State schools Superintendent Tom Luna has opened the first meeting of his “Students Come First” Technology Task Force this morning with a speech calling on Idaho to become a “global leader” in education, saying, “Our economic competition is global and it's focused and it's fierce and unrelenting.” He said, “The fact is that everyone in the world wants our jobs, and for the first time ever they have the means to take them.” Jobs will go “where the educated workforce is,” he said. “Intellectual capacity is the currency of the 21st century, and other countries have figured this out.”
Luna said the answer is “a comprehensive and systemic change” to Idaho's education system, focusing on technology and online learning. “We have to transform every classroom in Idaho. Some are already on the way there,” he said. “This square peg will no longer fit in this round hole no matter how hard we pound on it. … We have to bring 21st century technology and all that it makes possible into every classroom.” He said that's the key to making sure all students have up-to-date educational opportunity, no matter where they live, and despite the state's budget crunch. “Do we wait for the economy to improve, do we wait for increased revenues? We can't,” he said. “We have to be willing to spend the money that we know we have differently in order to give every student equal educational opportunity.”
The 39-member task force will come up with recommendations to the 2012 Legislature on how to implement Luna's program to bring all Idaho's high schools up to a “one-to-one” ratio of mobile computing devices to students in five years, “not just some but all,” Luna said. “This device becomes the textbook for every class, it becomes the word processor,” the calculator, and the tool for myriad other uses. “It's the portal to a world of … knowledge … for every student.” You can watch the meeting live online here.