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									                     Transcript of Dr. Linda G. Roberts’ Speech

Thank you very much. I really am deeply honoured by the invitation from the Central
Policy Unit to come to Hong Kong and to share our experience with technology - we tend
to not say information technology, we just use the shorthand - technology in education in
the United States. And although it has been a very, very brief visit to Hong Kong, I am
particularly delighted that I was able to meet with leaders in both the Central Policy Unit,
in the Education Ministry, and most importantly to me, to be able to visit two schools, and
also to talk to faculty at the two universities.

It is really a very, very interesting time for all of us, and I mean all in terms of the
education communities in virtually every country around the globe. What I want to begin
and say here is that the conversation and the planning and the activities that you are
undertaking in Hong Kong, are exactly the same conversations, the same activities, the
same efforts that are taking place all over the country. And while I never dreamed we
would get this far as we have in the United States, I have to tell you quite frankly that
nobody is an expert in what we are trying to do with technology. We are all still learning
and our understanding of what we are trying to do is still evolving. And I think that is
very important.

And I was reminded this morning as I was talking with one of the teachers from the
school that I visited yesterday who said to me: How long have you been using technology
– computers – in the United States? And I just want to give you a sense of this because I
think it is so important. In 1980 I visited the first schools in the United States who were
using computers - we called them ‘PETS’, ‘Commodore PETS’ and ‘TRS 80s’ – with
keyboards that were so tiny that the students could barely get their fingers on the
keyboards, and we were teaching at that point students what we called computer literacy.
Quite frankly, we did not know what we were doing but we thought it was very important
for students to be exposed to computers and we started to teach them how to programme.
And quite frankly, the reason we taught them how to programme was because that was all
we could do with computers, there wasn’t much else you could do. So in the early 80’s
the focus was on computer literacy.

By the time I finished the first major study for the Congress of the United States on
technology and computer-use in classrooms in 1988, we were already beginning to see
computers as tools in the very subject matter areas: reading and writing and even some
science. But even then, the software and the applications that we had available to schools
were really quite primitive in retrospect. And by the early 90’s we were starting to see an
increasing amount in capabilities in computers, in multimedia, it was no longer a dream it
was a reality, it was something you could really do and you could start to see the powerful
ways that you could represent ideas and concepts whether we were talking about physics
or we were talking about history. And quite frankly, in the early 90’s many of us thought
we had arrived. I am just looking out in the audience and I see a friend of mine, Craig
Blurton who is one of those people that early on in the 90’s I worked with and consulted

And then, lo and behold, the Internet arrived. And what we have seen with the Internet is
probably, I think, the most phenomenal of change and opportunity for education and for
learning. And I am going to come back to this theme again and again because I think that
is where the future really lies. So let me give you a very, very brief overview of some of
the things we have been trying to do in the United States and really focus in on, as my talk
says, learning from our experience.

First of all we are, I think, the leader in terms of having a President who believes that
education, not just technology but education is the key to our future, to our future in a
global information society. And he does not take education lightly. This administration –
and I am very proud to say this because I do work for the President – this administration
has invested more in education than previous administrations that go back some 20 – 30
years and the investment strategy is a strategy that begins with young children and goes
right on through higher education and lifelong learning. And we really, truly believe that
our system must serve all students and that is something that makes our lives very
difficult in education. It would be very easy if we could exclude students who were not
motivated, if we could exclude students who were not well prepared, if we could exclude
students who do not even speak English. But quite frankly, in the United States,
education has to serve all of our citizens.

And to be ready for the 21st century, as this quote from the President makes clear, is that
we do have to think about education in the context of the information and
communications revolution and quite simply, as the President says in his remarks here,
education does depend upon computers and we have to make it a fact of life in every
classroom, in every school, in every community. And to do this, I was very privileged to
be able to lead an effort that quite frankly did not happen overnight and the National Plan
for Technology in Education which is called ‘Getting America’s Students Ready for the
21st Century’ – and if you are interested, the full plan is on our web site www.ed.gov. and
just go to ‘technology’ and you can actually have a copy of the full plan – this was an
effort that took more than a year-and-a-half.

