Dr. Lane's Testimony Before the Senate
on S.B. 1822, the 1994 Communications Act
I speak today on behalf of the United States
Distance Learning Association and its members in K-12, higher
education, and corporate training.
My name is Carla Lane. I hold one of the
few doctoral degrees in distance education. It was awarded by
the University of Missouri - St. Louis. I co-authored a textbook
on distance learning. I am a faculty member of the University
of Phoenix Online Division and California State University -
Hayward. I am the project director of the Distance Learning Resource
Network, a Star Schools dissemination project, and the evaluator
of the TEAMS Star Schools project produced by the Los Angeles
County Office of Education. I am a distance education researcher
at Far West Laboratory in San Francisco, one of the regional
educational laboratories of the United States Department of Education,
Office of Educational Research and Improvement. I am the co-executive
director of The Education Coalition which has affiliates in 17
states and links schools of education to provide pre-service
I work with faculty, students and administrators
at state departments of education, schools of education, school
districts, telephone companies and suppliers of equipment used
in educational telecommunication.
In Goals 2000, we address the need for
equitable access to information for all learners. You know the
metaphor of providing an on-ramp to the information highway for
school buses. You know that our natural resources are the same
as other countries. The only thing that will set us apart in
the global market is the ingenuity of our workforce gained through
an educational system that provides the tools for learning.
In the past we provided buildings, teachers,
black-boards, chalk and books. Now we must add daily access to
information for all learners.
These are major demands. If they are not
met, the prediction is that we will create a new third world
country called the United States. In the U.S., education has
always been a third world country. When universal access was
provided in the 1934 Communications Act, the only place that
did not get access was the classroom. S.1822 can change that
if media connections are provided in all classrooms for voice,
data and video. This is the only way to provide equitable access
to information for all learners. Learners need access to resources
that can be provided through telephone, cable, satellite, public
broadcasting, wireless, commercial online services, Internet
and any other technology. Learners need access whether they are
in school, work or home.
Providing one education cable drop and
education rates for telephone service is a beginning...but it
will not provide equitable access for all learners. We need more
if we are to educate employees of the information age.
Let me share some of the things I have
seen in the schools.
Most schools are not wired for telephone,
cable or television access. Most schools have only two to four
telephone lines. One line is usually reserved for emergencies.
Teachers must go to the school office to call parents. They do
not have privacy. All of the teachers in the school share the
same phone lines with the principal, office staff, and school
Many schools have computer labs but do
not have computer modems to access information. Students go there
several hours a week but may spend as little as ten minutes a
week working on the computer. Computer labs do not enable integration
of technology with curricula. They do not develop information
gathering skills, or the application of newly found information
to problems on which the children are working in class.
Most schools do not have a satellite dish
or access to programming through a satellite dish. A cable company
may provide a cable drop and one channel for educational use,
but the school has to wire the building, buy the equipment and
buy or produce the programming. In a K-12 district, available
programming overlaps for the age groups. Few get the programming
that they want - even on tape. With limited funds, schools can
usually get the cable signal to one classroom which they call
a resource classroom. All of the classes at the school take turns
using the room - usually only six classes per day can use the
I have never been in a K-12 classroom that
had a computer, a modem and telephone line. My own distance learning
classroom at CSU has this equipment - but it is the only classroom
on an urban campus that services over 20,000 students. The classroom
does not belong to the school of education. I have all of this
equipment in my own home in order to work with my University
of Phoenix Online classes for students throughout the U.S.
Teachers do not have training in the use
of information technologies. Funding is still limited to provide
Telecommunications operators seldom provide
the training that is needed. Most states do not require information
technology courses for students graduating from schools of education.
Several require one three hour course.
In K-12 schools that receive Star Schools
program, many do not have a satellite dish. Students view the
programs on the cable access channel, public television station,
or on tape. The Star Schools programs are meant to be interactive,
but most schools cannot afford the telephone line. Some teachers
provide interaction by taking students to the phone - in the
principal's office. Some teachers provide interaction by fax
with the television teacher. Most schools do not have a fax machine.
One teacher gives the fax to her husband who drops it off at
the high school where there is a fax machine.
In research on the TEAMS Star Schools Project,
I have identified a new model of teacher re-education. The research
shows that teachers who watch a television teacher are presented
with a role model for the new instructional methods. After using
the programs for three years, the teachers report that they have
changed their instructional methods so that children construct
their own knowledge and become self-directed learners.
What would help?
To make the benefits of distance learning
available, all classrooms must have access to information technologies
- voice, data, and video - as part of a network. Just as we believe
that libraries should be open to the public so that everyone
can share the information, we must extend the same provision
to all information providers - whether it is on a telephone line,
coaxial cable, fiber optic cable, satellite, wireless or broadcast.
Low educational rates should be available
from all telecommunications entities which come under the jurisdiction
of the FCC. Specifically, there should be lower educational rates
for cable, telephone, satellite, broadcast, commercial on-line
services, Internet and provisions for future information providers.
In order to compete we must build an educational system to match
the needs of the information age. Being successful in the global
economy is clearly linked to a strong education system. The critical
natural resources of the information age are knowing how to learn,
and access to education .... which includes access to information.
Because of this, it is imperative that
we provide equitable access to all learners. If universal access
is to mean equitable access for learners, then the 1994 Communications
Act must state this and provide methods by which it can be implemented.
Providing one line to a school is not enough. Providing ten lines
to a school with 600 students is not enough. If we were expected
to share access to information with 60 other people, I doubt
that much work would get done. The same goes for children. Their
job is to learn. Most new and exciting learning resources that
inspire and motivate them to construct their own knowledge and
prepare them to work in the future are available through learning
technologies. They can't do the work of childhood - they can't
learn - without access to information. The same is true for adults.
Distance learning facilitates high performance
education by encouraging new instructional techniques and by
allowing electronic access to information from any location.
It is a driving force in the restructuring efforts of American
education. The restructured school must bring these resources
to the classroom and substantially supplement or replace the
dated, non-interactive material used today if we are to implement
Goals 2000. Working and learning are becoming synonymous. The
work world for which students are being prepared requires learners
who know how to learn and construct knowledge. These learners
will become continuous lifelong learners. The real superhighway,
is the highway of the mind.
In the 1934 legislation that S.B.1822 seeks
to amend, access was provided to everyone - except the students
and faculty in their classrooms. Please include us this time
or we may have to live without it another 60 years. Thank you."