October 1, 1998
Vol. 18, Issue 05
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Twenty years and billions of dollars since the first personal computers were plugged into the nation's schools, policymakers and the public are finally starting to demand evidence that their investments in education technology have been worthwhile.
New research on technology's effectiveness in teaching math appears to confirm what many educators have optimistically suspected: Computers can raise student achievement and even improve a school's climate.
To a growing number of educators and policymakers, school reform without technology makes about as much sense as an Internet without computers.
When educators talk about using technology to teach basic academic skills, what they often have in mind is computerized "drill and practice."
Almost all educators agree that schools have a responsibility to prepare students to function in a digital world. Technology is everywhere, the thinking goes, and if today's children don't know how to use it, they'll lack the skills they need for the jobs of the future.
For students at Lessenger Middle School, a glance at the nearby River Rouge is all it takes to gauge the health of the waterway that winds through this city. Even the littlest of observers can point to the broken beer bottles that line its eroded banks, the litter that floats alongside stray logs, and the jagged metal of a submerged car as evidence of the river's chronic pollution.
It's 10 p.m., and Maralee Clark's household is finally quiet. As her 8- and 10-year-old children sleep, she steals a moment to log on to the computer in her spare bedroom. At her fingertips, she finds a community of teachers with a shared interest: learning more about the standards developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. What connects them is Mathline, a professional development service offered by the Public Broadcasting Service.
For a certain group of parents, Judy Biancani's lightly tripping voice is Moon Mountain Elementary School. Announcements are part of an effort in 285 schools nationwide to increase parent involvement through a voice-messaging system called the Bridge Project. Moon Mountain teachers began using the system, which can be modified to allow parents to leave messages as well, last year.
Zooming in on the face of fellow classmates, three members of Bob Schroeder's video communications class concentrate on holding their cameras with steady hands.
Unlocking the secrets of how children think when they're asked to solve a problem has long seemed as unrealistic as predicting the future in a crystal ball.
Few of the children at A:shiwi Elementary School on this remote American Indian reservation have set foot outside their home state. But in mind and spirit, they've traveled all over the world.
Even as the debate over the effectiveness of education technology rages, policymakers and educators are spending billions of dollars on hardware, software, and connectivity.
How technology is used may be the most important question of all, a growing body of research suggests.
FOUNDATION SUPPORT: Coverage of specific topics in Education Week is supported in part by grants from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CME Group Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over the content of the articles that are underwritten by the foundations. Additional grants in support of Editorial Projects in Education’s data journalism and video capacity come from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. (Updated 1/1/2017)
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