Assessing Technology

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As we celebrate with the National Educational Computing Conference (June 20-24, 1999) on its 20-year involvement in the use of technology in education, we can all attest to the fact technology has made an impact on education. Though a number of evaluative studies have reported "no significant difference" in student learning as associated with the infusion of technology, it is recognized that proper use of technology has made a difference in the way teachers teach and students learn. More recently, studies are showing students with exposure to computers are doing better academically then their peers. The 1998 Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Technology survey found many students in grades 7-8 "communicating differently and doing more school work outside of school and engaging more in learning due to technology use." (www.cabe.org)

Governor Ridge wants the State of Pennsylvania held accountable for "prudent and responsible use of funds." Pennsylvania is raising standards to warrant greater investments in technology. Assessment tools to help measure utilization of technology are becoming available. These include:

Leader's Guide to Education Technology, published in 1998 by Edvancement, a partnership of the Consortium for School Networking, the National School boards Foundation, and MCI Worldcom. It was developed to "help decision makers have the information they need to ask the right questions so that technology is used to support - and indeed achieve - educational goals." (www.edvancenet.org) Their 12 keys for success include items such as:

  • Integrate technology into long-range education improvement plans.
  • Establish criteria to prioritize spending and provide funding for technology.
  • Nurture partnerships with other organizations to support change.
  • Articulate the role of technology in the overall education plan.

Under leadership from IBM K-12 Education, a number of school districts have developed and tested a "framework within which to evaluate teaching and learning technology initiatives." The Multi-District project involves a number of useful evaluation tools and exercises. A Balanced Preference Model requires a district to re-examine the performance of its technology initiatives according to nine indicators: Vision and leadership, communication within the school system, communication with the curriculum, instructional strategies and techniques, assessment of student learning, planning and information management, organizational and professional development, and access and equity.

The Teaching Learning and Technology Group (TLT), an affiliate of the American Association for Higher Education, has a project titled "The Flashlight Project - Developing tools for Local Evaluation of Educational uses of Technology." The Flashlight Evaluation Handbook includes survey questions, interview guides, cost analysis measures and research designs to help educators answer some of the most commonly used questions about technology and educational improvement. According to S. Gilbert, President, "our goal is to help colleges and universities foster collaborative efforts, assess their progress and achieve more realistic goals for improving teaching and learning with technology."

As we expand the use of technology in education, with ongoing assessment, we need to look to the next step. Not everyone is enamored with technology as it exists today. For example, Peter F. Drucker, often called the father of modern management, made the following comments in an interview in Computerworld (April 26, 1999): "I am not unimpressed with the potential of technology. But I am very surprised that computer people pay no attention at all to where they have made the greatest impact. The greatest impact during the past 50 years has been on operation, not on management information."

Technology is as powerful a tool in education as it is in many other endeavors. We are ready for Knowledge Management - a combination of technology and knowing how to use it most effectively and efficiently. This should include:

  • Focusing on the ultimate goals, rather than immediate solutions.
  • Helping individuals manage the growing amount of information available.
  • Providing opportunity for knowledge to reach the knowledge worker.
  • Encouraging sharing of best practices and ideas.
  • Establishing technology infrastructure to support knowledge initiatives.

Knowledge management as a process requires rethinking of how we acquire, filter, collate, distribute and share information. In education, it is still in its infancy.

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.

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