Guest Editorial (untitled)

In the past, our educational system was based solely on the three R's; now there is a fourth -- Retrieval. Retrieval of information that may be accessed in a variety of electronic and multimedia ways is necessary for learning and decisionmaking in today's global economy. Equitable access for information retrieval must be provided for all learners in classrooms, homes and workplaces and no one is in a more appropriate occupation to deliver such access than those working in education. But to achieve this, one must examine the vision regarding information access, the current reality and how we bridge the gap with appropriate leadership. Leadership President Clinton stated in his message to the American people on February 17, 1993, "All American children need greater access to better education -- not just to make the American Dream more available, but to make the American economy more productive." The president g'es on to elaborate his vision for a new information infrastructure, wherein every person in the nation has access to high-performance communications and computing resources. In a speech to technical college graduates, Clinton stated: "We are moving very rapidly in all forms of production and service to a knowledge-based economy in which what you earn depends on what you can learn. Not only what you know today, but what you are capable of learning tomorrow." Leadership at all levels must understand the value of information access and learning technologies. These responsive leaders must build teams of stakeholders who will understand the needs and assist with both defining the vision and assessing the current reality. The most responsible leaders will complete the vision with action -- from expanding awareness to full implementation and ongoing support. Access to communication and computing resources provide the "what" and the "how" for maintaining better education and a high level of economic productivity. The "what" is the national goals and the "how" is the national information infrastructure and educational technology required to enable the nation to enter the 21st century with a viable foundation. Actions The Council of Chief State School Officers, in cooperation with the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Education, is conducting a needs-assessment and recommendations study on the applications of telecommunication in education from preschool to graduate school, including job retraining and continuing education. A national information infrastructure will significantly alter the way we store, retrieve and distribute information. Traditionally, most information has been stored in books and walled libraries; this will no longer be the case. But we must provide awareness overviews, staff development and training for users who will be accessing and storing information in new and different ways. There is a national role for education in terms of electronic communications issues. Through the appropriate federal and state agencies, access to resources must be provided to schools. For we now have the capabilities and the technology to provide additional instruction to the very children who need it most. In fact, one study of a basic skills curriculum computer program demonstrated clearly that at-risk students are those who can benefit the most from this exciting new medium. Children can no longer be permitted to exit our schools without being well grounded in the basic skills of reading, writing, mathematics and computer usage. With all the benefits provided by allowing educational access, the major roadblock is still cost. Special educational telecommunications rates should be established as well as universal policies to permit ease of access. In this regard, we -- the parent, teacher, administrator, legislator, stakeholder businessperson and general public -- have to support the cost. Our nation, and we as individuals, cannot afford otherwise. Dr. Henry Marockie, West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools since 1989, serves as co-chair of the National Committee on Technology for the Council of Chief State School Officers. Marockie is also national chairman of the governing board of Project USE IT, a telecommunications project in cooperation with the U.S. Commerce Dept., the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the Council of Chief State School Officers. He is on the Advisory Panel on Technology Assessment for the U.S. Congress and involved with many other projects as well. Assessment for the U.S. Congress and involved with many other projects as well.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.