And I think as important as the four goals that we articulate in this national plan is one of
the lessons that I think we have learned from the United States, is that in developing this
plan we did not develop it in our government offices, we went out across the country. We
went to seven different locations – and you know America is a vast, vast territory – we
talked to teachers, we talked to students, we talked to parents, we talked to administrators,
we talked to government leaders, we talked to business people, we talked to companies in
the information technology sector. And it was from those discussions and their
experiences in their own communities that we developed these four technology goals.

And while they are really quite simple: teacher training, modern classroom equipment
for teachers and students in every classroom, every classroom linked to the global
network, to the Internet, and effective software and on-line curricular, while those goals
are relatively simply, they are very, very difficult to accomplish. Because, for example,
we are talking about every teacher, not just one teacher in a school but every teacher in a
school able to use these tools and these resources in their teaching. Not as an add-on, not
as a one-time, one day a week event but literally to bring these resources into the

curriculum and across the curriculum. And I will tell you that the hardest thing to do is
the human connection. That is the difficult thing. It is very easy to go out and buy a
computer. It is very easy to pour wires into classrooms. But the hard part comes when we
have to think about: so what are you going to do with all this technology?

But we have had a number of strategies in the last four years that I think have been
essential in supporting and getting us to reaching the four goals that I just elaborated for
you. By that I mean that while education is a local and state responsibility in the United
States, there are clearly some things that we have been able to do at the federal level that
again I think can be examples of what can happen in Hong Kong and can happen

First of all we have made major changes in our telecommunications law, and I am going
to talk about that. We have established new federal programmes, we have engaged the
private sector, the telephone companies, the computer companies, the software
developers, in an effort to work together because in the United States we call it a win-win
opportunity. The companies win if we create better markets for them. The schools win,
our children win, if we have good, appropriate, effective resources in our classrooms.
And then, again, I want to talk a little bit about just what some of the states and local
schools districts have done. It is very difficult, I should tell you, to give you a sense of all
of this in 25-30 minutes and I hope that there will be lots of questions later as we have a
chance to talk.

First of all I want to talk about the Telecommunications Act. Telecommunications in
most countries has been a regulated monopoly. What that means is that there has really
been very little competition, particularly in the United States, for telecommunications
services. And in the passage of the Act in 1996, one of the key elements in the Act was a
three sentence provision - three sentences; the Act was hundreds of pages long - and this
provision said that schools and libraries in the United States would have affordable access
to telecommunications services.

The second thing the Act said was that we would do something to make sure that access
was universal for schools and libraries. We have always had provision, since the 1930’s,
to make telephone service affordable and available to every household in America. But
the idea that schools and libraries would be able to afford and have this access, have the
Internet come into every classroom, was a major, major change.

And the last thing about these three sentences was the real strong belief that it would
empower schools and communities. So how did we do this? And I will tell you I have
had calls from countries all over the world asking me about the provisions in the Act and
the actual regulatory implementation of those provisions.

First of all, every school and library is eligible for deep discounts or deep subsidies for
telecommunications. The richest schools, the richest communities, get a low subsidy –
about 20%. The poorest schools in the poorest communities get virtually these services
for free because their subsidies are in the order of 90% of the cost. So that is a very, very
important provision. The law provides these discounts be eligible for the monthly

connection, the Internet access and the wiring to the classroom. One of the things that we
have seen is that it is very easy to bring one connection into a school. It is quite another
thing to distribute that connection through a local area network to every classroom. And
we have come to the point in the United States where we really believe that if the
technology is going to be a tool it has to be ubiquitous, it has to be everywhere.

We have also got provision in the law that sets aside up to two and a quarter billion US
dollars annually for these subsidies. And because this has had such broad appeal, my last
point is that the final ruling had very broad based bipartisan support.

