Guest Editorial: A Systemic Management Tool for Learning
by Alan D. Morgan Superintendent of Schools, New Mexico If Rip van Winkle were to drop in on modern American society he would marvel at the team work and technology used in hospital emergency rooms to save lives. He would be fascinated at the team work and the technology required in the airline industry to move people and cargo. Even though he might still find his local bank building looking much the same as when he went to sleep, he would find electronic money transfers and worldwide financial interactions that would astound him. But if he went into our nation's classrooms he would feel right at home. In the front of the room is a single, isolated teacher still using a chalkboard with little else to support his or her craft. Too many of our classrooms remain pockets of poverty, technological ghettos. For instance, only about 5% of our classrooms have access to telephones. Telephones are a basic technological tool -- they connect individuals to the world of knowledge through person-to-person contacts and with networks full of data and information. We can no longer afford the image of teachers depicted on Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post cover. A teacher is not a dedicated craftsperson, but a highly trained professional needing the technological support of a wide range of developers and resources. We must understand that technology can give us the management and instructional resources that enable us to meet the needs of every student, not just the few who would learn without us. Five Critical Components As we develop national content and assessment standards, we must employ technology to help us develop a management system and a body of learning experiences for our students. We must employ those technological resources that enable teachers to be professionals who can inspire and stimulate learners beyond the standards' boundaries. We must use technology to increase student performance and productivity. Such management systems will provide fingertip-accessible information for teachers as they mentor their students. A fully developed, systemic, technology-based educational system will include five critical components. The first is a teacher-support and information base that matches learning resources and techniques to the available resources. Such a base will be available for teachers at the classroom level. It will have a management system that allows the teacher to assess the progress of each student through the content standards. Education is a dynamic activity, so even the established standards and techniques will change as the knowledge base is expanded. Therefore, the system must be able to account for these changes and allow constant revisions and upgrades. In addition, the classroom database must be flexible enough to be idiosyncratic for the geographic location. New Mexico students' needs may vary from those of students in New York City. The second element in a systematic technology-based educational system must be the learning resources themselves. In the future, this most likely will take the form of a virtual digital library. Transitional phases will see materials stored on videodiscs and CD-ROMs. The teacher must have all of the teaching materials required to support student learning. The third element is a communications system. These systems must include voice, text, data and full-motion video. Internet, satellite and cable communications systems should be accessible from within every classroom and under the control of the teacher and students. The fourth element of a systemic technology-based educational system is credit for out-of-school learning. Most of our students are engaged in a range of activities outside of school that must be brought into the formal education arena. Technology can track and provide credit for these activities, whether they are jobs at the local fast-food restaurant, working on a political campaign, serving in a community project or participating in any number of activities. Technology can help assess the value of such activities and provide recognition with respect to education requirements. The fifth element is assessment. How can we measure the successes of our students more effectively and make them meaningful to both the student and the community? Technology can give us the tools that enable us to keep portfolios of student work, to monitor their progress and display their knowledge. On the Edge of the Revolution There are 28 states developing plans for incorporating technology as a major part of their education reform movements. Do they share this vision of what can be? Some of the states that have been involved for longer periods of time do envision many elements discussed here, but we are just on the edge of the technological revolution in education. We have yet to understand the full impact technology will eventually make on learning and teaching. The five elements discussed here are the first steps in reaching the dream of quality education for every learner. Alan D. Morgan is the superintendent of schools for the state of New Mexico and is the current president of the Council of Chief State School Officers. Officers.
This article originally appeared in the 03/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.