A panel of educational technology experts spoke before the members of the House Education and Labor Committee June 16, stressing the importance that technology plays in the classroom as well as the need for continued professional development.

In the first of what Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., said will be a series of panel discussions, educators and educational technology advocates shared success stories about how technology has helped improve teaching and learning.

“I feel that if we do not adapt schools to the integrating and embedding of these tools into instruction,” American students will fall behind globally, Miller said. “I think this is a very exciting moment for American education.”

Members of Congress and education stakeholders also were able to try out different technologies at the event, including interactive whiteboards, virtual frog dissection, online teacher training and courses, video streaming clips, and math and reading software simulations.

“The Capitol Hill showcase reflected an increased understanding that classroom technology and innovation are essential to the future of learning and American competitiveness,” said Mark Schneiderman in a press release. He is the senior director of education policy for the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), a co-host of the showcase.

“Without the types of technology we saw today, America simply won’t be able to guarantee that our students–and our nation–can continue to lead in the global economy.  SIIA calls on policy makers to provide the investment and leadership necessary to ensure our schools and educators have the innovative tools demonstrated today–tools that promise a world-leading education for all students,” he said.

Aneesh Chopra, chief technology officer for the White House Office for Science and Technology, stressed that there is more than one type of professional development needed for teachers to keep up with technology developments.

“Initially, a teacher has to learn to use [a technology], and then [he or she has] to learn different methodologies and ways to use it in teaching,” he said. He said technology professional development should be integrated with the professional development that teachers already are required to participate in.

“As we gather more and more solid data on the results of the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology program on student learning, it becomes increasingly essential that companies, policy makers, and educators work together to further integrate technology into schools,” said Mary Ann Wolf, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, which also co-hosted the showcase. “States are embracing technology as a way to positively impact student achievement. For example, in South Carolina, sustained professional development has encouraged the effective integration of technology to facilitate student achievement across the state.”

Lisa Short, an eighth-grade science teacher in Montgomery County, Md., said this was the first year that her school has used interactive whiteboards.

“When you use this type of technology in the class, student engagement increases,” she told the committee, adding that she had to create a system to make sure that all students were allowed equal time at the board.

“Students carry iPods, cell phones, video games, and sometimes laptops to school, and what’s the first thing we ask them to do? We ask them to power down,” she added. “If the technology is available, why don’t we use it [to help them learn]?”

In addition to interactive whiteboards, witnesses spoke about ways that integrating initiatives and technologies such as one-to-one laptop programs, video cameras, web page development, and online learning into instruction has helped improve learning.

One college student at East Carolina University said his parents were involved in drug trafficking, his older brothers ended up dropping out of high school, and he was probably close to dropping out as well–until his school integrated technologies such as interactive whiteboards and video cameras into instruction.

“The integration of technology opened the world to me,” he said.

Short told the committee that only 16 percent of American students have access to interactive whiteboards, while about 70 percent of students in the United Kingdom have access. She was asked what could be done to increase that number.

Her succinct reply: “Funding.”

Links:

House Education and Labor Committee

Software & Information Industry Association

State Educational Technology Directors Association

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Empowering Education Through Technology resource center. Integrating technology into the classroom can be a challenge without the right guidance. Go to: Empowering Education Through Technology