Advances in Student Access to Technology and Online Resources

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Ratios of students to computers and numbers of schools with Internet access continue to change almost exponentially as education agencies invest in learning technologies. For instance, last year, Maine provided every seventh- and eighth-grade student an Apple iBook to use through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. Also, the Technology Innovation Challenge Grant (TICG) program, having a goal to increase student access to technology, encourages participants to focus on innovative ways to use technology rather than just placing more computers in the classroom. This article shares some of the TICG program's successes in advancing student access through innovative technology uses.

Online Student Resources

The Montana TALES (Technology and Learning in Every School) project (www.s'e.umt.edu/ders/tales) encourages educators and students to tell multimedia digital stories. Using a constructivist framework, learners create personal and meaningful tales about the traditions, customs, beliefs and legends of Montana through multimedia software such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple iMovie and Adobe Premiere. This same philosophy of learning is shared by most of the TICG projects.

NatureShift! (www.natureshift.org), a partnership between Dakota Science Center and Grand Forks Public Schools, developed a comprehensive digital library of resources, hands-on activities and Web links for students through interdisciplinary online modules covering science, history and culture. The site's major areas include NatureShift! for Kids; NatureShift! Cafe; Robot Lab; History Lab; environmental investigations, resources and activities with Ranger Rosie; astronomy-related adventures in Dakota Skies; and Wounded Hawk, which offers a Native American Survival Challenge. These interactive Web pages build upon necessary components of WebQuests. They also provide links to reviewed educational sites and tasks for students to undertake in an investigative, problem-solving environment.

Rural areas face a lack of access to resources, including fewer course offerings and limited arts and museum facilities. The BorderLink Project (www.borderlink.org) tackled these inequities, which limit future college opportunities, by providing videoconferencing courses in AP chemistry and music appreciation (among others) as well as developing a 3-D Web site, LinkWorld (www.borderlink.org/linkworld.html). Here, students and teachers move about the virtual world as avatars, communicating through chat functions and creating virtual art shows. For example, students' paintings were viewed and discussed by other student artists and visitors from the United States and Europe at a recent Cubist painting show. In addition, for Cinco de Mayo, pupils met the historical characters from the original events as played by current students who researched those roles.

CyberCampuses, multimedia computer labs with videoconferencing and TV studios, are one of the products offered by the Education Future NOW Project (www.dlt.ncssm.edu/now) at The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. These Cyber Campuses allow students and teachers to collaborate on learning to use education technology. Students, organized in SWAT (students working to advance technology) teams, take an active role in mentoring other students and teachers, managing videoconferences, creating video productions, and developing animated Web sites. Students also become active participants in the development of technology resources and skills.

Conclusion

Innovation is key to meaningful change. Putting students in positions of active involvement in their learning through well-planned instructional investigations, either online or by making significant new uses of techno-logy, is at the heart of a transformative technology approach to education.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.

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