SOUTH PORTLAND, MAINE
Every school in Maine has Internet access. But the wiring and equipment don't do much good when few teachers know how to use it in the classroom.
Only 15 percent of the money American schools spend on technology goes toward training. That figure is far less than the two-thirds experts say it should receive.
And nationwide, only 15 percent of teachers have received as much as nine hours of training in educational technology, according to the Educational Testing Service.
An effort to close that gap is about to begin in Maine, where 600 teachers will receive training in Internet teaching strategies. The move is part of a $2.5 million campaign sponsored by National Semiconductor, a California-based computer-chip manufacturer.
The company announced the three-year education program, called Global Connections, last week. In addition to educators in Maine, the program will train 5,400 teachers in Texas and California. But even so, Global Connections will only scratch the surface for Maine's 20,000 teachers.
Janet Harmon has spent the last two years instructing Maine teachers in Internet basics. "The teachers were like, 'Now we know how to do this. What do we do with it?' " says Ms. Harmon, who will serve as an Internet trainer in the Global Connections program. "This takes them to the next step."
Teachers who enroll in the program will learn how to make the Internet relevant to subjects they teach and how to do online research and publishing projects. They also will discuss Internet ethics, legalities, and potential dangers.
"The Internet by itself, if we put it into the classroom, might be dangerous," says Brian Halla, chairman and chief executive officer of National Semiconductor. "That's why we need training."
During a two-day course, small groups will gain hands-on experience in how to use the Internet in class. Any teacher in Maine, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, may apply for the program.
"If you have wires and boxes and training, the next thing you have is an education explosion," says Gov. Angus King.
Organizers hope teachers who participate will work to educate their peers about fusing the Internet and education.
Cathy Wolinsky, a Global Connections instructor, says, "This is very much not meant to be a 'one-shot and we're gone' kind of thing."