News Article

New Report Says America's $40 Billion Investment in Educational Technology Potentially At Risk

Thursday, December 12, 2002

At the National Press Club today, the Benton Foundation and the EDC Inc.'s Center for Children and Technology conducted a national policy forum to discuss their forthcoming report, The Sustainability Challenge: Taking Edtech to the Next Level. In the last 10 years, the United States has invested over $40 billion placing computers in schools and connecting classrooms to the Internet. The report cautions that this massive investment in educational technology, or edtech, may be at risk.

"We've made significant progress in getting computers and the Internet into America's classrooms," said Norris Dickard, Benton Foundation director of public policy and editor of the publication. "However, it's become clear that many schools are not using this new infrastructure to its maximum potential. Schools need well-trained teachers and quality curriculum that takes full advantage of these edtech investments. Yet states are cutting edtech funds, and technology fatigue may be hitting state and local policymakers-just as they are given new authority to transfer federal edtech funds to other uses."

The Sustainability Challenge outlines a number of critical next steps that are needed to sustain America's edtech infrastructure and insure that this investment helps support student achievement. The report offers a "Sustainability Top Ten List" of reforms necessary for insuring that the nation's edtech investments do not go to waste. The list includes:

  • Accelerating teacher professional development

  • Professionalizing technical support

  • Ensuring all Americans have 21st Century Skills and

  • Adopting a new national goal to bridge the home and community digital divides

The report demonstrates school districts that have implemented successful and sustainable edtech strategies have certain elements in common. "In these districts, for example, educational leaders have articulated a clear vision for technology's role in the classroom," Margaret Honey noted. "Their schools offer educators professional development that goes beyond basic skill-building, and is available for teachers when it is most relevant and critical to their teaching." The full report presents these and other key building blocks in a "framework for sustainability."

Highlighting survey data in which tech-savvy students said that most of their computer use and learning took place at home, The Sustainability Challenge also points out the growing need for all students to have home Internet access. The report challenges policymakers to embrace the goal that all students on reduced and free lunch subsidies should have access to a computing device and Internet connection at home.

Benton Foundation President Andrea Taylor asserted, "In this century, having students in homes without a computing device and an Internet connection would be similar to sending some students home in the 20th century without their textbooks, and then expecting them to do as well in the classroom."

The findings in The Sustainability Challenge were based on fieldwork in three midwestern cities and a series of roundtables held in New York, Chicago and Washington, DC. The project was supported with a generous grant from the Joyce Foundation of Chicago and is the third in a series of reports focusing on federal edtech investments.

Since 1981, the Benton Foundation has worked to realize the social benefits made possible by the public interest use of communications. Through its projects, the nonpartisan organization seeks to shape the emerging communications environment in the public interest. The Benton Foundation is located in Washington, DC.
Benton Web site

Read eSchoolNews Online article discussing the new report