Changes to Traditional Teaching

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In T.H.E. Journal's November/December 1978 "Editorial," I discussed a report on "Computers and the Learning Society," which was submitted by the Honorable James A. Scheuer, former chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic and International Scientific Planning, Analysis and Cooperation, to the Honorable Olin E. Teague, former chairman of the House of Representative's Committee on Science and Technology. The report stated: "Research on computer technology is critical. Judicious uses of computer technology supported by adequate organizational and managerial techniques can be injected into the educational system, and if implemented, will make significant improvements in teacher effectiveness and student learning." We've heard similar comments repeated during the years and have seen many changes.

Teaching and learning have changed as the use of technology becomes more prevalent. A number of forces have contributed to these changes, including the resolution of inequalities in education through programs such as E-Rate, a successful program of which many educational institutions have taken advantage. Unfortunately, the Schools and Library Division of the Universal Service Administrative Co. reported to the Federal Communications Commission that schools and libraries seeking E-Rate discounts for funding a fifth year have requested $5.74 billion. This projected demand is more than the $2.25 billion available.

The Arizona State Legislature has established minimum standards that every school in the state must meet by June 2003. Each classroom will have high-speed Internet access with content filtering for safety. In addition, every student will have an e-mail address and every teacher will have a Web site. After purchasing about 36,000 computers for $44.2 million, the next steps are to connect all the computers in each building on a LAN, connect the schools in each district on a WAN, and link the WAN to the Internet over a broadband connection. Free access for students and teachers will be available at school and home at any time.

Experimenting With Technologies

Wireless technology has expanded. A Quality Education Data survey shows that wireless technology is used in almost a third of U.S. schools and represents a new way for school computing. Wireless is said to be a more flexible, cost-effective way of providing technological services. For instance, the University of California, San Diego has provided a "CyberShuttle," which enables students and faculty to use the school's wireless LAN to surf the Web, send e-mail, etc.

Also, broadband networks are continuing to grow, although high-bandwidth initiatives such as Internet2 have not lived up to their full potential. However, schools are preparing for broadband networks. For example, New Orleans Public Schools is planning to interconnect its 146 school sites for voice, video and data over two high-bandwidth networks. This will allow more than 72,000 students and 10,000 educators to utilize this network at a cost of $20 million over a three-year period.

E-Learning

According to the International Data Corp., e-learning will overtake classroom-based instruction as the primary method by 2004.

In the past few years, 70 percent of American universities have put at least one course online, and this number is predicted to grow to 90 percent by 2005. The range of fields is large, and though most courses are in business and technology, courses in engineering, psychology, education, etc. are growing. In addition, many online courses are now involving more than oneinstitution to service students around the world, such as the University of the Arctic - a co-operating network of universities, colleges and other organizations concerned with higher education and research - now in its pilot phase.

The following chart shows the virtual courses offered in the United States:

Electronic learning, currently a $4 billion to $5 billion market, is expected to increase to $15 billion by 2005. Most e-learning courses have a great deal in common, they are:

  • Portable - available on the Web, at any time, from any place.
  • Modular - consist of multiple units, making it easy for learners to digest the material.
  • Interactive - learners must respond, and students are able to chat with their peers and teachers.
  • Education Partnerships

    Many industries are fostering the use of technology in schools. About 1,600 students focused on engineering, mathematics and social sciences at this year's Intel Science Talent Search. Ryan Patterson, a high school senior from Colorado won the $100,000 first prize for his project, "The American Sign Language Translator." The project uses a glove that translates letters of the alphabet and transmits information to a portable computer, where it is displayed as text. The user is able to train the glove to recognize individual sign patterns, with the goal of having it recognize words and phrases.

    Also, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is donating $40 million to create small high schools across the United States to increase high school graduation and college attendance. Students will be able to earn both a high school diploma, and an associate's degree or two years of college credit. The effort includes the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In addition, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is planning to commit more than $345 million to schools and districts throughout the United States to create small schools and transfer large high schools into smaller learning communities. Technology is to play a key role in administration and instruction in these schools.

    The Growing Availability of Resources

    Though free and inexpensive resources are available, many more listings of resources are for sale. Authors and publishers are deciding not to give their work away for free. Still, many individuals, government organizations, museums and universities are sharing their knowledge. The Eisenhower National Clearinghouse identifies effective curriculum resources, and disseminates useful information to improve K-12 teaching and learning in math and science. Also, the NSF-funded digital library offers high-quality educational materials for students and teachers at all levels to improve the quality of science, math, engineering and technology education.

    Conclusions

    More schools of education are using technology in their teaching and providing opportunities for cooperative learning. Teachers are shown how to spend less time in front of the class and more time working with small groups of individuals. School district budgets are including monies for staff development on the continued use of technology, and many federal grants insist monies be set aside to train educators on the proper use of technology.

    Educators' needs for technology to enhance teaching and learning haven't been ignored. However, we don't have sufficient information on how technology is really being used and how, for example, increased use of the Internet results in better attainment of educators' goals and objectives. Perhaps, that is one of the reasons the advent of the computer hasn't drastically changed how teachers teach and students learn. It might also be why technological tools are used primarily to assist the traditional form of delivery.

    This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

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