A new educational institute plans to research meaningful uses of emerging technologies–such as Internet2, handheld computers, and virtual reality–and share the results with school leaders.

The Institute for the Advancement of Emerging Technologies in Education (IAETE), which opened May 11 in West Virginia, aims to identify new technologies and work with their developers to see how these technologies can improve teaching, learning, and school management.

“Our entire focus is on new and emerging technologies,” said Tammy McGraw, executive director of IAETE. “We are trying to take those [technologies] and find ways they can be used in the classroom.”

The institute will research and test the technologies in schools to see how they can address individual learning styles, cultural and linguistic diversity, needs of children with disabilities, and geographic barriers.

Through research and development, IAETE aims to ensure not only that these technologies have a positive impact on learning, but also that their integration is cost-effective and timely.

“There are many tools in business that might be well suited for education, but we don’t find out about them,” McGraw said. “The burden [of integrating these tools] has always been on individual educators.”

IAETE intends to share information with policy-makers, technology developers, and business leaders in addition to educators so they, too, can learn how different technologies relate to the education market. IAETE will work closely with corporations and technology developers to help them create applications that are cost-effective and meaningful to education.

IAETE is investigating Internet2, virtual reality, teleconferencing, and technologies that will connect rural communities to schools. The group will continue to seek out and work with new technologies, too.

“Everything we do is research-based and unbiased,” McGraw said. “As we try these new tools out in a variety of settings, it’s really about funding what works in a school setting.”

IAETE will pilot and research these new technologies in school districts across the country. At these school sites, dubbed intensive sites, IAETE will figure out how best to modify and adapt new technology into a classroom setting. School districts interested in becoming pilot sites should contact IAETE through the organization’s web site.

As a division of AEL Inc., one of the nation’s 10 Advanced Educational Regional Laboratories that study learning and education, IAETE is built on a foundation of more than 35 years of experience in education research. IAETE receives its funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

The services IAETE plans to offer are especially important, as the Bush administration and the public demand more proof that the investment in education technology is a good one, McGraw said.

Schools “really have to be careful that [they] are using the best technology–not necessarily the newest–for the job,” McGraw said. “It isn’t about the newest technology, and putting more computers in the classrooms–it’s about doing what [schools] do well.”

The IAETE web site will let school leaders search for technology solutions to help alleviate particular education or classroom problems.

“It’s very important to look ahead at the next generation of technology,” said Chris Dede, one of IAETE’s advisers and Timothy Worth Professor of Learning Technology at Harvard University. “Schools have often been criticized because they’re behind the rest of society when it comes to technology.”

The Institute for the Advancement of Emerging Technologies in Education