Resources for School Technology

Published in SEDL Letter Volume IX, Number 4, November 1996, Technology Comes to School

Research-based information you can use when planning and implementing educational technology

Teachers Share Tales of Internet Encounters to Promote Inquiry Among Peers
Hampered by meager resources and lacking funding for field trips, eighth grade teacher Linda Maston struggled to interest her students in science. With just one old computer, a modem, and a phone line, she and her students were able to participate in Global Lab, an international network of schools conducting joint scientific and environmental investigations. Maston relates her experience in one of a collection of nine teacher-written accounts of using the Internet in K-12 mathematics and science education.

Using e-mail to exchange air-quality measurements with students from other schools, Maston and her students discovered that carbon dioxide levels in their school were abnormally high. Consulting experts, again by e-mail, students then determined causes and possible solutions to this problem.

"Communication with a worldwide peer group was crucial-it made the problem real and important," Maston notes. "[Students] found they could make contributions to the global scientific community. Our lack of resources didn't hold them back."

Colorfully illustrated firsthand accounts reveal the Internet's potential to enhance instruction and professional growth. Recounting both successes and dilemmas, the narratives also show educators how to anticipate the challenges and limitations of this new technology.

"Teachers' stories are compelling, not only because they share experiences, but because they generate inquiry. A well-told story reminds us of our own experiences, encouraging us to reinterpret them from another perspective," write researchers from the book's publisher, WestEd Eisenhower Regional Consortium for Science and Mathematics Education.

Each account is followed by a "Questions and Issues" section designed to foster discussion of instructional practice. More than 50 annotated resources provide descriptions and contacts for Internet-related education projects, organizations, and Web sites.

Tales from the Electronic Frontier is available from:
WestEd
730 Harrison St.
San Francisco, CA 94107-1242
Cite title, 84 pp., $9.50 plus tax, shipping, and handling. For an order form or discount information, contact Sally King by phone (415/546-6481), fax (415/241-2746), or e-mail (tales@WestEd.org).


Resources for Rural Educators Offer Assistance in Technology, Curriculum, and Partnership-Building
Like other schools, rural schools often need help in bringing technology into their classrooms. Rural educators need answers to questions such as, Where do I find resources? How do I get technical assistance? and How do I select the right technology?

A catalog from the National Network of Regional Educational Laboratories helps rural educators answer these questions and more. It lists more than 250 laboratory technology-related publications, model programs, services, and training programs. Each entry described in the catalog was either designed especially for rural schools or tested in rural schools.

In addition to resources on technology, it describes materials on increasing the overall effectiveness of rural schools; finding and integrating curriculum resources; developing school and community partnerships; identifying and preparing leaders; and achieving equity, self-sufficiency, and sustainability.

Pulling Together: R&D Resources for Rural Schools is available from each of the regional educational laboratories. To order a copy from the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, contact:
SEDL Publications
211 E. Seventh St.
Austin, TX 78701-3253
Cite title, 150 pp., $10.00 plus $2.50 shipping and handling, prepaid; make checks payable to "SEDL."


Education Policymakers Help Bring Technology to Classrooms
Educational policymakers are working to bring into the classroom educational technology that can prepare students for work in tomorrow's world, finds an issue of Policy Briefs from the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL). Author Dennis Gooler summarizes what each of the seven states in NCREL's region is doing to create an infrastructure for technology in its schools. The brief describes each state's local and state efforts, financial commitment, key groups in educational technology, levels of educational equity among their districts, and educational technology needs. For instance:

 

  • Illinois set aside funds to purchase a state license for communications software that allows all school districts to communicate via telephone lines with the State Board of Education and with each other.

     

     

  • Iowa passed legislation establishing an educational technology consortium whose ultimate goal is to develop a plan providing a computer for every teacher and student in the state, for both school and home use.

     

     

  • Ohio provides funds for its poorest districts to compete for grants that can help them implement technology programs, enabling students to take courses their home district does not offer.

 

Gooler also lists some difficulties that policymakers may face when developing and implementing technology plans. For instance, should there be special rates for educational use of expensive technology such as fiber optics for two-way interactive television? How can poorer, smaller, and more isolated school districts gain equal access to telecommunications systems? The brief concludes with a summary of how recent federal legislative initiatives are likely to affect educational technology.

Policy Briefs "Toward a Technology Infrastructure for Education: Policy Perspectives I" is available from:
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory
1900 Spring Rd. Suite 300
Oak Brook, IL 60521-1480
Cite order no. PB-3-94, 31 pp., free of charge.


Report Presents Methods for Evaluating the Learning Value of Educational Technologies
Selecting technology that enhances student learning is a daunting task for even the most savvy school decision maker. Mistakes are costly, not only in dollars but in student learning.

A publication from the Council for Educational Development and Research helps educators evaluate the effectiveness of various technologies against a backdrop of the newest research on learning.

"We believe that technology that does not advance students' learning has little value in the classroom. Technology used in conjunction with the most recent research and development findings on learning, however, can help all students achieve in school," say the report's authors.

The report points out that some technologies clearly engage students at a higher level of learning than others. Such learning involves "more student interaction, more connections among schools, more collaboration among teachers and students, more involvement of teachers as facilitators, and more emphasis on technology as a tool for learning."

The report identifies indicators of effective learning and instruction and the features of technology that promote them. Using these indicators, educators can rate how well a technology performs in a classroom.

Among the report's policy recommendations is that schools must, from the outset, apply technology to connect with other schools and resources. Doing so opens a world of new opportunities and resources to schools and students. The report includes a pullout section of worksheets, charts, and graphs that educators can use to evaluate an individual technology's effectiveness as well as the success of a school's current and future technology in promoting student learning.

Plugging In: Choosing and Using Educational Technology is available from:
Council for Educational Development and Research
2000 L Street, NW, Suite 601
Washington, DC 20036
Cite title, 46 pp., $5 prepaid; make checks payable to "CEDaR."


Most Teachers Say They Require More Training to Use Technology in Class
Most teachers feel they require more training to use technology in their classrooms, and many fail to see how technology can make their jobs easier, says a report from the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).

Without proper training or an understanding of how to use technologies in their own classrooms, teachers are unlikely to use technology to its full potential. Furthermore, teachers who receive inservice technology training are more likely to use computers to stimulate students' higher-order thinking skills and creativity than teachers who have not received such training, says the report.

A national survey of school district technology coordinators showed that schools spend on average approximately 55 percent of their total technology budget on hardware, 30 percent on software, and only 15 percent on teacher training. What's more, teachers complained that the limited training they do receive often focuses too much on the mechanics of operating a technology rather than on how they can use it to teach.

To improve teacher technology training, policymakers could increase expenditures on technology and professional development and establish priorities or bonus points for technology and professional development in competitive grants, OTA recommends. Teacher colleges and school districts could focus on integrating technology into preservice and inservice professional development while ensuring that teachers receive ongoing technology training and support.

OTA also recommends that researchers explore whether and how specific technologies work for teachers, develop new and powerful instructional technologies, and use technology to get research findings to classrooms where teachers can use them.

Teachers and Technology: Making the Connection is available free of charge on the Internet at http://www.wws.princeton.edu/~ota/.


It's Unclear Whether Schools Will Use Computers in the Most Effective Ways
Schools nationwide added one million computers last year, so that one computer is now available for every eight students, according to some estimates. Acknowledging this positive trend, reporters from National Public Radio caution, "The question today is not, Will schools deploy the new information technology? The question is, Will they deploy it in effective ways?" NPR's series on computers and education is available on audiotape from the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory.

When used to their potential, computers can foster authentic interdisciplinary learning. In the Shoreline School District in Washington state, Lorraine Higgins' fifth and sixth grade classes produced a bicyclers' guide to the Seattle area. Students learned about the history and geography of the region, calculated calories burned and riding times for beginning and expert riders, created maps of routes, and wrote accompanying text, all on computer.

To North Carolina teacher Becky Kirkendall, "The computer is a toolS(like a good book, a piece of chalk, or an overhead projector" that reinforces the content of lessons, NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports.

Integrating computers into the curriculum in this way remains the ideal; it is not always a reality. Reporter John McChesney notes that in one study 54 percent of schools reported keeping computers in labs rather than in classrooms, mostly because there weren't enough to go around. Unfortunately, computer lab settings reinforce using computers outside more direct learning contexts.

"Even though this new technology clearly offers great promise for education, finding the resources and the wisdom to use it effectively will not be an easy task," maintains McChesney. He asserts that educating teachers in computer use is a must.

The audiotape's companion resource booklet features annotations of articles, books, videos, and magazines on education and technology plus descriptions of national technology programs.

Urban Audio Journal: Computers and Education and Integrating Technology and Education: A Resource Booklet are available from:
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory
1900 Spring Rd., Suite 300
Oak Brook, IL 60521-1480
Cite order no. UAJ-2-95, audiotape 50 min. and booklet 46 pp., $19.95 prepaid; booklet only, cite order no. UAJ-2B-95, $9.95 prepaid. Quantities of both items are limited.


Add Reading and Writing of Electronic Texts to Literacy Instruction
As computers become more and more a part of everyday life, educators ought to expand literacy education to include electronic literacy, says David Reinking in a report from the National Reading Research Center.

Reinking defines electronic literacy as the ability to read and write computer-based texts. Electronic texts allow users to interact with what they read; users can instantly access word definitions, get additional information on a topic in the text, move from place to place within the text, and search the text for specific words or topics. Because of these features, educators can use electronic texts to teach literacy in new and more effective ways, says Reinking.

Reinking found that students reading computer-based texts investigate more word definitions, recall the definitions of more words, and comprehend more of the text than students reading traditional printed texts. Other studies have shown that children's reading fluency improved and that students are more apt to focus on the meaning of the text when reading electronic texts, says Reinking.

Using electronic texts to teach literacy will require that educators consider how they integrate these texts into classroom teaching. Reinking suggests that instruction in electronic literacy meet four criteria:

 

  • They should relate to print-based literacy in meaningful ways.

     

     

  • They should involve meaningful and authentic tasks.

     

     

  • They should engage teachers and students in higher levels of thinking.

     

     

  • They should allow students and teachers to develop strategies for reading and writing electronic texts.

 

Reinking points out that electronic texts will probably not replace printed material anytime soon and should not be taught in place of printed texts. Rather, educators should use them as tools for enhancing literacy teaching and learning.

Electronic Literacy is available from:
National Reading Research Center, University of Georgia
318 Aderhold Hall
Athens, GA 30602
Cite "Perspectives in Reading Research, No. 4," 17 pp., $4 prepaid.


Students Master Essential Skills When Using the Internet to Learn
Most classes at Madison Middle School 2000 don't use textbooks anymore. Since educators at this Wisconsin school realize that printed texts aren't always up-to-date, they have students research school assignments on the Internet.

A videotape produced by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory illustrates how Madison and several other schools and classrooms are using the Internet. It also discusses how schools can establish an Internet educational program.

The Internet's value lies not only in the breadth of its resources but also in the skills students gain while learning to access and use information and in the enthusiasm students, educators, and collaborating professionals share when using it.

Students at Kelly High School in inner city Chicago maintain ongoing discussions with scientists at Argonne National Laboratory, part of the US Department of Energy, thanks to Internet access. Kelly High students and teachers participate in the "Ask a Scientist" program, in which they ask a science question and receive a response from the working scientists.

Together with professionals at AT&T, Kelly High students also used the Internet to research a real-world problem: how to design a wireless communications system. Students communicated with AT&T staff predominantly through the Internet and through other electronic methods.

The video provides tips for good staff development to ensure that teachers help students use the technology meaningfully. It also describes different types of Internet systems and the computer capabilities required for each.

Learning with Technology: Merging onto the Information Highway is available from:
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory
1900 Spring Rd., Suite 300
Oak Brook, IL 60521-1480
Cite order no. MIH-V-GBK-95, videotape 1 hr. and viewer guide 28 pp., $39.95 prepaid.


Current Multimedia Programs Don't Capitalize on Potential for Response-Based Learning
Commercially available multimedia educational programs fall short of their potential to promote response-based literature learning, according to a review published by the National Research Center on Literature Teaching and Learning.

Despite respectable ratings in areas such as content clarity and technical quality, the majority of the programs were judged as adequate or poor in response-based considerations, i.e., whether a program supported varied interpretations and represented knowledge as evolving, and how much student interaction it allowed.

Many simply provided students with quick access to singular definitions and background information, and some had note-taking capabilities. But often student interaction seemed limited to "electronic page turning," and many elementary programs were little more than "talking books," said researchers Karen Swan and Carla Meskill. Few encouraged on-line student comments, questions, or answers, say the researchers.

Response-based literature learning-an alternative to "scientific reasoning" that champions objective, singular interpretations of texts-allows for literary understanding based on personal meanings and reflection. Although both approaches are recognized as important in developing critical-thinking skills, traditional literature curricula have relied on text-based, scientific pedagogies.

Researchers Swan and Meskill studied 45 multimedia literature applications available for elementary and high school classrooms and found that most simply reflected the standard instructional practices found in American schools. This is despite the materials' multimedia capabilities, where literary works are available in at least one nontext medium other than simple graphics.

Nevertheless, the researchers see promise for the future if appropriate features of these applications are made accessible.

Multimedia and Response-Based Literature Teaching and Learning: A Critical Review of Commercial Applications is available from:
National Research Center on Literature Teaching and Learning, University at Albany, State University of New York
1400 Washington Ave.
Albany, NY 12222
Cite Report Series No. 2.23, 24 pp., $5 prepaid; make checks payable to "The Research Foundation at SUNY."


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