Guest Editorial (untitled)

Technology will have a tremendous influence on education in the next ten years. Our schools have seen rapid growth in technology -- the use of computers, CD-ROM, video, videodisc, networking and satellite technology are becoming a routine part of the education of our students. This is a trend that will continue and fundamentally change the way teachers teach and the way students learn. It is the role of educators to ensure that the increase in technology results in an increase in learning. To begin with, teachers must become facilitators of the learning process, training students to identify sources of information. Teaching and learning can then be focused on the cognitive skills required to process more information. With the amount of information doubling every five years, teachers can no longer be expected to convey all necessary knowledge to students. Not surprisingly, there are obstacles to address if we are to achieve a new vision of learning through technology. The need for collaborative planning efforts, increased and improved training, and facility renovations are just a few. Planning, From Local to National Planning is most important. Establishing a common vision of our schools and redefining the roles of teachers and students is the first step. This will allow us to make the appropriate decisions to achieve our goals. Planning should focus on the learner and what is necessary to support the learning process. This is best done at the local level, involving the entire education community. There also needs to be planning at the state and national level. Because many decisions related to technology are expensive ones, legislators, departments of education and school administrators must both plan and use limited budgets wisely. National, state and local involvement in planning for the infrastructure is also critical. National standards need to be established to address the compatibility issues in voice, video and data networks. Educational phone and cable tariffs must be enacted so land-based networks are an economic possibility. Although technology is advancing rapidly, new equipment purchases must be balanced with finding appropriate uses for existing equipment. Schools, in particular, must find creative educational uses for older equipment. To fund educational technology, new dedicated sources of funds must be explored along with the possible reallocation of existing funds. Training -- It Can't Wait Technology must be integrated into the learning process. This requires proper teacher training. A recent survey by Bank Street College indicated that an average of five to seven years of training or experience is necessary for a teacher to become a comfortable, confident user of educational technology. This survey also found that it wasn't until the end of the fifth year that use of drill, practice and tutorial software dropped and teachers expanded their use of technology in class. Our students cannot wait five to seven years to take advantage of emerging technologies. To accelerate the process, training programs need to be established and funded as part of the initial purchasing decision. Earmarking funds specifically for technology training is necessary until teachers become more comfortable, confident users. Bi-directional Support Finally, technology must be supported. The roles of administrators, teachers, media specialists, support personnel, parents and students will all change as technology becomes an integral part of the learning process. This will not happen without the proper support at the school level. We cannot allow technology to become a barrier to learning because of faulty equipment, lack of technical support or fear of change. Support must be both "top down" and "bottom up." Our national, state and district leaders must make decisions that encourage the use of technology in the classroom. In doing so, new models of learning will evolve. Betty Castor is the commissioner of education for the Florida Department of Education and a member of the Council of Chief State Schools Officers. Florida is a leading state in the adoption and integration of technology in all levels of education, K-12 through post-university programs, and in networking its schools and colleges together electronically.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.

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