Guest Editorial: Technology: An Educational Toolbox

Dr. Thomas C. Boysen Kentucky Commissioner of Education o longer is it enough to educate students who know only the basics they have been able to memorize. We are charged today with helping students develop skills that make them creative problem solvers. Our instructional tools have changed, too. Gone are chalkboards, record players, books and mimeographed assignment sheets -- replaced by computers, CD-ROMs, modems, databases and spreadsheets. Technology is removing many barriers to learning. Students who once had access to printed resources only in school and community libraries know no such limits today. When we were students, would we every have dreamed of having at our fingertips a direct link to the Library of Congress or a university library across the continent? Not likely. Today's students, however, can have immediate access to information from NASA scientists, museum curators and students like themselves around the world. Communication skills are among the most valuable skills for us to teach our students. Today's students know the clarity of the written message they send via technology affects the immediate response they receive. Kentucky's Statewide Network In Kentucky, our technology dreams are becoming reality. We are installing a statewide technology network to empower our educators and students, connecting them with universities, libraries, schools and school district offices, the Kentucky Department of Education and other state agencies. Overall benefits to management are obvious. Recordkeeping will become easier and less time-consuming as administrators file attendance records and other data directly to the department via the network. In turn, state agencies will have a line of direct communication to schools. Benefits to Students With our network only partially in place, we are already seeing students do amazing things with technology. Computers allow students the independence they have not had before to exceed everyone's expectations in the level of their learning in mathematics and writing. Second- and third-year primary grade students work and learn at levels much higher than their teachers thought possible. Primary grade students use the independence afforded them from interacting with a computer in which they get immediate feedback from sophisticated software. High school students enrolled in tech prep programs are able to go beyond everyone's expectations as they explore territory previously uncharted at the high-school level. Some students in tech prep learn marketable skills by operating school stores and banks, thus leaving high school ready for the world of work in a way they have not previously been prepared. Further, in some Kentucky schools, students known as "techsperts" are teaching professional development sessions to teachers, sharing their technology expertise. Students have the time and willingness to experiment, which often puts them steps ahead of instructors who may be hesitant to use technology for fear of doing something wrong. Technology is empowering students to become leaders in their own classrooms and schools, and they're having fun doing it. Benefits to Teachers Many teachers are just as enthralled with technology, and what it can do for them, as are their students. They share instructional units with other teachers on the network or take from it such things as writing prompts to help them with their teaching. Communication and collaboration among their peers are facilitated. Recordkeeping has been simplified for teachers too, as they keep attendance, grades and other data on computer. As a result, their time has been freed-up, allowing them to focus more than ever before on in-class instruction. Air of Excitement The revolution being brought by the introduction of technology into education is in full swing in Kentucky classrooms. There is excitement in they air as we continue to discover what technology underscores for us, the necessity of acclimating ourselves to change. Our classrooms are more dynamic than ever before as we pull tools from our "technology toolbox" to ensure a world-class education for each and every student. Thomas Boysen, as Kentucky's Commissioner of Education, has directed the statewide implementation of the Kentucky Education Reform Act since January 1991. He earned his doctorate in educational administration from Harvard University in 1969 and his bachelor's degree in history from Stanford University in 1962. After starting his teaching career in Thika, Kenya, in 1964, he became an administrator, serving in superintendent's positions in Washington, New York and California.

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.