George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

Leave No Child Without Technology: America’s Effort to Close Digital Divide Stalls

August 24, 2006

I have been working in educational technology for a long time. I was a teacher who discovered the magic of using technology, and so please know my stance is not political -- unless you think only in red and blue.

However, over the last two years I have been tossing and turning about what is going on, or not going on, in educational technology in the United States. Because I'm actively involved in the work of other countries aspiring to use educational technology, I can see that the rest of the world is serious about education and the use of information and communication technologies.

I participated in the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force meeting, held in Dublin, Ireland, in April 2005. At that meeting, different uses of technology were showcased. Educational technology is part of the broader United Nations development agenda. Other countries are looking to expand educational technology initiatives because they consider education (and technology in a digital world) to be the cornerstone of sustainable economic development. (You may be interested in the report that came out of the meeting: "UN ICT Task Force Series 9: Harnessing the Potential of ICT for Education -- A Multistakeholder Approach.")

Here in the United States, the story appears to be different. What's going on? I think this article, "A Nation Left Behind on Ed Tech?" in the eSchool News, covers it pretty well. Read it for yourself, but these are just a few salient points made in Robert Brumfield's article:

"As lawmakers in the United States continue to scale back funding for educational technology -- Congress is considering eliminating funding for the Enhancing Education Through Technology block grant program, the single largest source of technology-specific funding for schools in the federal budget -- education officials in other countries, including Britain and Mexico, are pouring more dollars into school-technology programs, gearing up to prepare students for the global economy."

"July 14, 2006 -- In Britain, it's estimated that half of all classrooms will be outfitted with interactive electronic whiteboards by the end of this year. In Mexico, every fifth- and sixth-grade classroom is expected to have a computer, a printer, an interactive whiteboard, and a projector by November.

"And here in the United States, Congress is poised to eliminate millions of dollars in federal ed-tech funding at the request of the president. While Bush administration officials claim that classroom technology already has been sufficiently funded, other countries -- including Mexico, Britain, and Australia -- are moving forward with ambitious ed-tech programs of their own, with clear, innovative, and measured plans to bring sound ed-tech infrastructure to every classroom nationwide."

What is going on, and why? What makes the administration think that classroom technology has already been sufficiently funded, and why such an attack on the few remaining resources that teachers have, after the No Teacher Left Behind Act has gutted most of the available funding for schools?

The fact that there is still a campaign to gut the E-rate ought to create lots of letter writing and community campaigns, but so far, whoever our lobbyists are, we need to fire them and do our own writing. In my wildest dreams, this is what happens: The children we brag about who are so net-savvy write and make their own case for more technology. I don't think lobbyists have the power of the kids.

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