The Gateway Foundation, the nonprofit arm of computer maker Gateway Inc., has launched a grant program that aims to provide 75,000 teachers with online computer training during the next five years. The total cost of the training to be funded by Gateway is estimated at $7.6 million.

Called Teach America!, the program was announced by President Clinton on the first stop of his New Markets Initiative Tour on Digital Opportunity in East Palo Alto, Calif. The goal of the Teach America! program is to give educators critical skills and proficiency to help them realize the full benefits of technology in learning.

“When teachers have the knowledge and power needed to use technology properly, they can captivate their classes and really change the way students learn,” said David J. Robino, vice chairman of Gateway Inc. and chairman of the Gateway Foundation.

“Putting new technology in the classroom is a good step, but teacher training is an essential element in ensuring the technology is connected to the learning experience. Teach America! provides this crucial training, moving us closer to bridging the digital divide in education.”

Through the Teach America! program, grant recipients will have access to hundreds of web-based courses that enable educators to take classes and refresher courses at their convenience.

Teachers can learn how to navigate the web effectively for supplemental materials, develop extranets for sharing information with parents and students, and use popular software applications such as Encarta Encyclopedia and Microsoft PowerPoint, Word, and Excel.

The self-paced, online training courses were developed by Gateway in partnership with ZD University, an online division of Ziff-Davis Inc. The Teach America! grants cover the cost of tuition for the courses. Though more than 100 courses are available, about 10-12 have been recommended specifically for teachers.

A company spokesperson said that as of now, the courses emphasize core competency skills—but Gateway is looking at developing more content in the future, including courses that emphasize classroom applications of technology.

All schools with tax-exempt status are eligible to apply. Grants will be made on the basis of two main criteria: (1) a school’s perceived need for technology training; and (2) its plan for using the training to address classroom needs.

A panel from the Gateway Foundation will select grant recipients on a quarterly basis, but applications will be accepted throughout the year.

For information on how to apply for the Teach America! grant, schools can visit the Gateway Foundation’s web site at http://www.gateway.com/teachamerica/. The Gateway Foundation accepts requests via eMail at gateway.foundation@gateway.com or by fax at (605) 232-1729. n