Education Chat

Chat Transcript: Technology Counts 2004: Global Links: Lessons From the World

What can the United States can learn from how other countries are using educational technology. A discussion of the findings of Technology Counts 2004—the seventh edition of Education Week’s annual report on educational technology.

Please be sure to include your name and affiliation when posting your question.

About the Guests:

  • Robert Kozma, emeritus principal scientist at the Center for Technology and Learning at SRI International, has done extensive research on the use of educational technology in countries all over the world. He directed a project for the World Bank to evaluate the impact of networked computing in high schools in six countries in Africa and South America. He has also served as a consultant for the Ministries of Education in Thailand, Chile, and Singapore; and
  • Kevin Bushweller, project editor for Technology Counts.

Melissa McCabe, Education Week (Moderator):
Welcome to Education Week‘s TalkBack Live chat on educational technology. Earlier this month, Education Week released its seventh annual Technology Counts report, Global Links: Lessons From the World. The report presents an overview of educational technology worldwide and finds that other countries offer valuable lessons to the United States in their use of technology in schools and classrooms. The report also updates national trends on educational technology and includes state-specific information on technology initiatives and efforts to use technology more effectively.

We are pleased to welcome a couple guests for this afternoon’s chat. Robert Kozma is emeritus principal scientist at the Center for Technology and Learning at SRI International. He has conducted extensive research on the use of educational technology in countries all over the world. He directed a project for the World Bank to evaluate the impact of networked computing in high schools in six countries in Africa and South America. We’re also joined by Kevin Bushweller, project editor of the Technology Counts report. He also edits coverage on technology and the media for Education Week.

We thank you all for joining the discussion. Let’s open the floor to your questions . . .

Question from Pamela Smith, Library/Media specialist, Maine School:
Around the world, how well prepared are teachers to use technology to create meaningful learning environments.

Kevin Bushweller:
There are some places where teachers are well-prepared. But in most places, they’re not well-prepared because they don’t get enough training in how to use technology effectively. In our report, for instance, we collected data on nearly 30 countries regarding teachers’ lack of knowledge or skills with using computers. In all but three of those countries, the percentage of upper-secondary stdents whose principals reported this as an obstacle ranged from 53 percent to 94 percent. And in less developed nations, the focus is still on simply getting the technology in schools in the first place.

Question from Adeniji A. Odutola, Director, St. Petersburg College’s National Center for Teacher Transformation:
The infrastructure and other resources are not available in African, South American, and other developing countries for effective use of technology in K-12 and postsecondary schools. For example, phone lines are not available and where they are available they are not working effectively. What should the Governments of these countries do differently and what role is the World Bank playing or should play to bridge the technology gap between advanced and developing countries.

Robert Kozma:
Actually, the World Bank (and a spinoff organization called World Links ) are doing a lot to improve the conditions for educational computing in developing countries. Some of the investment has gone into developing infrastructure but much has gone into training of teachers on how to integrate technology into their instruction. SRI lead a team that evaluated this program . Much more needs to be done, of course. But I feel that the biggest contribution that non-governmental organizations and funders can make to developing countries is working with them to set up comprehensive policies and programs that fit the use of computers and other technology into an overall plan for educational reform that would coordinate improvements in technology, curriculum, teacher training, and assessment. I think with such policies and plans in place, it will maximize the impact that the development of infrastructure and other programs will have.

Question from Ana Bishop, Unit Manager Instr. Tech. Prof. Dev, Office of Instr. Tech, NYC Dept. of Education:
The Chilean experience seems to indicate that Experience has shown that “teachers do not transform their practices because of technology, they merely adapt it.” According to Pedro Hepp, at Univ. de la Frontera. My experience in NYC and Puerto Rico and other locations around the US reflects a change in classroom management styles and in teaching strategies after proper technology integration and follow-up training. Which trend do you see in which countries and why do you think that is the case.

