The mission to fill schools with computers and wire them to the Net has been pursued aggressively in the past few years by the private sector and the federal government, which has collected billions of dollars for programs such as the "e-rate" to get schools and libraries online.
But the educators on the ground floor have long complained that hardware and modems aren't enough--they need guidance and technical support.
Education Week's September report on schools' use of computers found that 42 percent of the 1,407 teachers it surveyed had six or more hours of lessons in basic computer skills, but just 29 percent received the same amount of instruction on how to incorporate digital content into their lesson plans.
With the help of $344 million of free Microsoft software, Intel has kicked off its Innovation in Education program to show teachers how to do just that.
"Microsoft is proud to work with Intel to expand the opportunities teachers have to learn how to best use technology to improve student learning," Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, said in a statement.
"Intel has a real interest in raising the educational levels across the United States and internationally because we need to hire those people, and in order to use our products and be our customers, people have to be educated," said Wendy Hawkins, manager of Intel's teacher development initiatives.
Intel, which is investing $100 million over the next three years, says it will train 400,000 teachers. Along with Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, the company already has trained 3,200 educators over the past two years to incorporate software and the Net into their existing lesson plans and how to troubleshoot when a computer goes on the fritz.
"The teachers spend the course of the training learning to use the tools to transform that lesson plan so that the student will be using the computer throughout it," Hawkins said. "We have students providing tech support while the teachers are being trained so they get the experience of supporting teachers, and teachers are getting accustomed to the notion that they can take advice from students who can be more tech-savvy."