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Student Services in the Information Age

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Educators continue to seek assistance in order to better understand what technology can do to assist in teaching and learning and to help determine what technologies are right for what applications. In addition, the need for information systems that best manage business and student functions still exists. This can be noted at the growing number of meetings and conferences on the use of technology in education. One conference that is always well attended is the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC). Approximately 13,000 registrants and 4,000 vendors representing more than 400 companies met in Orlando, Florida, March 18-20, 1999. Speaking to a number of registrants, walking around the exhibit hall and attending a few sessions resulted in the following observations:

  • Sessions designated as "show and tell," with teachers demonstrating their successes and failures, were very well attended. Many doors were closed early, and there was standing room only.
  • Large halls reserved for highlighted speakers, all recognized leaders in the field, were often not fully occupied. Attendees were more interested in what works and can be replicated, and in what their colleagues are doing.
  • The Breakout Sessions were listed under topics chosen from the call for papers. It is interesting to note how sessions were divided and which topics were of most interest. The program listed the sessions under the following headings and the number of sessions following that topic is approximate.

Topic

# of Sessions

Telecommunications

60

Social Studies

17

Multimedia/Media Production

16

Integrated Curriculum

14

School Improvement/ACC

14

Distance Learning

13

Language Arts

12

Science

12

Assessment

11

Productivity Tools

11

Math

10

Administration

9

Library/Media

8

Special Needs

8

Art/Music

7

Adaptive Tech

5

Programming

5

Staff Development

5

  • Teachers are showing a willingness to alter their traditional classroom procedures. They view the curriculum as less rigid and more fluid. Teachers are also more comfortable with their own capabilities. They fear less that a lack of computer expertise is embarrassing and therefore undermines their authority. However, they would like additional help, such as a technical assistant.
  • Being held accountable, especially in Florida, is of major concern. Florida Sunshine State Standards require certain standards to be met, with no control over activities outside of school. Also, teachers fear that the problem-solving skills they try to teach with computers may not be measurable.
  • Cooperation between faculty members is increasing. For example, Media Teachers and Technology Research Teachers are working together to help students create projects that involve multimedia presentations and video productions, integrating the Internet and other resources.
  • Many more software companies are attending, demonstrating a variety of applications of technology in content areas. Many are designed to foster cooperative learning and problem solving skills.

Conclusion

The need for accurate and reliable data management systems is critical. The Mississippi Department of Education has awarded a "$3.4 million contract to design, develop and implement a centralized statewide information system designed to provide secure access for student and personnel records, inquiry retrieval and transfer." Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is being heralded as a fully integrated and comprehensive solution. Though these systems evolved in the private sector, educational institutions are investigating them for managing finances, purchasing, planning payrolls, student services, etc.

However, student service needs do not remain static. An interesting situation has occurred at UPenn in Philadelphia. The students are complaining that an insufficient number of terminals are accessible around campus for them to check their e-mail. Though terminals are placed in dormitories, libraries, campus buildings, etc. and, as was thought, in more than sufficient number, students want better service and easier access. The administration is looking into the matter.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.

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