Kevin Bushweller:
Although many educational technology experts would like to see technology have the effect of transforming teaching strategies and classroom management styles, the general trend, based on what the report found, is for educators to adapt technology to their traditional teaching strategies and classroom management styles. However, as teachers become more comfortable with, and skilled at, using technology, there will likely be more instances of teachers using technology to make major changes in how they teach and manage their classrooms

Question from George Guild, Director of Economic Education, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston:
What in your estimation is the most critical contribution(s)technology-enabled teaching can provide? How have you addressed the Total Cost of Ownership with countries with which you have consulted.

Robert Kozma:
I think that among the biggest contributions that technology can make (especially in developing countries) is to hook schools, teachers, and kids to the rest of the world’s human and information resources. I was in Uganda on a site visit once and I asked a teacher why he was so excited about computers when the same amount of money could be used to by many books for the library. He responded that when you buy a book is it on one topic and as soon as it is published it is out of date. With computers and the Internet you have access to information on thousands of topics and it is always current. (I think this partially addresses the Total Cost issue, as well). The students in the same class had been working on a collaborative project with students in Canada and South Africa. They said that the reason they loved computers is that they felt it was the first time that students in these other countries knew that they existed. Also related to Total Cost of Ownership (again especially in developing countries, where this issues is so much more important), the cost can be reduced if it is spread over several sectors. That is if resources can be structured such that they are available to the entire community, not just to the schools, and that they address multiple concerns of the community (e.g., economic development, adult literacy, etc.), then the benefits are maximized and the total costs reduced.

Question from Susan Eastman, Computer Teacher and Technology COordinator, John eaton Elementary School, Washington, DC:
Why didn’t your researchers interview the computer technology teachers/coordinators who have first-hand observations as to why computers are not used optimally and maximally in the classroom? As as computer teacher/technology person, I see layers of dust on keyboards and printers; teachers who never learned to type or keyboard; loose plugs on the monitors causing teachers to say their computer is broken and do not problem solve, show curiosity, or bother to simply inspect; Imac/PC monitors too large for typical student desktops-a very dangerous situation; and teachers who have admitted that they have no inclination to spend 15 minutes at home to learn an educational software program that will enhance their instructional plans.

Kevin Bushweller:
We tried to take as critical a look at technology use in schools around the world as we could. The journalists who wrote the stories for the report were asked to examine both the strengths and weaknesses of technology use in schools. In most cases, the first point of contact for their stories were technology coordinators at the school, district, or national level. Your point is a good one, though. All those details you cite are important to consider when evaluating technology use in schools.

Question from EBRAHIM TALAE,ICT adisor to Deputy Minister of Education,Iran:
Obtaining different approaches to ICT integration into k-12 education system (ICT as a subject in order to educate ICT literate students, Using ICT to improve the teaching and learning efficiency, ICT as a paradigm shift to reengineer education to educate students of information age) has made us think about the localised approach which best suits our country. What is your view to these approaches and which one do you recommend?

Robert Kozma:
I strongly believe in a localized approach. The approach a country selects should be based on the realities of where a country is and where it wants to go. Technology policies and programs should coordinate with and advance other national goals and policies. Different goals will have different implications for how the use of technology is structured and supported. For example, Finland’s approach fits in with a national goal to develop an “information society”. Their approach is more oriented to connecting schools with other community resources and developing skills and habits in both students and adults to use ICT for a wide variety of purposes in their daily life. On the other hand, Singapore is focused on developing students who are critical thinkers and problem solvers. They are coordinating ICT policies with changes in their curriculum and assessment approaches that reflect these goals. What are the broader goals for educational change and improvement in Iran?

Question from Jim Vanides, Program Manager, Hewlett-Packard:
I really enjoyed reading the “Global Links: Lessons from the World” Ed Week issue! Not surprisingly, access is a key issue around the world. We all know that access is only one piece of the puzzle. It seems that technology adoption comes in waves, and “access” is only one of the first steps... Can you highlight what is being done in non-US locations to ensure the effective use of technology by teachers and students?

Kevin Bushweller:
In Chile, a program called Enlaces, which means Links, provides schools with computers and educational software for subjects such as science, mathematics, and history. But it goes beyond simply providing equipment. It also provides two years of training and follow-up technical assistance for teachers. And a national Web portal allows teachers and students to access a wide range of educational information as it relates to Chile’s national curriculum. In Iceland, teachers are using technology to emphasize hands-on learning more and more. And in Finland, students do Internet research but are more likely to use online “learning packages” on specific topics such as physics. This more focused approach to the use of technology has paid off, some experts say.

