After a full year in office, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige finally has appointed a director of educational technology for the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

John Bailey—the former ed-tech director for the state of Pennsylvania—will serve as the new director of the federal Office of Educational Technology. Bailey will fill the role held by Linda Roberts during the Clinton administration.

Since the Bush administration has been in office, educational technology has not received as much attention as it had during the previous administration. But that doesn’t mean technology isn’t important to education or to the Bush administration, Bailey assured eSchool News. Whereas the previous administration focused on technology as a separate initiative, the new political leadership is taking a more integrated approach, viewing technology within the context of other reforms, he said.

“Technology is there, and it’s playing an important role, but it’s playing a role in a way we’re not used to,” Bailey said.

Under the Bush administration, educators can expect to see technology initiatives threaded throughout all education programs.

“Every education program is a technology opportunity,” Bailey said.

The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed into law by President George W. Bush Jan. 8 contains some 15 programs that permit funds to be used for educational technology, he said.

“What we are starting to see is technology being integrated into specific programs,” Bailey said. The president’s Reading First initiative is one example, he said.

As ED’s educational technology director, Bailey said he will oversee the writing of a new national technology plan with the help of state and local education officials from across the country.

The plan will shift focus away from merely computers and internet connections. Instead, greater emphasis will be placed on using applications and integrating technology to improve student achievement.

In addition, Bailey said virtual education will be a priority because of the problems it has created, especially in his home state of Pennsylvania, where several districts are embroiled in a dispute with that state’s cyber charter schools over funding.

“We are going to take a real deep look into how we can support states in virtual education,” Bailey said. “It’s a type of education that is emerging … and conflicting with education of the 19th century.”

He said he will try to resolve issues such as who should pay for cyber education, who should approve accreditation, and what high-quality eLearning content should look like.

The federal government also will encourage the use of “data decision systems” to improve both accountability and decision-making, Bailey said.

These types of systems “help inform decision makers, [giving] them the opportunity in real time to adjust their priorities and resource allocation instead of waiting a couple of weeks or months,” he said.

While working for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bailey helped design and implement former Gov. Tom Ridge’s acclaimed Link-to-Learn initiative, a project and web site devoted to increasing the state’s use of technology in the classroom. For his leadership in Link-to-Learn, Bailey was recognized by eSchool News in its 1999 Impact 30 Awards, a program that identifies those having the greatest influence on school technology.

Besides Link-to-Learn, Bailey helped launch Pennsylvania’s Digital School District program, an ambitious contest to award $2 million to school districts with the most comprehensive and innovative technology plans.

Bailey, a native of Bethlehem, Pa., received his bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.

Educators who were familiar with Bailey’s efforts in that state applauded his appointment.

“I am aware of several of these initiatives that Mr. Bailey was involved with when he was working in Pennsylvania. Some of these initiatives are very aggressive and have pushed the state of Pennsylvania to address some educational technology issues that other states have not addressed as of yet,” said Dennis Dempsey, superintendent of Crook Deschutes Education Service District in Redmond, Ore.

Bob Moore, executive director of information technology services at Blue Valley School District in Kansas, said Bailey has a proven track record and will bring tremendous energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge to his new role.

“In particular, John has proven that he is not only a person of vision, but also someone who is able to effectively put a vision into practice, as demonstrated by the Link-to-Learn project,” Moore said.

According to Sandra Becker, technology director for Pennsylvania’s Governor Mifflin School District, Bailey studied technology best practices in Ireland, Israel, and other countries. He also sought advice from ed-tech experts and arranged guest speakers from around the world.

“I am comfortable in his leadership and expect great things. He listens to voices of educators and reads reports and research. He will offer thoughts and challenges to move educational practices into the 21st century,” Becker said.

James W. Scott, superintendent of Spring Cove School District in Pennsylvania—one of the Digital School District grant winners—said Bailey has tremendous insight into how school personnel should be thinking about the current needs of technology in schools.

“He has the uncanny ability to think ‘outside of the box’ and really makes an effort to appreciate the efforts of school leaders,” Scott said. “John also devotes an enormous amount of time and energy to technology in education. I believe this to be a very good appointment for our nation.”

Related links:
U.S. Department of Education

Pennsylvania Department of Education