Panel promotes Web in education

Web-Based Education Commission final report

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A bipartisan education commission issued a final report Tuesday calling on President-elect George W. Bush and Congress to increase broadband access to schools and take other steps to make the Internet a more prominent tool in classrooms.

The Web-based Education Commission also called for providing technology training and support for educators, developing quality online content and applications for learning and removing regulatory barriers that "block full access to online learning resources," according to the report.

The commission was led by retiring Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) and was made up of 15 others, including members of Congress, education experts and high-technology industry representatives.

"The issue before us now is how to make good on the Internet's power for learning and how to move from promise to practice," the 168-page report stated.

Satellites in place by 2005 could provide much of the broadband access that rural America needs and could do it at less expense than by wiring communities, said Rep. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the commission's vice chairman, speaking at a press conference announcing the release of the report.

Technology gaps between industry and schools could make it hard for students to adapt to the private sector's needs, the commission found. Companies spend up to $5,500 in technology and support per worker, but schools spend only $200 per student, according to the commission.

Kerrey said the commission did not make a resolution on how much funding the government should provide to put its recommendations into place. "It's going to take money to do it," and that likely will come in the form of public/private partnerships, he said.

Kerrey lauded the recently awarded Army University Access Online project as an example of how technology can be used to increase access to and the quality of education. The $453 million initiative is designed to provide soldiers with access to education anywhere in the world to work toward degrees or technical certificates.

The commission's report is based on the testimony of thousands of witnesses involved in education, technology and publishing, including parents, teachers, principals, researchers and government officials.

"Citizens put in a lot of their time and came up with something practical," said Patricia Schroeder, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Publishers Inc.

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