Question from Kevin M. Click, Art Teacher, Harrison School:
Mr. Kozma, What are your perspectives on how technology for education priorities compare and contrast around the globe? Also, how do you foresee the future roles of teachers and students?

Robert Kozma:
There are some countries that are taking the lead in the use of technology in schools and several of these are featured in the Technology Counts issue: Singapore and Chile. Others are Finland, Norway, and the US. In these countries, significant efforts are being taken to coordinate the use of ICT with other policies and priorities. There are, of course, exciting innovations even when countries do not have such coordinated policies in place. But often the burden of these innovations rests totally with individual teachers and schools. In either case, the innovations reflect local conditions, experiences and values. For example, the countries of Eastern Europe have in the past emphsized the development of ICT skills, such as programming, often taught in courses called Informatics. As a result there is not been a strong tradition of integrating ICT throughout the curriculum. However, building on this base, I have seen many successul innovations in Eastern Europe where projects will provide these highly trained students to teahcers of other subjects, such as history, language, and science. These “technical experts” will help teachers develop web-based materials for their students in these subjects. Here, ICT is supporting a very different role for students and a different relationship between teachers and students.

Question from Jim Vanides, Hewlett-Packard:
From your world travels, can you provide us with some examples of innovative uses of technology that seem to hold some promise for significantly improving student achievement?

Kevin Bushweller:
The report’s three nation profiles--of Singapore, Canada, and Iceland--have some good examples of how technology is being used to boost student learning. However, it’s worth noting that some nations like Singapore, which puts a high value on student achievement based on test scores, is trying to use technology to encourage more original, innovative thinking, as opposed to measurable student achievement.

Question from Susan O’Driscoll, Research Analyst, McGraw-Hill Education:
What is your response to an outspoken critic like Todd Oppenheimer, author of “The Computer Delusion” and The Flickering Mind, who contends that the enthusiasm for technology in education is siphoning billions of dollars away from more basic education needs?

Kevin Bushweller:
I think it’s helpful to have people like Todd Oppenheimer critiquing the value of technology use in schools. He and other critics will help educators make sure that they use technology in ways to increase students’ depth of knowledge, rather than using it simply because it is available. The bottom line is that technology should not replace basic educational needs--it should supplement those needs.

Question from Swetal Sindhvad, Associate Program Director, Center for 4-H Youth Development:
How is educational technology tied into the school curriculum in Asian countries?

Kevin Bushweller:
Countries such as South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan have implemented far-reaching national “master plans” to install high-speed computers in schools, train teachers to bolster their lessons using technology, and encourage students to conduct online research, build Web sites, and develop online projects. But other, poorer countries--such as Vietnam, Laos, and Mongolia--lack such blueprints. Interestingly, Japan, which has a high-tech culture, has fallen behind some of its Asian neighbors in its use of educational technology. The use of educational technology across Asia ranges from very little in some places, such as China’s rural west, to extensive use in nations like South Korea.

Question from Andrew Stringer, Washington, DC:
What role do you think the federal government has in fostering more effective use of technology in education? Are there any current pieces of legislation that aid in more effective use of technology in schools?

Robert Kozma:
The U.S. is like a number of other countries (such as The Netherlands, Canada, Germany, and Australia) in its federalist approach to government. That is, education is the responsibility of local governments (this contrasts with other governments, like Singapore or Chile which have centralized structures and technology programs). In such cases, I believe the best role that federal government can play is to faciliate, encourage, and support innovation that originates at the local level and facilitate the sharing of success stories across locales. Related to these, the Department of Education is developing a national technology plan that will support local innovation and a “What Works Clearninghouse” to share information.

Question from Ione Grimm, Staff Develope Facilitator, El Paso ISD:
Could you give us detals on what is being done to address the area of technology leadership for principals. Principals are charged with leading instruction, through technology, for their campus but historically have very little training and knowledge in this area. The majority of training is for teachers.

