WASHINGTON – Computers in classrooms are not enough if teachers are not properly trained to use them, a Montgomery County school official told a congressional subcommittee Wednesday.
Elizabeth Glowa, director of the Instructional Technology Support Team for Montgomery County schools, said that teacher training must be “continuous, integrated with the school district” and offered in the context of the curriculum in order to work.
She was one of four witnesses testifying before the Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science on the availability and quality of technology in schools. They said that schools must receive support from the public and private sector and that teachers must get the proper training if technology is to work in the classroom.
“Preparing the roughly 3 million teachers at work in our public schools to use technology in the classroom is not a spending priority today, but it should be,” said Washington Post President Alan Spoon, a member of the CEO Forum.
“These teachers are responsible for equipping today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce,” said Spoon. “In fact, 60 percent of the jobs available at the beginning of the next century will require skills currently held by only 20 percent of the workforce.”
The CEO Forum is sponsoring a series of reports that examine how schools are incorporating technology into their curriculum. The first report, published in 1997, found that most schools lacked the hardware and connections needed for effective teaching and that spending on technology training was inadequate.
Those problems remain, the subcommittee was told Wednesday.
Schools in East Hartford, Conn., have integrated technology into their curriculum, but they need more funding, said James Fallon, superintendent of that school district.
“By earmarking federal monies to focus specifically on the provision of information technology in all schools, Congress is addressing a major fault line in American society,” Fallon said.
Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda, warned about the dangers of not providing proper technology training for teachers.
“Used incorrectly, technology can become a very expensive babysitter, providing little benefit while stripping school districts of scarce resources,” said Morella, the subcommittee chairwoman.
In February, she introduced the Teacher Technology Training Act, which would require that states incorporate technology into teacher training and curriculum. The bill is still pending in the House.
Glowa has helped Montgomery County integrate technology into the classroom through the school system’s Global Access Project, an initiative to provide training, curriculum revision and computer equipment into each classroom.
She said there are a variety of ways to make sure that teachers use available technology appropriately: Montgomery County uses 17 methods, including multimedia interactive training materials, teleconferencing and online tutorials and courses.
The county has also collaborated with the private sector, higher education institutions and government agencies, Glowa said.
“This partnership has been based upon mutual recognition that each member brings something useful to the partnership, and that the partnership builds upon and extends the expertise of each institution,” she said in a prepared statement.