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Money, Redesign Likely Themes at Rural Ed Tech Summit

Expect some tension around the issue of federal funding for technology when educators and administrators from rural school districts and top Obama education officials converge Wednesday for a summit on using technology in rural schools.

More than 100 educators and administrators from rural school districts in at least 24 states are expected for the day-long National Rural Education Technology Summit, which will kick off with a question-and-answer session with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Other sessions include a look at how select rural states are currently using technology, and a panel discussion on "The Future of Learning," featuring the president of the Florida Virtual School and a vice president for education with PBS.

"Much of the discussion and examples offered will be intended to focus on the need to redesign education to leverage technology innovations to overcome distance and increase access to high-quality teaching and learning for rural schools," said John White, deputy secretary for rural outreach for the Education Department.

Ian Quillen, a writer for Education Week Digital Directions, will be reporting from the summit for the Digital Education blog. The Rural Education blog will follow up on any interesting developments.

States expected to be represented at the summit include Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Maine, Vermont, New York, North Carolina, and Florida.

Expect to hear some recurring themes from the administration:

  • The National Education Technology Plan works for all schools.

  • The plan is not so much about technology as it is about thinking differently about teaching and learning.

Expect to hear recurring themes from rural educators, as well:

  • The NETP makes no provision for funding the measures it recommends to schools.

  • Wide disparities in technology and funding for technology exist in many states, with rural schools on the short end.

The online responses to the NETP on ED.gov reflect those tensions. Check out this comment from Stephen Lien, a math teacher and technology coordinator in the Laporte School District in Laporte, Minn. Here's an excerpt:

"There is absolutely no mention of how this plan is to be funded. As a technology coordinator for a rural K-12 school with a weak tax base located in a state writing IOUs to schools, we really have no finances to allocate for a plan of this magnitude. The federal government continues to order us to do more, and do it with less."
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