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No More Excuses - Children's Lives Are at Stake

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In case you had not yet noticed it on our Web site, in press releases or on ISTE’s Web site, the 2005 Sylvia Charp Award is now open to receive applications (just log on to www.thejournal.com/ISTECharpAward before March 4, 2005, to apply). This is the second annual award program in honor of the late Dr. Sylvia Charp, T.H.E. Journal’s former editor-in-chief, and her groundbreaking contributions and extended service to the educational technology community. Irving Independent School District of Irving, Texas, was the recipient of the first Charp Award.

Again this year, T.H.E. Journal and ISTE will recognize one school district that exhibits effectiveness and innovation in the application of technology districtwide. The award will be presented at NECC 2005 in Philadelphia at the end of June. By identifying examples of effective and innovative practices with technology, both of our organizations hope to provide authentic models that will stimulate systemic efforts in districts nationwide.

If you ever had a conversation with Sylvia, you probably remember her in-your-face style of asking questions. As an assistant commissioner with responsibility for technology (among other departments) in Texas, I often was on the receiving end of Sylvia’s uncompromising questions. I ran into her on the floor of the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) one year, and she asked what I thought was new and exciting. I named a product that I had just seen and she said, “What’s so great about that? The technology is limited, the instructional design is old, and they don’t offer any training. I’m disappointed in you; look at it again.” I looked at it again, and Sylvia was right.

At another conference, I spoke about the Texas Long-Range Plan for Technology that had just received funding from the Texas Legislature. Sylvia came up to me afterward and her questions and comments still ring in my ears: “You Texans are pretty full of yourselves, aren’t you? The plan seems pretty comprehensive, but you didn’t ask for enough money and you didn’t get nearly enough money from the Legislature. Why not?” When I tried to explain that this was the only education initiative funded that year, that there were numerous political considerations involved, that we were in it for the long haul and that there were mechanisms for more funding in the future, she immediately interrupted me: “Those are excuses. Kids’ lives are at stake.” Sylvia did have a flair for the dramatic, but again she was right.

If Sylvia was still with us today, what would she say to a Congress about to take up reauthorization of higher education? What would she say to Congress and an administration that cut nearly $200 million from the technology component of the No Child Left Behind Act budget? What would she say about a National Technology Plan that laudably had unprecedented input from educators and students, yet asks for no funds? What would she say to school districts that rely on donations from private companies for most of their technology acquisitions?

She would probably say, “Get your priorities straight; kids’ lives are at stake.”

We look forward to receiving your applications for the 2005 Sylvia Charp Award.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2005 issue of THE Journal.

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