Use of Information Technology in education is gaining irreversible momentum as it cuts across disciplines and enhances learning opportunities for all ages. Through telecommunications, collaboration and sharing of ideas and information are encouraged.
New opportunities for learning in environments such as those provided by Mind Extension University, The Western Governor's Association University and Nova University ó continue to grow. Students gain access to information resources, faculty, lectures, demonstrations, conferences, outside activities, etc. that were previously not attainable.
The availability of the Internet/World Wide Web is already having an effect on curriculum. Market Data Retrieval recently released a report entitled ìNational Survey of Internet Usage: Teachers, Computer Coordinators and School Librarians, Grades 3-12, which surveyed 6,000 users. Their survey was conducted in December of the 1996-97 school year. It indicated nearly three quarters of the respondents (72.2%) currently use the Internet at school and/or home. As reported, the biggest needs/obstacles facing respondents are:
- More computers, modems and phone lines in classrooms;
- Lack of funding to pay the cost of online time; and
- More training for teachers.
Some of the conclusions stated in the above report indicate: educators want greater access to the Internet, have a need for 'real' material supporting curriculum areas, and require more organization and content evaluation by both subject and grade level. Noted in the report, teachers and students do appreciate the opportunity to communicate directly with scientists and professionals, from all over the world.
Same Concerns, New Urgency
Similar comments have been made by educators through the years. Though the technology has become more available, and its utilization has increased, concerns and needs seem to remain the same, especially as stated by urban school district users.
I wish to thank Kathy Hurley and Valerie Chernek, of SkillsBank, for sharing an internal memo. It related comments expressed by members of the Council of the Great City Schools Urban Technology Forum, which met in San Diego in March:
- Teachers still do not know how to integrate software into their classroom.
- Learners are demanding the newest of programs and applications. These are more available in a number of out-of school environments.
- Most teachers still do not understand technology and rely on a few ìexperts.î
- Need for printed, easy-to-read documentation continues.
- Demand for performance-based assessment tools is increasing.
- Resources are being allocated for equipment, software, infrastructure-building, user support and training. These are often on a one-time basis and not recognized as recurring.
Timely Addressing of IT Issues
Though acceptance of technology in education is increasing, and its proper use is recognized as an aid towards educational improvement, its integration into the curriculum is a slow process. Technology is still seen as an ìadd onî instead of an integral part of the curriculum.
Dr. Edward A. Friedman, Director, Center for Improved Engineering and Science Education, and Professor of Management, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N.J., stated the following before the U.S. House of Representativesí Committee on Science (March 1997) regarding the National Science Foundationís 1998 budget authorization.
ìTechnology should be an integral element in the educational process. Technology issues need to be addressed when new school buildings are built, when curricula are reviewed, when class schedules are established, when inservice programs are planned, when assessment methods are revised, and when the pedagogical practices of every teacher are evaluated. Ö Dramatic advances in information technology will continue well into the next century Ö and will require simultaneous attention to:
- Development of more demanding curriculum materials;
- On-going programs for intensive teacher training;
- Assistance programs for school administrators; and
- Restructuring of learning environments.î
As we continue to use technology, we must explore new ways of delivering education to students and work towards teaching strategies that provide cost-effective solutions to our educational problems.
This article originally appeared in the 05/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.