Innovative Learning Environments

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Educational institutions are dealing with the explosive growth of networking while trying to simplify business processes and reduce the overhead associated with administrative costs. Proper use of network-related technology is touted to be able to deliver timely, accurate and essential information where, when and to whom needed. 

Innovative Learning Environments

Integrating technology into teaching and learning, the use of innovative learning systems and the "reimaging of public education" are some directions in technology in education. Other trends can be noted. Those include:

  • Most schools have acquired computer hardware and software. However the Gardner Group, a research firm, maintains only 21% of technology funds go into actual purchase of hardware and software. The rest is attributed to labor costs including administration and support.
  • Schools are being changed from sites with a limited number of computers to fully networked facilities.
  • Our federal government has taken a keen interest in keeping students up to date in computer technology.
  • Many educational institutions are providing opportunities for distance learning, linking schools to each other and to the country's best educational resources.
  • Many more schools are cited as being innovative and winning prizes.
  • Studies point to benefits when students and teachers use new computer-based technology and information networks.

More Than Products Are Needed 

Though technological triumphs have been noted, thinking about the educational process has to precede use of the technology. A clear set of educational priorities must be selected. We have overlooked obvious facts, such as:

  • Promoting high technology will not help if American schools are in physical  disrepair.
  • Teachers must be better prepared.
  • Recurring costs such as equipment, software and support must not be overlooked.
  • We need a new vision for technology and a vital new curriculum that includes education for all children.
  • Corporate leaders are willing to assist but need direction.

Many Options, But One Core 

"Innovative" learning systems have proliferated. They are defined in various ways and have different roles in education. The fundamental ingredient is the computer. 

Raymond W. Smith, Chairman and CEO of Bell Atlantic Corp., in his comments at EDUCOM in Philadelphia in October answered the following question: "What would you tell a young person, let's say a 12-year old, about education?"  Smith responded: "Get a computer immediately. You are already five years behind if you don't have a computer and are not online... If you are not on a computer by the age of eight, you will be tremendously disadvantaged.

"This is the new core competency, an absolute requirement. A minimum level online connection to servers and the Internet, with a computer in the home and in the school, is the minimum we should have for each child. These are the pencils and papers of today and every school in this country should have those 'pencils and paper.'... I think it is criminal that we don't give all students everywhere in this country the basic educational tools to compete."

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.

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