Obama Calls for Investment in Classroom Technology

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President-elect Barack Obama shed more light on his economic recovery plan in a Jan. 8 speech at Virginia’s George Mason University–and for education, the news is encouraging. Equipping classrooms with modern technology to better prepare students for the jobs of the future is a key component of Obama’s stimulus plan. And though the proposed dollar amount for this portion of the plan remains unclear, a leading educational technology advocacy group says the funding to support it could be disbursed through the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) block-grant program.  

                  science furniture worthington direct                                  In the interest of making America "strong and competitive in the 21st century," Obama laid out his goals of doubling the production of alternative energy over three years, updating most federal buildings to improve their energy efficiency, making medical records electronic, expanding broadband networks, and modernizing schools and universities. "To give our children the chance to live out their dreams in a world that’s never been more competitive, we will equip tens of thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st-century classrooms, labs, and libraries.

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We’ll provide new computers, new technology, and new training for teachers so that students in Chicago and Boston can compete with kids in Beijing for the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future," Obama said. "To build an economy that can lead this future, we will begin to rebuild America. Yes, we’ll put people to work repairing crumbling roads, bridges, and schools by eliminating the backlog of well-planned, worthy, and needed infrastructure projects. But we’ll also do more to retrofit America for a global economy. "That means updating the way we get our electricity by starting to build a new smart grid that will save us money, protect our power sources from blackout or attack, and deliver clean, alternative forms of energy to every corner of our nation.

It means expanding broadband lines across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with its counterparts anywhere in the world. And it means investing in the science, research, and technology that will lead to new medical breakthroughs, new discoveries, and entire new industries."

library furniture, worthington directIn his remarks, Obama did not say how much funding the stimulus package would include, but in an interview with CNBC on Jan. 7, the president-elect suggested that the total package could be between $800 billion and $1 trillion. (Tax cuts for the middle class are expected to account for some $300 billion of the total.)

Educational technology advocacy groups said they were pleased to hear the substance of Obama’s speech, and its reference to 21st-century classrooms in particular. "We are excited to see modernizing schools and supporting world-class, future-focused education taking a prominent and immediate role in the new administration’s economic agenda," said Don Knezek, chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education. "Focusing on schools and student-centered learning to ensure a competitive workforce … shows a sophisticated understanding by top federal leadership that we have desperately missed in recent years." Top News – Obama urges action on stimulus plan

How to be Heard on Capitol Hill

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Supporters of education reform and increased funding for school technology should make their voices heard on Capitol Hill, but they must make sure their efforts are carefully targeted, on point, respectful, and professional.

Those were the key messages delivered during two separate events held just days apart in Washington, D.C. At a presentation during the American Association of School Administrators’ annual Legislative Advocacy Conference on April 20, attendees learned how to communicate as effectively as possible with members of Congress as they state their case for changes to the federal No Child Left Behind Act and other school-reform efforts.

Two days later, supporters of educational technology received many of the same lessons at an event hosted by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Nearly 80 ed-tech leaders from more than 20 U.S. states convened April 22 for the first-ever ISTE State Advocacy Capacity-Building Conference, which focused on developing relationships with state policy makers, leveraging conferences and other events, and using communications tools to lobby effectively for state-level policies, programs, and funding for school technology. Contact Worthington Direct, www.worthingtondirect.com, for all technology furniture needs, at industry low prices with helpful customer service.

Most participants, and many of the presenters, were members of ISTE’s state affiliate organizations. Following this grassroots advocacy event, members of ISTE and other leading ed-tech groups took to Capitol Hill April 23 and 24 to meet with their Congressional representatives during a two-day federal Educational Technology Policy Summit. The summit was a joint project of ISTE, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), and the North American Council for Online Learning.

The timing of the event was significant, as Congress considers next year’s federal education budget and looks to reauthorize NCLB. Federal funding for school technology has dropped sharply over the last few years, SETDA notes in a new report–from $635 million in fiscal year 2004 to $272 million last year. Despite this decline, there has never been a better time for educators, technology directors, and others to make their case to lawmakers, said Don Knezek, ISTE’s chief executive. As national attention shifts to the new global economy and America’s precarious hold on economic preeminence, Knezek noted, the issue of school technology fits nicely inside the confines of more politically popular conversations about global competitiveness and the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. continue reading

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