In addition to telecommunications policy, the Federal Programme, the programme
sponsored by the Department of Education - which started, by the way, with a budget four
years ago of about $25 million - my technology budget this year is over a half a billion
dollars. And I will tell you something very interesting – I still have the same four people
working for me. So you have to ask yourself how have we used this money? Well, the
answer is we have not built bureaucracy in the Department of Education. Most of the
funding goes out to the four projects that I am describing here.

One is a Challenge Fund to school districts, very competitive, and school districts apply
for money to do research and development in the classroom, across communities, to
demonstrate, for example, how computers and telecommunications can make a difference
in the teaching of mathematics or science or history, or the arts or literature, and we have
had more than a thousand different applications, very serious applications, for this
funding. We now have 62 projects that we have funded and what makes them unique, I
think, in the United States, is that they are real partnerships between a school district,
sometimes a university, oftentimes a company like a telecommunications company or a
software developer, and many times with museums and libraries and other institutions in
the community that can be partners in the effort to improve education.

In addition to which – and I was actually talking about the Challenge Grants just now and
they are up to about $100 million a year - approximately $400 million a year goes to the
Technology Fund which is distributed by formula to the states, all 50 states, who in turn
distribute it in a competition to local school districts. We have regional technology
consortia, we have six of them. Their job is to help planning and teacher-training and
other activities at the local level. And we are about to announce next week a major new
set of teacher-training initiatives that are going to be targeted at teachers who have not yet
left the university. In other words the new teachers that are coming into the field. This is
very important to us because we still find that most of our colleges of education are not
doing a good job in preparing students, preparing new teachers to come into classrooms
where technology is going to be the norm.

We have not only done things at the federal level, we have a great tradition in the United
States of involving volunteers and I know that you have had visitors to Hong Kong who
have been involved with what we call the ‘NetDay’ initiative. And this has largely been a
grassroots activity that is taking place in virtually every state and with no federal or state
dollars, we have been able to wire classrooms in over 250,000 schools in the United
States, with an amazing number of volunteers – about 500,000 volunteers. Now who are

these volunteers? They are mostly people who are very knowledgeable about technology.
They are with hi-tech companies. Many of them are retired telephone service employees
- people who used to be line-installers and electrical technicians – and they have worked
with local school districts in addition to the federal, state and local dollars to invest in

We have had many public/private partnerships. I mentioned the local Innovation
Challenge Grant. Another example is Microsoft and their $10 million effort to put
technology in public libraries, particularly public libraries in poor communities. US West
is a telephone company; their teacher-training support in six states has been very exciting.
Teachers go and spend the summer, learn about technology and when they leave the
workshops they go back to their school with their own lap-top computer and their
personal account to the Internet.

Many of our efforts though, in the United States, have been district level. From an
example in one school district in Manassas County that has on its own invested over $8
million so that in their school every classroom is already connected, every classroom has
a multimedia computer, and literally every teacher in that district has received training.
They are the exception to the rule rather than the norm.

I would like to show you now an example of what happened in one school district in
Olympia, Washington, where literally the students in this district are playing a major role
in implementing the technology. I am just going to show you about five minutes.

(Film shown and transcription is as follows:

Student: Welcome. My name is Abby Carlson. I am a junior here at Castle High School
in Olympia, Washington. In this programme we will discuss the history of the Olympian
school district network, how students are involved with its maintenance, construction and
use, and how we use our network both globally and locally.

Our network began in 1992 with a district technology plan. Using the plan as a guide,
construction of our network began in the summer of 1993 when 20 students, myself
included, got together and built the first five networks in district schools. These students,
called tech TA’s or network navigators are responsible for keeping the network
operational and accessible to all teachers and students in the district. Additionally, these
students are responsible for the training of district staff and students in the use of the
network.. Navigators who now number 120 can be found at every network school.

As technology students we have been given the opportunity to collaborate with the
district teachers in the task of reforming and improving the educational process in our
district through the use of technology.

Student: Hello, my name is Hang.

Student: And my name is Ella.

