Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton told a crowd at a technology in education forum hosted Monday night in Grainger Hall new technologies are completely essential to education.

“This 21st Century Collaboration is so incredibly important in relation to where we are going in Wisconsin and how we can jump-start and kick forward a real transformation of the way we educate our children,” Lawton said.

The 21st Century Classrooms Collaboration: Best Practices in Technology and Literacy Sharing Seminar was hosted by the philanthropic, non-profit organization the Morgridge Family Foundation, which is based in Colorado.

Lawton, currently a Democratic candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial race, has had numerous involvements in the arts and education, including helping to found the Greater Green Bay Area Community Foundation, serving on the board for the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Foundation and serving on the National Leadership Council for the American Association of Colleges and Universities, said Julie Underwood, dean of the University of Wisconsin School of Education.

“Certainly [as a member of the National Leadership Council,] she played a national role in highlighting the importance of higher education in terms of economic development, in terms of development of the arts and certainly in terms of an individual’s development throughout their life,” Underwood said.

Lawton said the grant package presented by the MFF is an extension of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery’s partnership with the Morgridge Institute for Research and said the public-private institute collaboration was unprecedented.

“In the way that [their] research is being done, the humanities and arts and sciences are coming together,” Lawton said. “I have often said [you have to take] science, technology, engineering and math … and stick the arts in the middle, and then you have steam.”

Lawton added it is important for the arts to be included in education to foster creativity, and it is sad the arts get “pushed around” so often.

Carrie Morgridge said she and her husband founded MFF this year to provide even more funding to educational projects than they have through other organizations.

“We have gone from giving away $10,000 grants to giving away — I would call them mega-gifts,” Morgridge said.

Morgridge also highlighted how social networking media has outgrown its “fad” label and said the possibilities offered through that media will help American students to form ties with other students abroad.

Gregory Anderson, dean at the Morgridge College of Education at University of Denver, talked about technology and innovation in higher education, citing examples at his university.

He said the goals of their program include recognizing everyone has the potential for a high level of achievement and that technology is rapidly becoming paramount in the global economy.