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HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin Announces Hearings on Education Technology

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“Technology can change the field of education in previously unimagined ways, but it also brings about its own set of challenges”

On Digital Learning Day, February 1, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced that the HELP Committee will hold a series of hearings on education technology beginning this spring.

“Technology can change the field of education in previously unimagined ways, but it also brings about its own set of challenges,” Harkin wrote in a post on the Alliance for Excellent Education’s “High School Soup” blog. “It is more than a new way to present information, and policymakers must support teachers to help schools address barriers to technological changes.”

Some of the barriers Harkin listed were insufficient broadband, lack of teacher training, and inadequate funding. “At a time when many state budgets are strapped, investing in programs and training in order to meet the needs of all students, as well as coordinating investments across the elementary, secondary, postsecondary, and career education systems, is challenging but necessary.”

Harkin noted that the HELP Committee has worked to address these challenges through a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Specifically, the committee passed a bill to revamp NCLB that includes an amendment introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) that, if enacted, would reauthorize and update the Achieving Through Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) Act to help ensure that all students are technologically literate and ready for the demands of the twenty-first-century economy.

In his blog post, Harkin said the HELP Committee’s hearings would “explore how schools are taking advantage of the opportunities technology provides for our students.” He said the committee would explore topics such as blended and online learning, assistive technology, and the importance of professional development. The goal of the hearings is to engage policymakers and the public in a discussion to deepen the understanding of technology’s potential to help students succeed.

Harkin invited the public to post suggestions for education technology topics or programs that the HELP Committee should examine in hearings on his Facebook page or via Twitter at @SenatorHarkin using hashtag #edtechhearing. For more details on the upcoming hearings, visit http://www.help.senate.gov.

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