As I write this, I’m looking at the early results of an eSchool News Online poll in which we asked readers what their top priority would be if they could replace Susan Patrick as head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology (see story, page 10). What amazes me about this poll is that two-thirds of the respondents listed “teacher training” as the issue that concerns them most.

Now, since a two-thirds majority is significant enough to amend the U.S. Constitution or elect a new pope, I’m thinking it’s a pretty important piece of ed-tech data, too. Despite all the talk about lack of funding, or misguided policy, or even poor leadership, this suggests most people in education believe the future of technology in the nation’s classrooms depends on how prepared teachers are to use it.

And yet, to hear teachers tell it, technology already is changing how they approach their craft. As we report on Page 1 of this issue, nearly nine out of 10 teachers say it has impacted their instruction, according to a survey commissioned by CDW-G. An unprecedented number of teachers (18 percent) consider themselves “experts” in technology, and only 3 percent call themselves beginners.

When you compare these results to last year’s data–only 6 percent of teachers felt they had advanced skills, and 9 percent said they were beginners–you get a sense for the enormous strides that are being made toward transforming instructional practices. So why the concern among eSN Online poll respondents?

Digging deeper into the CDW-G survey results offers some valuable clues. More than seven out of 10 teachers surveyed said they received either no technology training (31 percent) or eight hours of training or less (42 percent) from their schools in the last 12 months, suggesting that teachers are largely self-taught when it comes to their computer skills.

Whether on their own or with the backing of their schools, today’s educators need more opportunities for tech-related professional development. And that’s where eSN Online can help.

At our Professional Development Resource Center, you’ll find links to more than 12,000 short tutorials from Atomic Learning. These tutorials answer educators’ questions about dozens of the most frequently used software applications in schools, and a free trial account is available. You’ll also find links to more than 800 online courses from ElementK. These courses explore hardware and software frequently used in schools, and they include professional certifications for A+ and other applications. Plus, you’ll find tips, techniques, and insights into the most popular school software applications through links to 20 instructional journals. You can access all these resources at:

http://www.eschoolnews.com/erc/professionaldevelopment

One highlight of my summer was a face-to-face meeting with many of our Ed-Tech Insiders–the people you’ll notice to the right of this column. As you probably know by now, the Insiders are educators so passionate about technology that they share their personal observations with thousands of eSN Online readers every day. What struck me most was not their knowledge of hardware or software, but rather their enthusiasm for spreading the word about emerging technologies in education, particularly blogs and other group-oriented software that facilitates project-based learning.

In many ways, the Ed-Tech Insiders are like great athletic trainers. After talking to them, you feel motivated to work out, even if you’re completely out of shape. They recognize that a willingness to teach with technology is the first step for many educators, and they devote themselves to cultivating that enthusiasm. They aren’t alone, either. I meet more and more readers whose full-time job is training teachers to integrate technology more effectively in their curricula.

So as we start a new school year–and the cry for educational transformation is renewed yet again–I hope all teachers and those who supervise them will continue to make tech training a priority. And if you can’t find a good trainer in your school, you can always locate several through our Ed-Tech Insiders page at:

http://www.eschoolnews.com/eti

New content this month

Two more areas of eSN Online deserve special mention. The first is our Conference Information Center, which now features advance coverage of next month’s National School Boards Association’s T+L² conference in Denver. You’ll find speaker profiles, schedules, and more. Plus, you can review the Conference Correspondents’ session reviews from last year’s event as you plan your schedule for this year:

http://www.eschoolnews.com/cic

Also this month, be sure to stop by our ever-expanding Video Resource Center. We’ve added links to new video content, as well as a look ahead to our 2006 Student Video Awards. If you’re looking to bring more video into your curricula and get a handle on the many streaming video resources available on the web, this really is the place to turn:

http://www.eschoolnews.com/vrc