Microsoft Grant to Support Technology Training for Teachers on Navajo Reservation

PHOENIX, Aug. 4, 1999 — As the principal at Sanders Middle School on the Navajo Reservation in Sanders, Ariz., Ed Burgoyne was thrilled to learn that Microsoft had matched the U.S. Department of Education’s support for a plan to train teachers, administrators, and parents to expand the use of information technology in Navajo classrooms.

“Our kids already love the technology,”
Burgoyne said.
“Last year, several students used PowerPoint for presentations; some downloaded pictures off the Internet; one teacher had her students investigate other countries on the Internet so that they could write travel brochures. But the problem is teacher training. It takes a lot of time to learn a new program. Many teachers have had to learn applications on their own time. The Microsoft grant will give teachers the time to sit down and understand the technology so that they can bring different programs into the classroom.”

As part of its ongoing commitment to help teachers use the latest technology to enhance learning, Microsoft has contributed software and training resources worth more than $1.2 million to four professional teacher-training centers run by the Navajo Education Technology Consortium (NETC), and to 50 schools throughout 12 Navajo school districts in Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Utah. The grant will support the professional development of teachers, and give teachers and students better access to more technology in their classrooms.

Arizona Governor Jane Hull presented the Microsoft grant at the State Capitol building. The ceremony held special meaning for Hull, who has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and began her career as a teacher at a Navajo Reservation school in Chinle, Ariz. Since taking office in 1997, Governor Hull has made improving the education of Arizona’s children a primary goal for her administration.

“Computers, software and the Internet open new worlds for children, allowing them to learn and explore in new and exciting ways. However, it takes trained, talented teachers to really enrich their experiences using technology as a learning tool,” Hull said. “Microsoft understands the importance of teacher training and the power of public and private partnerships. Their matching grant allows the district to not only have the technology, but also the critical training resources they need to successfully implement a program that truly benefits the students.”

At the ceremony, a “sister school” relationship between Sanders Middle School and Esparanza School in Phoenix also was announced. The schools will create Web sites that will allow them to establish cross-cultural relationships over the Internet.

A 1999 U.S. Department of Education study reported that only one in five teachers say they feel prepared to teach in a modern classroom with technology. A 1999 report by the CEO Forum on Education and Technology concluded that most teachers do not feel comfortable using technology in the classroom and that spending on professional development is inadequate: for every $88 spent on software, hardware and wiring in U.S. schools, only $6 is devoted to teacher training.

State governments across the country are addressing the challenge of technology training for teachers by providing resources, creating legislation and devoting funds to professional development. For example, legislators in Utah created the
“Flexibility with Technology Money Act”
to allow school districts to design and fund individual training programs with their shares of more than $70 million devoted to school technology in the state. While progress has been made, many teachers are still looking for the training opportunities and resources that will help them develop the skills to make technology a part of daily activities in their classrooms.

Providing teachers access to technology training opportunities can be especially important in rural Native American communities, because schools are often the only opportunity some students have to use technology and access information resources. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Native Americans rank far below most other Americans in their access to telephones, computers, and the Internet. Rural Native American households’ access to computers (26.8 percent) is lower than that of Americans overall (42.1 percent). But while Native Americans may have limited access to computers at home, the Commerce Department also reports that community centers and K-12 schools are helping to bridge the “digital divide” by providing entire Native American communities access to the Internet and other information technologies.

Microsoft’s contribution to the NETC’s Education Technology Improvement Plan project will complement a five-year, $7.6 million national Technology Innovation Challenge Grant awarded earlier this year to the NETC by the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement makes challenge grants for technology in education to consortia made up of one or more school districts in high-poverty areas for the purpose of expanding and improving new applications of technology.

“At Microsoft, we believe that great teachers are the key to the successful use of technology in the classroom,”
said Marcia Kuszmaul, Microsoft Education Group, K-12 programs.
“We are committed to providing educators with the necessary tools and training resources to help them develop strategies and curricula that use technology in support of instruction.”

The NETC plans to use a
“train the teacher”
approach, in which a select group of staff and parents will be trained at four training centers and then sent back to their schools to train other teachers. The NETC currently serves 2,750 teachers and 45,000 students on the Navajo Reservation.

Teachers will be taught the best ways to implement standards-based instructional technology in the classroom. The training will be augmented by a free Web site that will allow wide distribution of these professional training techniques to other teachers across the Southwest.

To date, Microsoft has supported the training of more than one million teachers worldwide, through support of 1,100 teacher-training sites at colleges, state departments of education and summer institutes, as well as a wide variety of online training resources. In 1998, Microsoft also contributed to the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ 4Directions Project, joining industry and government leaders to support a community-based education program that uses technology to improve students’ math and science proficiency to prepare them for 21 st century careers. The 4Directions Project serves 38 Native American schools and more than 10,000 students from tribal communities in New Mexico, Arizona, South Dakota and Mississippi.

To support the NETC initiative, Microsoft will donate 30 licenses of each of the following software titles to each of 50 school sites: Microsoft Office, Microsoft BackOffice Server, Microsoft FrontPage and Microsoft Encarta Deluxe.

“The teachers will have access to the latest technology for their own training at the four labs, and they will also have the technology available for teaching students at their home schools,”
said Larry Shaw, project director for the NETC’s Education Technology Improvement Plan.
“We have many teachers who have received the first level of Integrated Technology Training who are eager to have the software in their classrooms so that they can continue to train their students and other teachers in how to effectively integrate technology into their lessons.”

“Technology infrastructure at the nation’s Indian reservations has long been neglected,”
Shaw said.
“The grants from Microsoft and from the Department of Education will go a long way towards ensuring that our students and teachers are on a level playing field in terms of access to technology and the training necessary to advance themselves academically and professionally.”

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