Student: We are both at the L.P. Brown School. This past year we have taken part in
designing a simulated city. Just like in a real city, networking is used a lot in everyday
activities of our city. All communication is done through Email and databases are used
for record-keeping. This and other information is saved on and accessed from our

Student: In order for our students to participate in our simulated city they must attend an
etiquette class in the use of the Email system and network.. They and their parents then
must sign a district release form which covers the rules and conditions for using the
network. Many classes at L.P. Brown build computer-generated slide-shows. These
slide-shows are stored in various rooms and are accessed by other classes and teachers
over the network. Students create projects in the library on the Power Mac and transfer
them to their classrooms.

Student: Students, in addition, are able to access their files, CD ROMs, applications and
the Laser-writer printer from anywhere in the building.

Student: Hi. My name is Kelsey and I am a seventh grader at Marshall Middle School.
This year we gathered water quality data about the River near our school. We took some
data out of Project Greener in class’s Internet connection to econet. We then received all
the data from other classes along the river and used this information to make inferences
about our local river’s water quality.

Student: I am Josh Lake and I am a seventh grader here at Marshall. I am enrolled in one
of the three telecommunications projects here at Marshall. During the semester we
developed our own world-wide web page. We researched the elements of a good page
and discovered how to insert graphics and sound. We also learned how to make
background from this wonderful class.

Student: Hi. My name is Josan Sweet, I am a senior here at Olympia High School.
Earlier this school year we connected the computer lab to the Internet via 56K link. We
installed in the computer the appropriate software in the work stations and then conducted
several workshops to bring users up to speed on using Email and Internet resources. We
also built one of the area’s first high school home pages and structured it for easy access
by our teachers and students. A friend and I are hoping to market our web page design
skills this summer to businesses who wish to advertise on the Internet.

Student: Hi. My name is Melissa Cummins and I am a third grader at McKenny
Elementary School. Throughout each week me and my classmates, back and forth,
Washington Middle School. We write about our schools, our cities, our hobbies and lots
of other stuff. Washington Middle School students also come over to McKenny to teach
us about netscaping and writing our own home pages. It is really fun learning how the
networks can help me and other kids.

Student: Another asset of our computing network is our file-sharing. File-sharing
enables us to have a folder for each student and teacher for their own personal use. Every
person has their own account and their own password. Using graphics and applications

on the server we create multimedia reports and save them in our folders. Teachers can
correct and we can make presentations on-screen without using paper.

Student: Hi. My name is Beau Davison, I am also a seventh grader here at Marshall.
Earlier this year we had to use the Internet to find information for a social studies project
and a science project based on rivers. We not only searched the world-wide web and the
Internet but we found Email addresses of people in the regions where we were studying. I
personally corresponded with a person from Africa named Charles. He gave me
information about rivers, history, art and conditions in the region south of the Sahara

Student: Hello. My name is Kiroko Kawa.

Student: And my name is Paul Caruso. And we, along with students from Moscow are
here for three weeks to learn from the Olympia district students.

Student: We plan to use the Olympian programme when we return to all our Russian
schools. Now we are making the first Russian school’s home pages and we will continue
to work with our new Olympia friends.

Educator: All of our students at Washington Middle School are involved in various
aspects of networking, including file-sharing, telecommunications and electronic
research, utilizing both CD ROMs as well as the Internet. Through the use of our network
we are changing the way we interact with our students, resulting in a more collaborative
style. Curriculum integration, up to the minute research and communication world-wide
energizes and empowers both our students and faculty. Learning is truly exciting for

(End of film)

I think you can see from that tape just how pervasive technology can be as a resource in
the classroom. And I intentionally showed examples of the use of technology from the
various early grades all the way up through high school because sometimes I think we
make the mistake and think that these resources are only for the most advanced students
and that is just really not the case.

The other thing that I think this tape highlights for us is the way in which these
technologies can have a tremendous impact in the school in the teaching and learning
situation. Yes, first of all there is no question from the data that we have that we can
improve students’ achievements; that we can through motivating and giving them more
opportunities to do research and do writing we can help them advance their skill, and that
is a very important objective to us.

