Educational Partnerships: The Utah Education Technology Initiative

Article excerpt

Collaborative relationships involving government and education, business and education, and higher education and local school districts dramatically increased during the 1980s. Termed "partnerships," they addressed various issues affecting education, with technology as the subject of considerable attention. The state of Utah's Educational Technology Initiative (ETI) is one example of how a partnership can make inroads in a complex educational system. This undertaking has had a substantial impact on promoting the productive use of technology among 40 school districts enrolling 454,218 students, grades K-12.

*Laying the Groundwork

Utah's Education Technology Initiative (ETI) is a four-year venture (1990-1994) funded by a partnership involving state government, public schools, colleges of education and private businesses. Its mission is to enhance the teaching/learning process and to empower students to become literature, self-directed learners, problem solvers and productive members of a technologically oriented society. House Bill 468, passed by the 1990 Utah legislature, provided a $15 million appropriation to implement ETI. The bill stipulated that the initiative was to:

* assist school districts and colleges of education in implementing educational technology programs;

* require commitments from school districts, hardware and software computer vendors, and the business community to help underwrite the initiative; and

* establish a technology initiative steering committee and project office.

An "ETI Technology Conference and Vendor Fair" was sponsored by the Utah State Office of Education, May 14-16, 1990 for the purposes of outlining the intent of the initiative to the "partners" and to permit public and higher education personnel to view available technology. Breakout sessions, sponsored by school personnel and vendors, were held each day demonstrating how technology can enhance learning. Sessions included "Laser Videodisc Instruction" and the "Thinking Skills Lab," which focused on using Macintosh Plus computers to teach high school students higher-order thinking skills.

Total funds projected for the four-year project are estimated at $220 million, of which technology vendors would contribute $100 million, state government $60 million, and businesses $40 million. The Utah Partnership for Education and Economic Development volunteered to raise the latter sum from businesses. One prominent vendor committed grants valued at $13 million in the form of personal computers, advanced workstations and software.

School districts and colleges of education also must invest in the initiative: they are required to match ETI funds received on a one-to-three basis with their own locally generated funds or through in-kind services such as planning and inservice training. At the end of the 1990/91 school year, the combination of ETI and matching funds contributed by Utah's 40 school districts equalled approximately $63 for each student.

Participating computer vendors are required to prepare a list of offerings available to support the instructional purposes of the initiative. Further, the products are required to have an instructional emphasis, include a well-developed training component for educators and be capable of statewide implementation. The vendors must offer deeper-than-normal discounts and provide a donation in funding or services as well.

*Objectives and Funding

ETI has both short-term and long-term objectives. Examples of short-term objectives to be reached within the four-year funding period are: 1) teachers and students will have greater access to technology resources; 2) the quality of technology inservice and preservice teacher-training programs will be strengthened; 3) student competencies in math and reading will be increased; and 4) the resources of the government, education, and private-business partnerships will stimulate quality education for schools through technology. …