- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2009

Improved technology in classrooms will enhance the education of a computer-savvy generation, says Maryellen Brogan, a technology resource specialist for Cecil County Public Schools in Maryland.

“Lots of everyday technology that kids are using at home have to be in the classroom,” said Ms. Brogan. “Kids need to be producers, not just consumers of content. That’s kind of what [educational technology] is all about. We want kids to problem solve, produce, manipulate and learn.”

Ms. Brogan was one of 500 educators and advocates who stormed Capitol Hill last month lobbying for increased funds for educational technology. Wearing identical blue T-shirts with “Invest in 21st Century Learning” printed on the front, the participants visited 90 Senate offices and more than 200 House offices to talk about the importance of educational technology.

The Storm the Hill event on June 30 was part of the four-day National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) sponsored by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

“They brought their stories and passions and were able to share, at the local level, the importance of investing in classroom technology and modern digital tools for teachers and learning,” said Hilary Goldmann, director of government affairs for ISTE.

“The participants were very energized. For a number of them, it was their first time doing something like this. We prepared them and told them they needed to tell their stories, and they came away engaged and empowered and felt the staff listened to them. They were enthusiastic that they took part in the American experience, bringing their message to Capitol Hill.”

Educators and members of Congress, she said, specifically discussed the Enhancing Education Through Technology State Program (Ed-Tech), which strives to improve student achievement through the use of technology in elementary and secondary schools. Additionally, the participants discussed hopes that a program will be designed to prepare new teachers for digital-age learning and help them integrate technology into the classroom.

“[A digital-age learners program is] a program to ensure that our new teachers have the skills to integrate technology into the classroom,” said Ms. Goldmann. “It would provide funding to colleges of education, teaching teachers coming up, so that they have experience with technology before they arrive in the classroom. There is no federal funding for a program like that at all.”

Ninety-seven percent of high school students use computers, as do 80 percent of those in kindergarten, according to a 2003 release by the National Center for Education Statistics. Additionally, the percentage of children with access to a computer at home rose from 15 percent in 1984 to 76 percent in 2003, according to the Child Trends Data Bank.

Ms. Brogan, who was one of the team leaders for Maryland while visiting the Capitol, said, “The most powerful part is the contacts you make and to let people know that you want them to come see you and show them the successes you’ve had.”

However, Ms. Brogan said she realizes that asking for money in a struggling economy is never easy.

“We all understand it’s a tight budget year and there are priorities, but we can’t forget about the need for education to continue. It’s hard to ask for money when you know there isn’t a lot, but it’s still very important.”

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