We also know that the technology itself – and unfortunately we did not get far enough
along into the tape – we know that the network that helps students is the network and the
tools that help teachers. And in the United States our teachers have been the most isolated
of all professionals. Think about it. You come into the classroom in the morning, you

close your door, you are there until the end of the day. There is very little time to learn
new ideas, to stay abreast of what is happening in your field, and most importantly to be
energized by your colleagues, not just in your own school but in schools all across the
globe. And what teachers have told me over and over again is that these technologies are
expanding their skills and their knowledge.

Certainly, the technology is there to modernize the school administration and the
management of the school. We tend not to focus on that too much when we talk about
technology in the United States but it is a very important aspect as well. And in some
school districts there really has finally been a way to track and monitor students’ work
more deliberately because of the technology.

I think most importantly for the teachers and the students in Olympia and other places, is
the idea that we can bring new and hopefully better resources into our classrooms. And
those resources range from the scientist in South Africa – Dr Charles Mathius who is
quite an expert in his field – to the kinds of data that can engage students in, for example,
real science. We were talking about studying weather patterns yesterday in the school
that I visited. In the United States there are now many, many classrooms that are engaged
in building their understanding in the sciences by using the data, the actual data that
comes from the weather sources in the United States, using data from the census, using
data from virtually every area in our society.

And finally for us, and this may not be as important, this may be a connection you already
have, but for the United States there has for too long been – how can I say this? – an
alienation between schools and family, between schools and community. And we are
starting to see just simply the opportunity for parents to get on-line and get in touch with
their children’s school and with their children’s teachers and to see firsthand the work that
their students and their whole school and community are doing in ways that are really
quite profound. So this connection to community is a very important one for us as well.

Now I don’t want you to think that every school looks like Olympia, Washington,
because it doesn’t. If it did I could retire. I could be home right now sitting in my garden.
Olympia is the exception. Olympia is where we would like our schools to be headed. But
we have learned a lot in this decade and what we have learned and the hardest lesson of all
– and it is the hardest one to convey to people, especially to school board members in the
United States – is that you are not buying technology, you are buying an educational
vision. You have to be committed to educational objectives and to a really quite profound
change in instruction to take advantage of the powerful uses of these technologies. And
that can be very threatening and very difficult for a lot of people.

We have also learned that one pioneer in a school does not do it. And in fact what
happens is they wear out. They get very tired after two years of doing it all on their own.
And when they leave their efforts are gone and the presence of technology goes. So we
have got to have a critical mass of teachers and classrooms in a school to make a
difference. And again Olympia is such a powerful model because you see the collective
impact of the work from classroom to classroom, from grade level to grade level, from
school to school.

It turns out that this critical mass is very important because one of the most important
things that has to happen is that teachers have to learn to work with each other. It is not
only that they are working with each other but they are strengthening each other, they are
supporting each other in the efforts to use technology. Some people are more adept with
the technology than others and if you have team effort, if you have group effort, you have
the power of the person who has the good ideas but is, pardon me, a clut (that means
clumsy with the technology), working together to do good things for students.

And technology access matters. You know we started with the notion of a computer lab
and I am happy to tell you that in at least half of our schools now we have really moved
away from the lab and we have got half of our schools still with labs and half of our
schools now with distributed technology throughout the school and computers in
classrooms. Access is very important.

And something called technical support is absolutely critical. And what I mean by
technical support is that teachers cannot be expected to be the fixers. When the network
goes down, you have got to have somebody there to bring it back up again. And in the
United States this has required investing in people and a combination, as you saw in
Olympia, of people, professionals and students, who help maintain the network and
maintain the technology.

And finally, this all takes time. This takes a tremendous amount of time. It doesn’t
happen overnight. The Olympia, Washington school district has been involved with
technology for more than a decade, and it shows. And their collective experience over
those years is an invaluable experience for them.

