Training and Social Networks Enhance Teachers' Computer Use, Report Says
When it comes to using computers and technology, teachers work best when they don't work alone.
A study by a software-industry trade group has concluded that effective use of technology can have a "significant positive effect" on student achievement and motivation. Teachers are best able to achieve those results, the report says, when they are members of a community of computer-using educators, rather than isolated experimenters.
The Washington-based Software Publishers Association commissioned the study, "Report on the Effectiveness of Technology in Schools, '95-'96," which summarizes five years of research on technology in schools.
The study also found that software containing video, such as most up-to-date cd-rom products, can be especially engaging for students who do not learn well from text. Sue Kamp, the manager of the SPA's education division and a former special-education teacher, said that could have significant ramifications for special-needs students.
Need for Training
The report's findings place a heavy emphasis on the importance of training and other professional-development activities for teachers. "Teachers are more effective after receiving extensive training in the integration of technology," it says.
Those conclusions support the calls by many advocates of educational technology for radical improvements in pre-service and in-service education of teachers in the use of computers.
Such training is almost nonexistent in most districts and education schools.
The report also notes that support from district-level administrators is vital to successful integration of technology into the curriculum because "specific elements of the learning environment" amplify technology's beneficial effects.
And it says that "exemplary computer-using teachers benefit from a social network of other computer-using teachers at their school."
Interactive Educational Systems Design Inc., a New York City-based company, conducted the analysis of research on educational technology.
Its findings are based on the conclusions of 176 studies that were chosen from an original group of 1,000.
The SPA's members will use the research to help improve the content of education software.
Copies of the report are available to educators for $25 each from the SPA, 1730 M St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036. A summary of the findings also is posted on the SPA's World Wide Web site at http://www.SPA.org.