Two leading ed-tech advocacy groups have launched a web site to help educators tell members of Congress about the benefits of technology in schools.
The newly created Ed Tech Action Network expands upon the annual Washington Advocacy Day organized by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN).
This year’s Washington Advocacy Day happens March 4, but its organizers felt the need to expand the concept beyond just a single day.
“We’ve seen continual cuts in ed tech through the federal budget,” said David Tortorelli, ISTE’s director of policy and governmental relations. “The message we keep hearing from members of Congress is, ‘We’re not hearing enough from our constituents. We’re not hearing enough about why educational technology is important.'”
In December, Congress voted to eliminate the $62.5 million Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology program, despite the urging of ISTE and CoSN to the contrary. Federal funding for technology-specific education programs collectively has declined 12 percent since 2001.
The Ed Tech Action Network web site provides educators with tips on how to communicate with legislators, information about how the legislative process works, and position papers to learn about issues now taking place in Congress, such as the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act or the federal budget and appropriations processes. The site also features a web-based system for eMailing members of Congress.
Educators “can come to the network and find everything they need to make their case for ed tech,” Tortorelli said. “The key is to put all of these resources in one place.”
Educators are also encouraged to share their success stories with legislators.
“Teachers are working on the front lines. They know what works and what doesn’t. Theses are the kinds of stories that policy makers need to hear,” Tortorelli said.
“I know through my work in Maryland, we have hundreds of stories to tell–but we’re so busy doing it, we’re not sharing it,” said Ryan Imbriale, facilitator for the Maryland Students Online Consortium at the Baltimore County Public Schools.
Imbriale said he looks forward to having easy access to up-to-date contact information for members of Congress and information about how to be a better advocate.
“Educators don’t know how to advocate for ed tech,” said Imbriale, who told some of his success stories to an education liaison for Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski during last year’s Advocacy Day.
“In many cases, [Advocacy Day is] a one-shot deal,” Imbriale said. “Having a place with up-to-date information that doesn’t happen just once a year is going to be really important to ed-tech [advocates].”
It also will allow educators to get information and answer questions without feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed for not knowing enough about the legislative process, he added.
“When major topics come up that affect us, we then have a place to gather to get information and take action. I think that’s really important,” Imbriale said.
About 150 people will participate in the Washington Advocacy Day this March 4. With the Ed Tech Action Network web site, organizers hope to continue to build momentum throughout the year.
Organizers have identified eight states to hold local target rallying efforts: Alaska, California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
“Members of Congress are responsive to the people in their districts, and if they hear the same thing from enough people, then the message will be sent,” Tortorelli said.
Ed Tech Action Network