My colleague Chris Dede from George Mason University has also looked at the lessons
learned and looked at it from what I would describe as research in the field in the
literature that has been written, and he has the most compelling way, I think, of describing
what the findings really are. And the first thing he says is that innovation in successful
schools is done – think about it – in chords; not single notes, not simple melodies but
chords. And it is a combination of thinking about instruction, management, the
financing, the internal support, all the things I just talked about, harvesting the best ideas,
assessing progress, looking at content standards and achieving equity. Together they
make the difference.

His second finding from the research – and this comes out in virtually every case study I
have looked at of effective practice in US schools – this is the point I made before: invest
in people. You can’t just invest in the infrastructure. The infrastructure is only half of the
picture, you have to invest in people. In part because in the United States we have
discovered we have to unlearn; not only new learning but unlearn some of our strategies
and some of our expectations for students, and we have to rethink the pedagogy, the
teaching, the organizational structure of our school-day, to make technology work well in
the classroom.

A third finding that Chris talks about is the importance of assessing what you accomplish.

And he looked at the kind of evidence that we can collect. And by the way, all too often
in the United States we do not spend enough time on this. We are so busy doing, we are
so busy installing the network or getting the next round of technology in a school or
training the next group of teachers that we do not take the time to very deliberately assess
where we are and to really understand our accomplishments.

So we have got to assess things like motivation and content and what new content student
are learning, and whether or not there is an application to workplace skills. We think
there is but we have got to know that. And whether or not we are in fact reaching all
students. I will tell you, by the way, that our greatest success with technology is an untold
story in the United States and it deals with the resources we have been able to provide to
students with physical and cognitive handicaps. Our special education students have
been the greatest beneficiaries of educational technology in the United States. But we
want to reach all students and we certainly know that we have got to find better tests and
better rubrics to measure academic progress.

Another finding, and this is no surprise to anybody who has been involved in this, is the
scaling-up - going from an Olympia, Washington to every school district in the United
States, or going from one school in a district to every school in the district, is the hardest
thing to do. And really we are still at the stage of learning how to do that. We can do
exemplary projects, we can do demonstrations - and by the way, demonstrations are very
important – but we have got to figure out better how we go from these models, these
islands of excellence, and make this happen in every school, in every district in every part
of the country.

We have made a lot of progress. I just want you to see this because remember what I said
about the Internet, this has been the most phenomenal growth that we have ever seen: the
doubling in every size school, in every part of the country; we have created many
different forms of learning and interactive communities. One of my favourites is
something called ‘The Math Forum’ – it is on-line – and ‘Ask Dr Math’. Mathematics is
a very tough subject for many of our students in the United States and we have an
example of how we can share good resources, good teaching resources, with students,
with teachers all across the countries.

When the Vice-President first talked about the Information Superhighway he talked about
the idea that the Library of Congress with its vast resources, its vast cultural resources for
the nation, would be available for students all across America. And what we have seen in
a very brief period of time is that when we can get some of these resources on-line, that
we significantly really, truly increase access to rare and incredibly important resources.

In this case we are looking at pictures from the Civil War – rare photographs and footage
and documents from the Civil War – one of the most troubled periods of American
history. And if we were still relying on visits to the Library of Congress and pulling the
material off in physical visits, we would not be making much progress. But because we
were able to go on-line, because these resources are increasingly becoming available
electronically, we are up to the million of hits and access. To me, this is what the
information revolution is really about.

But the remaining real, I think, challenge for us in the United States – and I think this is a
challenge globally – is the fact that all the trend lines still show us that the information
rich – the rich are getting rich and the poor are getting poorer. That the disparity between
who has technology, particularly in the home, is growing not lessening. And even with
the lower cost of technology – and maybe it will change as it really becomes a matter of a
few dollars to get these resources, particularly, again through telecommunications to the
home, we are talking about a very different distribution mechanism. But this is what
drives us in the United States to make all of our schools equal and to level the playing
field when it comes to technology.

And as our Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, has said over and over again, our
strategy is to make sure that these vast resources do not become the new fault-line in
dividing the have and the have-nots in American Education.

Thank you very much.


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