Kevin Bushweller:
Yes, training for principals is an issue. In fact, our report found that less than 5 states have technology coursework or testing requirements for initial licensure. However, 27 states are offering professional or financial incentives for administrators to use technology in schools.

Question from Scott Dunsmore Superintendent North Huron Schools:
What do you think about PDA’s for use in the 7-12 arena. What would be there application in improving student learning. What would be some of the pitfall in implimenting such a program.

Kevin Bushweller:
We don’t advocate for or against PDA use. However, our report did find that the use of PDAs is a small but growing trend. Nationwide, the percent of schools with handheld PDAs for students is 3.5, a slight increase over last year. Only one state--Pennsylvania--finances a wireless/handheld technology program for teachers or students.

Question from Barry Bakin, ESL Teacher, Division of Adult and Career Education, Los Angeles Unified School District:
Do you have evidence of the amount of cross-border learning that is taking place as Internet-based education allows students to enroll in or access courses offered world wide? What do you see as the impact of such global learning opportunities?

Robert Kozma:
Much of this is happening at the postsecondary level. That is many “brand name” universities are now soliciting student enrollments (often in professional graduate programs, such as business administration) from students who might not be able to come to the States (at least for extended periods) for their degree. Given the security situation, this is likely to increase significantly. I have seen some of this happen across state boundries at the K-12 level (i.e., the Virtual High School program). But this is only beginning to happen across country boundries at the K-12 level. I believe that Chile is well-positioned to serve this role in South America. They have a significant leg up on many other South American countries and they are in a position (because of shared language and culture) to continental educational hub for education in other countries. Signapore is also developing itself as a regional elearning hub in K-12 education.

Question from Carol Dodson, Resource Specialist, Ohio Resource Center for Mathematics, Science, and Reading:
Based on your research into the use of technology and its impact on teaching, do you think that providing links to “best-practice,” peer-reviewed, lessons that are correlated to state and national standards will have any influence on the way teachers teach?

Kevin Bushweller:
Several states are putting lesson plans linked to state standards online for teachers to use. What influence this eventually has depends on how many teachers use those online resources.

Question from Katie Brown, 2004 Master’s Candidate, Technology in Education, Harvard University:
How are schools and teachers using technology in innovative ways for assessment of student learning?

Kevin Bushweller:
That was the theme of last year’s report. We examined how technology is being used to assess students’ academic skills. One technology, adaptive testing, adjusts the level of difficulty of questions based on how well a student is answering them. Other technologies are being used to evaluate student essays, a controversial approach because it is basically machines grading student writing. You might to consider going to for more information about obtaining the report, “Pencils Down: Technology’s Answer to Testing.”

Question from Linda Johnson-Towles, Consultant, Hamilton County Educational Service Center, Cincinnati, Ohio:
How is the concept “effective use of technology” interpreted or perceived around the globe? What are criteria emphases?

Robert Kozma:
“Effective use” is not as hot a topic in the rest of the world as it is in the US. There are other countries (such as England and Australia) that share “effectiveness” as a top priority. And it is not that other countries are not concerned with “effectiveness”. But they see the use of technolog from a broader perspective. For example, the European Union is concerned with developing an “information society”. Among their goals for ICT is to provide more student access to the broad range of the continent’s cultural and historical resources. They also want to encourage social integration across the Union and they use ICT to bring students together from many cultures and countries. These goals don’t lend themselves to measuring “effectiveness” in quite the same way as the goal of increasing scores on state tests.

Question from Ana Bishop, NYC:
When I looked at the comparison charts for student use (US/Mexico), I realized that despite the fact US has more access, the percentage of students who actually use the computers and internet is proportionately larger in Mexico, with fewer resources and access. Are we taking computers for granted in our schools in the US, or are we counting computers that may not be in use in classrooms in those statistics?

Kevin Bushweller:
Yes, based on the data, it does that appear that students in Mexico are making more frequent use of the computers that are available. However, that chart also shows a much wider disparity in the use of computers that are connected to the Internet--22 percent (US) vs. 4 percent of students using the Internet several times a week.

