proper training to go with it, are provided to schools inlow-income areas, it is a great equalizer. Corporations who want an educatedpopulation can buy training and curriculum and donate it to these low-incomeschools. There are some wonderful models already. The LA Best, which is anafter school program serving 64 inner city schools in Los Angeles, is provingthat technology can help students achieve learning gains not reached prior toits implementation. The board of LA Best bought Classroom Connect professionaldevelopment products for teachers and Internet-based curriculum products forstudents. The LA Best students have proven that they can achieve just as muchas students in wealthy schools.

 

T.H.E.: As thelevel of technology in the school setting rises, so d'es the need forprofessional development. How do you see this need being addressed?

 

Hamilton: Rightnow, funding for professional development is high. That’s a great first step.Training can be provided in many different ways: through face-to-face meetings,conferences, and Web-based training. What we have found at Classroom Connect isthat a combination of training works best for most educators. The key is thatfew teachers are going to use technology unless they get trained.

There is a definite role for businesses toplay in professional development. Companies, and our country at large, are veryconcerned about the state of education. Sharing examples of professionaldevelopment models that work is one way that businesses can get involved.

In a recent survey on our ConnectedTeacher Web site, in preparation for testimony before a joint committee ofCongress on economic development, we asked the teachers what they needed most.They overwhelmingly replied that they needed training on using technology,particularly the Internet. The federal government, by dispensing grants, aswell as the states and districts, (supported by corporations) are all in oneway or another addressing this need.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.

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