States Experiment with Variety of Technology in Schools and Classrooms Legislators and Educators Are Investing in Programs That Use Computers, Video, and Interactive TV Series: Second of Three-Part Series. Part 1, an Overview of How Technology Is Reshaping Education, Appeared on Oct. 17
Keith Henderson, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
TECHNOLOGY is moving into America's classrooms at an unsteady pace as states adopt a patchwork of new programs. In some cases, strong leadership or innovative funding is bringing changes to schools in areas rarely considered technological or economic hotbeds.
In West Virginia, Gov. Gaston Caperton (D) has pushed for the use of technology in education throughout his six years in office. So far, 12,000 computer work stations have been installed in elementary schools, and this fall the state teamed with Bell Atlantic to begin a program called "World School," designed to eventually give its public schools access to the Internet.
"From kindergarten, every student learns to read, write, and do arithmetic on a computer," says Governor Caperton, touting his state's technological advances.
West Virginia's program is being paid for with proceeds from the state lottery, plus donations of time and equipment from companies like Bell Atlantic.
While other states are experimenting with different programs, funding methods vary. In Iowa, for example, Gov. Terry Branstad (R) persuaded the Legislature five years ago to finance a new fiber-optic system for education and other services.
The state has a long involvement with "distance learning," which connects teachers and students through telecommunications. So far, only 50 high schools are hooked up to the new fiber-optic network, but the state has negotiated contracts to expand that to 500 schools - both secondary and elementary.
Missouri, on the other hand, has made strides in equipping its schools with satellite hookups and other technological infrastructure. Its main source of funding has been a tax on video cassette rentals.
Meanwhile, Texas has for a number of years included in its annual education budget $30 per pupil for technology. The money goes in a variety of directions: professional development for teachers who use computers in their classrooms, special software projects (such as programs aimed at English-as-a-second-language students), and the statewide telecommunications network, which has 35,000 teachers on-line on a regular basis. Local school districts also receive funding for new equipment.
A major new impetus for states hoping to wire their classrooms comes from the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, says Frank Withrow, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. Signed last March by President Clinton, the act provides grant money to states that draw up plans for integrating technology into their schools. Most states are busily devising such plans, which include "a variety of funding mechanisms," Mr. Withrow says.
Georgia is another state that allocates lottery income to technology for education, to the tune of about $90 million a year, Withrow says. The state has a satellite network connecting 200 "distance learning sites." North Carolina's Legislature has earmarked sizable amounts - $42 million this year - for computer and telecommunications capabilities in its schools. Adding to the list of states is Kentucky, which is recognized as a leader in education reform and technology.
Another source of funding, Withrow says, are certain "overcharges" that result when telephone companies charge the public higher rates than state public-utility commissions ultimately allow. …