The project, funded with a $1 million grant from the University of Phoenix and sponsored by a coalition of non-profits, will give teachers a platform to share their experiences with technology and seek guidance from other educators throughout the U.S., said its director, Eileen Kean, who is also a principal in the Washington-based education-issues lobbying group The McGuffey Project, one of the network's sponsors.
Some 6,000 teachers are already signed up as members of the network thanks to pre-launch word-of-mouth among teachers' groups, and organizers hope it will attract 100,000 members by year's end, Kean said.
The network will offer sample curricula for grammar school and high school teachers, along with access to telephone support for general technology questions. It will also provide online discussion groups for teachers based on grade level and subjects taught, and broken down by geographical region, she said.
Plans are in the works for the network to offer real-time Web-based discussions with well-known education experts, Kean added. Members will be encouraged to post information about their own classroom technology projects, and to share reviews of educational software programs.
Teachers sign up for the free membership on the group's Web site and then receive passwords allowing them to connect to the intranet network.
Organizers believe the network will help teachers educate themselves about how the Internet works and about the software tools available for classroom use, explained Bonnie Bracey, director of education networks at The McGuffey Project.
"The Internet lets us connect the students directly to the experts. Technology now is part of our learning landscape," Bracey said. "But the teachers need to be trained before they can make the best use of technology in the classroom."
Teachers joining the network make a commitment to building their own technology expertise, sharing their findings with colleagues, using their newfound knowledge in the classroom, and working to implement technology throughout their school districts, Kean said.
Other sponsors of the project include the National School Boards Association, the National Education Association, the International Society for Technology in Education, the Software Publishers Association, and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
The announcement came on Day 2 of the SchoolTech event, a three-day conference for K-12 teachers and administrators. Technology companies exhibiting at the event include Apple Computer, Cabletron, Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.