Opinion
Education Opinion

Chat Wrap-Up: Technology and Learning

December 05, 2006 6 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

On Nov. 17, questions on the ways that educational technology has changed K-12 schooling, and continues to do so, were answered by Larry Cuban, an education historian and emeritus professor of education at Stanford University; Sara Hall, the deputy director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association; Don Knezek, the chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education; and Keith R. Krueger, the chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking. Below are excerpts from the discussion:

Read the full transcript of this chat.

Question: Looking at technology curricula, one can get the feeling it is not about media literacy, but teaching computer skills. So I see the risk of technology’s being used simply to perform training for corporations. Even if there are higher-level goals, how often are they achieved in the classroom?

Krueger: This is an important distinction. “Technology literacy” can be defined very narrowly, as understanding the skills of using specific applications, or more broadly to include information literacy. My personal opinion is that the latter is more important. I also think there are even more skills than just information literacy, although that is clearly critical in a world of information overload. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has done a terrific job of framing the sorts of new skills that kids need to succeed. These include, in addition to the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, such skills as team-building, collaboration, and critical thinking.

I just returned from a five-week study trip to Asia and the Pacific, and was surprised by how countries such as South Korea and Singapore, which do well on high-stakes tests for math and science, are focused on these sorts of new competencies to enable creativity and collaboration. I am concerned that the United States’ sole focus on high-stakes accountability might squeeze out its inherent advantage around creativity.

Question: In The World Is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman challenges American education to answer the call for more science and engineering students. How shall we respond? What is technology’s role in that response?

Cuban: Pay higher salaries to teachers in poor, largely minority rural and urban schools; ensure that schools like these are handsomely funded and not underresourced, as they are now; provide more state and federal financial aid for needy students to go to college; ensure that science, math, and other teachers receive sustained and well-endowed professional development.

The absence of any mention of technology is intentional, because I do not believe that the presence of computers, hand-held devices, and the latest software has very much to do with high schools and colleges cranking out more science and engineering graduates.

Question: Many teachers are still very resistant to infusing technology into their lessons, especially older teachers (sometimes called the digital immigrants). How do you think we can make this transition easier and also help them use technology efficiently in the classroom?

Krueger: We first need to step back and ask, “What can technology do for learning that we couldn’t do without it?” If we answer that question, I would bet that most teachers will rush to its adoption. I am not sure I completely agree that the problem is the difference between young and old teachers. In fact, we are seeing evidence that “master” teachers, who typically are older, are the most likely to powerfully use technology. I think the core problem is that in most classrooms, most schools, and most districts, we simply are layering technology on top of what we are already doing. If you do that, you will get only marginal impact.

Question: How can technology help students with learning and attention problems?

Knezek: There are a number of programs and products targeted at students with special challenges. I recommend you refer to the Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology’s Web site at http://caret.iste.org, connect with the Council for Exceptional Children (www.cec.sped.org), and visit the site of my organization’s Special Education Technology Special Interest Group (SETSIG) at www.iste.org/setsig. I believe the Consortium for School Networking may have a recent publication on that topic at www.cosn.org.

Question: Please share your vision of what public schools will look like in the next decade or two for visually impaired students. Right now, equal access through talking equipment is spotty at best.

Krueger: What you are really asking is, “How can technology be used to enable children with special needs to succeed?” My sense is that assistive technologies are currently making a difference for many children. Voice-recognition software is certainly not perfect, but such tools make it possible for blind students to not be “left behind.”

One of the areas my organization, COSN, has been working on is how we can get our school networks to provide accessible technologies for all students. Our sense is that in most districts, we are not very far along in thinking about accessibility for all students. Voice-recognition software, for example, is also very useful to students who are learning English as a second language. In fact, it is useful for any of us who learn better by hearing. Yet, in most districts, the folks responsible for general information technology deflect this topic to their special education department. Accessibility is a critical element, and most of our school networks are much too narrowly niching technologies that could benefit all kids. And it is very expensive to deploy assistive technologies to one child at a time on one workstation at a time.

We have a great resource on this topic at www.accessibletech4all.org. We really need a new conversation in most districts over accessibility.

Question: Please comment on the effects of technology in providing classroom teachers with readily accessible teaching tools as well as professional-development (recertification and continuing education) enhancement.

Hall: The State Educational Technology Directors Association believes strongly that professional development must be consistent, timely, and relevant to a teacher’s daily work. We believe that online and virtual learning opportunities are uniquely suited to accomplish this. We have seen examples where online professional development provides these key components in a way that high-quality, school site professional development cannot deliver. That is not to say we should go fully to online professional development, but that we should leverage the unique aspects of technology-delivered training when it makes sense.

There is a place for both. In Iowa, for example, districts are using videoconferencing to pull math teachers together from all parts of the state. During regular virtual meetings, they are provided with high-level instruction, time to collaborate, and critiques of their teaching practices. This form of professional development has yielded amazing results in student achievement. I do not think online professional development is always the answer, but it can create this dynamic and consistent feedback mechanism through which teachers are engaged in training that directly relates to their work. Again, key elements to the success of professional development.

Question: How do we justify investing in school technology, given the fact that student achievement in reading, writing, math, and other subjects has not improved in the several decades during which public expenditures in technology have vastly expanded?

Knezek: How do we continue to justify the incredible expense over decades for textbooks, when we aren’t seeing improvement in core content supported by them?

A version of this article appeared in the December 06, 2006 edition of Education Week as Chat Wrap-Up: Technology and Learning


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP