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Technology in Learning

In a DOE Challenge 2000 grant, Barbara Means and her colleagues at SRI (from policy click on Ed&Human Services and Center for Technology in Learning) cited vital implementation principles for the role of technology in facilitating school reform:

  1. Time must be devoted to developing a unifying vision;
  2. Good curricular content must precede technology design;
  3. Technology should be used across subject matters and classrooms;
  4. Adequate technology access is needed for all students;
  5. Easily accessible technical support is critical;
  6. Teachers need time to learn to use technology and to incorporate it into their curricular goals;
  7. The project must provide opportunities for teachers to collaborate with peers;
  8. The system should provide rewards and recognition for exemplary technology-supported activities; and
  9. Technology has its greatest impacts when placed in the hands of students.

Although the benefits of computer technology for students have been touted widely in spite of thin evaluations, Means et al conducted a very comprehensive study over a range of projects. Teachers reported that technology enhanced their efforts by:

  1. adding to the students'perception that their work is authentic and important;
  2. increasing the complexity with which students can deal successfully;
  3. dramatically enhancing student motivation and self-esteem;
  4. making obvious the need for longer blocks of time for projects;
  5. creating a multiplicity of roles, leading to student specialization in different aspects of technology use;
  6. instigating greater collaboration with students helping peers and sometimes their teachers; and
  7. giving teachers additional impetus to take on a coaching and advisory role.

The Department of Education has recently added several documents to its library with the latest findings from studies of professional development. It includes an interesting survey which can be used to assess reform and professional development in any school.

The Franklin Institute, home of the Science Learning Network--partnerships between schools and museums--has just brought its evaluation studies online. Fascinating. Since this is one of the few ongoing studies about the impact of multiple agencies on professional development, the case studies are well worth reading to avoid known pitfalls and to build strong networks.

The 21st Century organization, hosted by Netcom, an IPS, is sponsored by the NEA,AFT, PTA, and CSSO among other national organizations. Its goal is to help teachers and schools in an environment of reform towards integrating technology into schools.

The National Science Foundation is sponsoring Technology Enhanced Learning in Science, a large-scale collaborative effort involving high schools and colleges and universities. It supports applied research, conducts internships for graduate students, and online and traditional curricular resources. One other component is the Education Accelerator, developed by the Concord Consortium; it uses software tools and simulations to teach critical concepts in math and science. Many of the more innovative and thoughtful researchers in this field are involved so the outcomes will be high quality.

Pew Internet offers thoughtful reports, online presentations and latest findings about the impact of the Internet on American life.

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The SRI findings were culled from several studies across school contexts. Telecommunication projects, in particular, match these principles (with the exception of (8), applicable to all substantial reform efforts). Similarly, professional development activities can be guided by these principles. Interestingly, several recent capsule summaries (from independent research threads) suggest that reform occurs when student learning is changed across subjects and throughout the school day. A splatter here and there produces no sustaining impact.

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