The Changing Role of the Teacher



I was honored to have been invitedto The Secretary’s Conference on Educational Technology: Measuring Impacts andShaping the Future, held September 11-12 in Alexandria, Va. Opportunitiesexisted for approximately 600 attendees from over 40 countries to listen tolectures, meet informally, and learn from students who participated in theprogram by demonstrating their projects in the exhibit hall.

In his opening remarks, Secretary of Education Richard W.Riley of the U.S. Department of Education promised to continue to supportefforts to bring technology to all classrooms, and to make teachers comfortablewith its use. He is asking Congress for additional monies for this purpose.Linda Roberts, director of the Office of Educational Technology, U.S.Department of Education, welcomed the group and stated that although we’re sofar along in the use of technology in teaching and learning, much more stillneeds to be done. It is an acknowledged fact that Dr. Robert’s efforts andperseverance have led us to where we are today.

So, what did I learn that I am able to share? It was afull-packed two days, which included major addresses, paneled discussions,breakout sessions, exhibits and student programs. I was particularly impressedwith the Department of Education’s Technology Expert Panel, the Exemplary andPromising Educational Technology Programs, and meeting the students andteachers of these programs. For example:


· Generation www.Y trains elementary andsecondary school students on computing and telecommunication skills. Eachstudent is partnered with a teacher, and together they design and develop aproject that incorporates technology for use in regular classroom teaching.Students help teachers use technology to deliver more effective lessons. (


· Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project, inwhich students learn course content and technology skills, completingcurriculum-based projects that end in multimedia projects. For K-12 classrooms,activities are student-centered and interdisciplinary, and integrate real worldissues and practices supported by multimedia. (


· The WEB Project is a consortium ofcommunity organizations, small businesses and educational institutions thatengage new technologies to effect systemic reform in school systems throughoutVermont. Programs utilize multimedia production and telecommunications in areasof art, literature, history, and music composition. (


As usual, one may learn the most outside of formalpresentations. As Jerry A. Bennet, executive director of the Navajo EducationTechnology Consortium in Gallup, NM, stated, “Technology is part of ourchildren’s journey. Our challenge is to make the journey as exciting and profitableas possible. This was a very worthwhile conference. It gave people anopportunity to meet and discuss individual projects.”

During the “Spotlight Schools” sessions, which werescheduled on both days, representatives from schools that had received variousamounts of funding met with researchers and attendees in small groups todiscuss the following.


· What arethe key factors that contribute to the effective use of technology in schools?

· What usesof learning technology d'es the public value?

· What can welearn from business and industry?

· Why d'estechnology work in some schools?

· Whatactions by policy makers will contribute most to the effective use

oftechnology in schools?


The discussion in the group I attended was very lively. Weseem to be getting closer to the answers to the questions above. It was anenjoyable and productive experience, however, more work on “Measuring Impactsand Shaping the Future” still needs to be done. Many of the issues require morediscussion and formation of some answers.

There is no question that the role of the teacher ischanging. For example, the Web is providing increasing access to resources,which means that the teacher is no longer the “dispenser of information.”Learning how to find information and how to make an informed opinion on what ispresented, however, do benefit from teacher assistance. In some communities,the changes taking place are transforming schools, doing away with traditionalbuildings, providing flexible hours, making available large amounts ofmultimedia, etc. These are certainly changing the role of the teacher.Continuing competence requirements are necessary. The challenge is still tomake professional development opportunities available to all teachers who needit.

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