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Administrative Applications:Enterprise-wide Solutions

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The 20th annual National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, June 22-24, 1999. The theme was Spotlight on the Future -- Technology for the New Millennium. The conference was preceded by an invitational one-day meeting, hosted by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), on Professional Development -- Critical Aspects for the New Millennium. Both meetings resulted in some general observations, which I would like to share with our readers.

The conference was well attended (approximately 8,000 attendees from 33 countries), as were the sessions. The number of sessions on the Internet/Web and General Integration/Technology Management seemed to have increased. Distance Education and the use of laptops are of growing interest. It was also a great pleasure for me to be recognized in this 20th anniversary of NECC as one of 20 pioneers in the field of educational computing. I am greatly honored to be included in that number.

General Observations:

  • Over 85% of US schools have Internet access, an increase of 21% over last year. In 1997/98, K-12 schools spent $5.2 billion on instructional computing. Projected growth is $8.8 billion.
  • Though money is more available, finding the resources to finance, maintain, and upgrade equipment and to provide technical support is still a major problem.
  • On the exhibit floor, software companies were most evident (close to 35% of the exhibit floor). Software that permits teachers to produce multimedia instruction modules with little or no effort was very popular. The number of vendors displaying Internet products and services, computer peripherals, and publishers has increased (around 10-15% of total exhibits). Video and video conferencing products were also in abundance.
  • Teachers' attitudes toward technology literacy are changing, in that they are willing to seek assistance from students, and seem appreciative of student support. They increasingly use students as tutors, pairing technology literate students with content literate faculty.
  • Much more software as well as online and offline support materials are available. Practice materials, tutorials and tests usually match up with curriculum objectives.
  • Tools and systems for teaching and learning are becoming integrated into administrative systems. Student registration, admission and records, finance and student tuition, for example, are available in integrated systems, permitting sharing of databases and applications.
  • Enterprise Process Engineering (EPE) is more frequently used to consolidate related administrative activities. Information is directed and managed across the enterprise and crosses many departments.
  • Teachers and administrators learn best from their peers. They will exert time and effort to attend meetings for the opportunity of sharing experiences. The most effective training is provided on-site by teachers for teachers. Schools continue to turn to vendors for technical support.
  • Distance learning is implemented in a growing number of schools and school districts, especially to provide specialized courses with limited enrollment. Rural schools have shown the greatest increase.
    • Internet interest and utilization are expanding at all levels. Students are eager to undertake research using the Internet and often do not ask for or require assistance. The pedagogical challenge for educators is to encourage students to critically evaluate the authority of the source, whatever the information medium.
    • Partnerships of all varieties are increasing -- especially since these are encouraged. For many grant proposals there seems to be some question as to whether those partnerships shall continue.
    • The number of alliances and mergers has increased.

    A number of questions need to be thought over. For example:

    • Have we developed new assessment measures and strategies for evaluating the use of technology and shared those strategies?
    • Are schools spending too much of their time and energy chasing dollars rather than attending to the business of education?
    • How should education leaders guide their institutions through these exciting times of change and establish the proper course for the next century?

    These are not easy questions to answer but, fortunately, many are discussing these issues.

    This article originally appeared in the 08/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.

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