High-Tech Pathways to Better Schools

Ten ways that technology can advance the cause of reform

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To a growing number of educators and policymakers, school reform without technology makes about as much sense as an Internet without computers.

First, there's the issue of relevance. There's no point in planning the schools of tomorrow, these advocates argue, if they ignore technology that's already commonplace today.

But even more important is technology's potential as a catalyst for change. When computers, email, and other high-tech tools are used well, many educators believe, students improve their thinking skills. Teachers change the way they run their classrooms. Parents become more involved. Assessments reflect real-world activities. Children enjoy learning. "Technology becomes an essential part of the [school reform] puzzle," says Christopher J. Dede, a professor of education and information technology at George Ma on University in Fairfax, Va. "It's a glue that holds it all together."

The following section of Technology Counts '98 examines this idea in depth by considering the role technology can play in achieving 10 goals of the reform movement. These are by no means the only goals of education reform, but they are 10 in which technology can pack a powerful punch.

Where possible, research undergirding the connection between technology and school change has been chronicled and synthesized. For several of the e goals, however, the evidence is largely anecdotal. Therefore, this report discusses each goal by means of a ca e study-a school, a district, or a program that is using technology in an innovative way.

The case studies come from every part of the country, and they include a range of technologies, from computers to video equipment to voice-messaging systems. Their success varies as well. Some of the programs are being replicated in schools nationwide; others are just getting started. But all offer promising examples of how technology can advance the cause of reform.

"I won't say reform without technology doesn't exist anymore," says Michael J. Hannafen, the director of the Learning & Performance Support Laboratory at the University of Georgia. "But it's really hard to find serious reform efforts that don't have technology as an important, if not a driving, component."

Vol. 18, Issue 05, Page 23

Published in Print: October 1, 1998, as High-Tech Pathways to Better Schools
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