Dr. Lane's Testimony Before the Senate Committee
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 and in-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 nurse.

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 room.

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 this.

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."