Michigan teachers can tap tech

Teachers in Michigan public schools soon could start to reap the benefits of a $110-million program to provide them with personal computers and related services.

The Teacher Technology Initiative is designed to deliver resources to support teaching, learning, professional development and communication. The computers will enable teachers to provide lesson plans online, access chat rooms to share best teaching practices and correspond through e-mail with parents about their child's progress.

State officials late last month approved five vendors — Apple Computer Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., Gateway Inc. and IBM Corp. — from whom school districts can lease or buy laptop and desktop computers.

Depending on when school districts complete the application, computers could be delivered as early as February, state officials said.

School districts can receive up to $1,200 for each eligible educator to cover the cost of computers, software, remote Internet access and Web-based professional development.

The computers will be loaned to teachers for three years. School districts will decide at that point whether to continue loaning equipment or use it for other purposes. Dial-up Internet access for teachers at home will be covered for one year.

"This is [a one-time] investment to kind of prime the pump," said Jamey Fitzpatrick, vice president for development and education policy at Michigan Virtual University, which is administering the program.

"It's important for individual teachers to have access and connectivity at school and at home. In the future, they themselves or school districts will have to look at providing a more long-term, permanent solution," he said.

The initiative, which was approved in July, also covers other technology needs. Individual schools may apply for improvements such as instructional software, online information services, scanners, printers, data projectors, digital cameras or network infrastructure.

Interested teachers must sign up for the program by June 2001. Teachers can take free basic computer and Internet classes through MVU during the next 18 months to strengthen their technological competence.

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