Rohatyn Brings Technology to Schools
years ago, in response to a growing concern that students in affluent
schools had greater access to technology than those in less affluent
neighborhoods, Elizabeth Rohatyn, along with a group of former
teachers, founded Teaching Matters, a nonprofit organization devoted
to promoting excellence in teaching and learning through the use
of technology in the classroom.
did not want the technology gap to become a skills gap and then
a more or less permanent achievement gap,” she said. “The idea
first occurred to me when my husband Felix and I were participating
in the “I Have a Dream Foundation” founded by Eugene Lang. I wanted
to go beyond that. I wanted to touch children’s lives, to be hands-on.
I felt that it was no longer enough to make charitable donations,
no matter how generous they might be.”
Of course, there have been a number of other organizations devoted
to the same cause, but Teaching Matters’ low-keyed yet persistent
approach makes a difference. “First of all, we don’t go into schools
telling them what they should do,” Rohatyn said. “We go into schools
and ask them ‘What do you need? How can we help you?’ We assess
the school, its needs, and the teachers’ level of computer use.
And then we go to work.”
Teaching Matters believes that the best way to prepare children
for success in the Information Age is to prepare the educators.
“The fact is, that some teachers are hungry for the help,” Rohatyn
said. “Others are not, but are willing to learn. And still others
are not at all willing but are eventually kind of dragged along
into the 21st century in spite of themselves.”
Teaching Matters holds extensive workshops to help teachers understand
how technology works, and how they can best use that technology
in the classroom to help their students. “The difference is that
we stay with the teachers following our workshops,” Rohatyn
said. “We go into the school, we follow up, we do complete re-training
if necessary. We understand quite profoundly how difficult the
absorption of all this new information can be, especially after
a full workday.”
Teaching Matters constantly works on updating and customizing
its materials to respond to particular needs. “To be optimally
effective, we must be flexible,” said Rohatyn. “So we always adjust
our model.” There is also an online learning component, with a
prominent teacher from Arizona providing up-close guidance.
To date, Teaching Matters has provided professional development
training for teachers and principals in over 500 public schools
in New York City and around the country. In spite of its imaginative
platform, dare-to-be different approach, and notable success,
some changes appear to be inevitable in the near future.
concerned about the upcoming budget cuts in education,” Rohatyn
said. “I want to get out of the discretionary budget for schools,
which are always the first to go. I intend to move more into the
funded area, acquire grants, build partnerships, perhaps even
form a consortium with similar organizations. I fell that there’s
room for all of our ideas. And what we do is just too important;
this may be the only way for us to survive and thrive.”#
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