By Dr. Sylvia Charp Editor-in Chief Many conferences and meetings on the use of technology in education and training have been held the part few months. I have been fortunate to have attended and participated in number. The still most frequently used "buzzwords" at these gatherings remain the Internet, distance learning, NII and multimedia. The Internet Interest in the Internet is growing at a rapid pace. Once predominately used by the research community, increasing numbers of universities and school systems are now on the Internet to access often previously unavailable information. Educators believe use of the Internet provides students with educational advantages well worth the costs involved, which are in many cases minor. Further, many states are developing plans to give access to all students. Educational institutions are accessing Internet resources and logging into remote hosts for e-mail and bulletin boards, databases of lesson plans, etc. Students are sharing concerns on global issues and learning about other cultures. However, concern still exists on whether participation will be open and general or restricted to a small number of users. Distance Education Distance education is most frequently defined as an instructional activity in which the learner and instructor are physically separated. Some of the programs currently available include undergraduate and graduate courses, degree programs, continuing education, staff development, inservice programs, curriculum-enrichment programs, "virtual field trips" and adult education classes. The following criteria were frequently recommended: Well-defined requirements via needs analysis; Proper technical environment: reliable equipment and well-designed facilities; Instructor training; Instructional design: proper preparation of materials and visuals; Administration considerations: scheduling, coordination with remote sites, technical support and program evaluation; and Students that are prepared for distance learning. The NII In September, 1993 the National Information Infrastructure (NII) Agenda was released. Transparent to the end user, the NII is intended to be a collection of interconnected and interactive communication networks. The ultimate goal of NII is to link people, homes, educational institutions, libraries, hospitals, etc., wherever they are and with whatever communication form (voice, video, data) is chosen. As stated by J. Galbreath, of AT&T, in Englewood, Colo., the NII is made up of four elements seamlessly integrated: Computing and information alliances consisting of computers, telephones, TV sets, fax machines, etc. Computing networks, which include local area networks, cellular carriers, broadcast/cable, TV, long distance phone networks, etc. Information and computing resources, which are databases and applications offered by information providers, ranging from online databases to floppy disks and CD-ROMs used by PCs. Skilled, well-trained human resources who introduce, transmit, access and handle information. Multimedia The search for good multimedia software for learning is ongoing. A number of activities can be noted: A database is being provided to teachers by the newly formed State Consortium for Improving Software (SCISS). The database, The Educational Software Selector (TESS), is maintained and distributed by the Educational Products Information Exchange (EPIE) Institute, of Hampton Bay, N.Y. It contains information on programs for all levels -- pre-school, K-12 and college -- from approximately 1,000 publishers. Involved states include Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. California's Department of Education, Florida's Department of Education and the Texas Education Agency have joined to co-develop a multimedia curriculum-based learning package for the Limited English Proficient (LEP) student population. Partially funded through state grants, the program is scheduled for completion in 1995. Statewide contracts for software have been initiated. In Florida, courseware titles are nominated and reviewed by a statewide task force of instructional courseware experts. Florida has also entered into joint ventures with private corporations to develop instructional technology resources to meet identified educational needs. More assistance is being provided to university personnel who wish to develop their own software. For example, a Faculty Multimedia Development Center has been established at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, to encourage and support faculty interested in developing and integrating materials into their courses for delivery over the campus network. Following are some general observations on software and courseware: Multimedia systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated and some excellent content material is available. Multimedia curriculum-based software must be simple to use, flexible, not overly complex, compatible and not cost prohibitive. As more multimedia applications become available, their access over networks needs to be addressed. For example, traditional file handling methods and storage devices are ill-equipped for managing multimedia. Developing quality software is critical to the successful implementation of the NII in education. In order to develop software that supports our National Education Goals and new curriculum standards, financial incentives like low-interest loans and seed money have been suggested. Teaching strategies will also need to change. Issues of proper utilization are to be addressed at all levels of education; pre-service and inservice education must continue.
This article originally appeared in the 08/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.