Question from Joy Zabala, Teacher Educator, University of Kentucky:
Did any of your explorations lead you to any thoughts about the use of technology to support the educational participation and achievement of students with disabilties in other countries? If so, what did you find out?

Kevin Bushweller:
We did not look at that specifically. However, last year’s report showed that 6 states were using computer-based assessments with special accommodations for students with disabilities.

Question from Floriana Albi, Researcher, Vancouver School Board in BC:
How can we account for the need to keep up with the pace of knowledge and change without sacrificing the special relationship between teachers and students? Can we have both high tech and high humanistic educational philosophies?

Kevin Bushweller:
Actually, that’s a difficult balancing act. For instance, Thiam Seng Koh, the director of the Singapore Ministry of Education’s educational technology division told Technology Counts that the ministry has no plans to go into virtual e-learning on a large scale because “we still believe that face-face contact between teachers and students is very important. One thing that technology is unable to deliver is the personal and moral development of the child.”

Question from Susan Amirian, Assistant professor, East Stroudsburg University, PA:
When teachers are pressed to use a technology because the school has made an investment and needs to demmonstrate a return, how can we insure it is used to support pedagogy and becomes integrated into the effective delivery of curriculum? The professional development in most cases is button-pushing not demonstration of effective application.

Kevin Bushweller:
You should consider reading our profile of a K-8 school in Canada that appears in the report after the North America overview. This school forged an international reputation for digital innovation, but has since deliberately pared back its technology focus. Some supporters of the school began to worry that technology was causing it to lose sight of more fundamental, and proven, classroom methods.

Question from Gladys Coleman, Media Specialists, Forest Park Middle School, Clayton County Schools, GA:
Having sold educational software and now using technology in a public school I noted that there seems to be a gap between obtaining hardware, buying software, and using technology in the classroom. What is your solution to enhancing the continuity of the aforementioned in public schools?

Robert Kozma:
I think that a good school technology plan should reduce this gap. That is, the principal should take a strong leadership role in working with teachers to set a vision for the use of technology to improve instruction in the school. Programs and resources should then be structured around accomplishing this vision. These programs and resources should address the coordinated use of equipment, networking, software, curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and teacher training. Without the vision and coordinated programs, equipment and software purchases are going to have a minimum impact on the classroom.

Question from Jeannette Braine-Sperry, Market Analyst, PolyVision CorporstionC:
What are the technology hardware trends for the next 3 years in K-12 classrooms?

Kevin Bushweller:
Based on the report’s findings, probably the use of wireless technologies, PDAs, and laptops. For instance, from 2002 to 2003, the percent of schools with wireless networks jumped from 15 to 27 percent.

Question from Zion Chu,IT supporting manager,China basic education Curriculum and Assessment project team:
How about the application of computer based assessment around the world, especially for monitoring the quality of primary and secondary education? Could you please introduce a couple of groups or orgnization which have many experience on this field?

Robert Kozma:
There is considerable difficulty in getting computer-based assessment off the ground. Much of this has to do with the fact that assessments tend to be applied universally within a country, state, or region. Since the availability or use of ICT may be uneven across the country, state, or region, it is a limiting and biasing factor that some students will use ICT in assessment and others will not, especially if ICT is being used to test in a novel way. This will contiue to be a problem until ICT is pervasive. Otherwise, the best use of ICT-based assessment is for it to be embedded in instruction. That way, those students who are using ICT for instruction will also be assessed using ICT.

Question from Jane Craford, Director, Krone Library, Idyllwild Arts Academy:
Have you come across any benchmarks, standards, or formalized learning outcomes for technology education in your international study?

Kevin Bushweller:
There are some cross-national efforts. For instance, SchoolNet Africa is supporting several pan-African efforts. But it is a challenge. SchoolNet Africa found that only 13 of the continent’s 53 countries now have some kind of broad policy that promotes technology in education.

Melissa McCabe, Education Week (Moderator):
We’ll have to end the discussion there. I’d like to thank Robert Kozma and Kevin Bushweller for taking the time to answer questions this afternoon. The Technology Counts report can be accessed at: A transcript of this session will soon be on the Education Week website. Thanks to all for your participation!

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