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Partnering Between Education and Technology

When Marty Smith graduated the University of Washington Law School in 1981 and went to work for the law firm that would eventually become Preston, Gates & Ellis, a company in Redmond known as Microsoft had around 100 employees. “It was a fairly small client that took very little time,” he recalls. But when the PC from IBM burst on the scene and launched MS-DOS that year, it simultaneoulsy propelled Microsoft in a much different direction than its basic language and programming work. The opportunity arose at the firm for people who understood technology to help Microsoft open up their foreign subsidiaries, handle their foreign licensing and OEM, and other deals as they began to grow. Marty spent the next five years doing a phenomenal amount of the international work for Microsoft. In ’92, Preston, Gates & Ellis created the Technology and Intellectual Property Department with Marty as its chairperson. He continued as chair until 1998. While continuing to remain abreast of the key legal issues shaping the future of technology and the Internet, Marty has turned a good deal of his attention to the impact of technology on education in Washington state. He shared a few minutes with us to explain “the state of the state” and some of the exciting dvelopments that are underway.

Seattle24x7: What is your current involvement with Washington state technology initiatives?
Smith: I’m the volunteer chair of the Technology Alliance’s Education Task Force. That role has led to a couple of different projects. The first one was a Commission established by the Tech Alliance, Governor Locke and Superintendent Terry Bergeson to look at how Washington state was utilizing technology in K-12 education to improve student learning. We started with 35 people on the panel, conducted a slew of background research and then nine months into the process held a Leadership Day where the governor and key members of the state legislatures, as well as teachers and superintendents from around the state, came together. We took their input and distilled it down to “The State of the State” report of October 1998, and it has served as a benchmark for where the state is, and where it needs to go with respect to technology in the classrooms.

Seattle24x7: What is the state-of-the-state, relatively speaking?
Smith: There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that the state was very far-sighted with respect to building what is known as the K-20 Educational Network. The K-20 Network is a dedicated network that connects all the state’s higher educational institutions, be it the University of Washington or Washington State, along with other four-year institutions such as Central or Western, as well as the community colleges, then connecting all those schools with K-12 schools.|

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It doesn’t necessarily mean at the K-12 level that there’s an Internet drop in every classroom, but every single school district has a very big broadband pipe, a minimum of a T-1, that they can plug into. That gives them high-speed Internet connectivity and data transfers, and it also sets up, on a separate and dedicated side, videoconferencing for distance learning. There are other states, Illinois, Kentucky and others, that have built, or are starting to build, similar networks, but the building of that network really gave Washington state a leg up.

Seattle24x7: That would seem to be a fairly high priority of our region.
Smith: Right. The presence of so many technology companies and the fact that 40% of the state’s economy is now dependent upon technology for employment is a large influence. It has led to a populace interested in tech, and employers that are requiring technology skills in high-school and college graduates. So in that regard, we are doing fairly well.

Seattle24x7: You were recently appointed by the governor to the K-20 Network Oversight Board. What do you see as the mission of the Network moving forward?
Smith: Besides maintaining and expanding the network, its mission is to encourage usage in a way that maximizes the value of the network, to look at ways that unique and creative content can be shared collectively across the state, so that , for example, school districts may be able to purchase statewide licenses and have that spread across the state via the K-20 Network.

There are also proposals that are going to be considered this year to hook up all the private higher-educational institutions: the Whitman Colleges, the U.P.S.’s, the Whitworth, the Gonzagas, all those schools. And there is also a proposal to hook up all of the state’s community libraries to the K-20 network. That would give every single library in every city the ability to have broadband access using the K-20 Network.

Seattle24x7: Does this activity coincide with the advent of Internet II?
Smith: It does. There are discussions under way about whether the K-20 network in Washington state will hook into Internet II when the Gigapop (100-times the current “pipe size”) is placed over at the University of Washington. The UW currently serves as the Network Operating Center for the K-20 Network.