With the National Educational Computing Conference taking place in the nation's capital, there was a rare chance for hundreds of enthusiastic educators to make their presence, and their demands for ed-tech-friendly policies, known to members of Congress and their staffs.
A caravan of buses dropped the large group of ed-tech advocates off on Capitol Hill well-prepared to school lawmakers on the challenges they face in trying to integrate technology and make learning more relevant and engaging for today's digital natives.
The educators were lobbying for a restoration of the federal education technology funding in the next budget, as well as ongoing support for the e-rate program and the Preparing Teachers to be Digital Learners program.
"With this event being in Washington, it's a great opportunity when we have our legislators all in one place to get our message to them," said Terri Besnahan, director of technology for the Addison School District #4 in Illinois. "If we're all delivering the same message, we have power in numbers and unity."
Bresnahan and the corps of about 20 Illinois educators, all dressed in royal blue conference t-shirts, held meetings with their Senators and Representatives, or their staffers, to brief them about the potential for using technology to transform classrooms. Without funding, they said, all students will not have access to the tools they need to build knowledge and skills essential to success in the global workforce.
"Schools may be connected to the Internet, but because we don't have the right equipment and the right training, we can't use the technology tools that we need to improve teaching and learning," Henry Thiele, the technology director in the 7,000-student Maine Township School District 207 in Park Ridge, Ill., told staff members of in Sen. Roland Burris', D-Ill.
Ford Porter, a legislative correspondent, told the group that education is one of Sen. Burris' top priorities, but that the topic is being overshadowed by the high interest among lawmakers over the nation's health care crisis.
The teachers and administrators relayed tales of outdated computers and a lack of professional development opportunities geared toward the effective use of technology in the classroom.
"These are very, very real problems, and for the most part they are fixable," Porter told the group. "We just gotta go out and find the funding."