Education Chat

Technology Counts 2007: A Digital Decade

Project Director Carole Vinograd Bausell and Education Week technology writer Andrew Trotter discussed the findings of Technology Counts 2007: A Digital Decade.
Sponsored by CDW-G

March 30, 2007

Technology Counts 2007: A Digital Decade

Guests: Carole Vinograd Bausell, project director for Technology Counts 2007 and Andrew Trotter, Education Week technology writer.

Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):
Welcome to today’s chat about Technology Counts 2007: A Digital Decade.

Question from Bob Frangione, Bucknell university:
What are some of the limitations of information technology? Is information too easily accessed? Is it too easily posted? I am reading this chat, after the fact, for instance, on a high speed connection. What might be advantages or disadvantages of reading this chat in real-time, and does real-time really exist anymore?

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
I think that you’ve touched on a critical pedagogical issue Bob, and that is how to teach students to make distinctions between different types of information found on the Internet. I mean, you’re right that it’s easy to post and access just about anything. But can students make important distinctions between sources?

A preliminary report from the ETS suggests that many cannot. For example, of the students tested, only 52% could accurately judge the objectivity of Web sites. We have an interesting chart with some of this information on page 27 of Technology Counts.

Question from Jenelle Leonard, Director, USDOED:
What is is average age of computers in the classrooms in our schools across the country?

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
Jenelle, we didn’t collect this information, however Market Data Retrieval in Shelton, Conn does a public school technology survey. In their most recent survey from 2005-06, they asked schools to report which computer brands they use for instructional computers and what network operating systems they use. From this information one could deduce some age-related information. For example, Windows XP came out around 2001 or 2002. And the operating system Windows NT came out around 1994 and was replaced by Windows 2000.

Comment from Andrew Schultz, ITE Supervisor:
Why do you, “Education Week”, et al, persist in calling digital technology, “technology”? It is inaccurate and distorts the public’s perception. The word “technology” is obviously much, much broader and more consequential than the narrow spectrum of silicon-based stuff. Technology really encompasses all human-made tools, and techniques and this begins in pre-history 100,000 years ago. To use this term so casually and inaccurately seems almost defiantly ignorant.

Question from Susan VIctor, teacher, Holbrook Jr./Sr. High School:
What do you think is the biggest roadblock to the successful implementation of technology in schools. Is it the digital divide (lack of monetary resources), or is it the digital generation gap (lack of awareness of the value of technology in education by administration), or both?

Andrew Trotter:
Both are roadblocks, but there are a lot of external forces that are reducing the digital divide, as prices drop and families are motivated to sacrifice to buy trendy and/or increasingly useful technologies.

The digital generation gap is the more severe obstacle, and not just by administrators; many teachers have barely awakened to the huge amount of time students spend online for entertainment and communication. If adults thought hard about students’ ways of relating to information, one another, and school, they would find some new ways of operating.

For example, some teachers now direct students to math games online for skill practice; many teachers post class assignments etc. on class Web sites for parents to see; teachers are trying podcasts to help students to review for tests, there are many many ideas out there.

Teachers who are on top of this trend are finding some new needs, too, because as we report in Technology Counts, students often have a surface ease with technology, but do not know how to judge the accuracy of online information.

Question from Kim, Counselor, Michigan:
Our problem at our junior high is dealing with all the bugs that happen with technology. We find a great website, but it can’t handle 30 kids at once. We’re working on laptops, but the batteries don’t last all day. Kids and parents don’t understand glitches with technology, and they frustrate teachers. Sometimes it’s easier to go back to pencil and paper - at least pencils don’t lose batteries. What are some solutions?

Andrew Trotter:
There are ways to lessen the impact of glitches, but not avoid them entirely. The best advice I can give is to invest in your technological capacity, which means having committed budget line items for equipment maintenance and upgrades, technical staff, and software updates. Then you can use those resources to tackle the most frustrating problems.

It’s a tough shift for schools that for years have gotten technology money from windfalls, such as grants, or in lump sums from bond levies, or as part of new school construction. But it is vital (and is how businesses do it); the Consortium for School Networking, in Washington, has a lot of ideas on this subject.

Teachers can’t make this change themselves, of course, but they can communicate about the problems. Some teachers are good at coming up with workarounds and standby activities; encourage them to share ideas.

Question from robin raskin, technology writer, Yahoo:
The Flickering Mind, Todd Oppenheimer’s book on technology in the classroom, makes a strong argument that computers are a distraction making us lose sight of what should be taught in schools. Can you comment, perhaps with research that proves the successes or failures of the use of technology in schools.

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
You might look at Technology Counts’ article about the research (see Collecting Evidence by Debbie Viadero). It references, for example, a meta-analysis from Boston College in 2003 that found that students using word processors wrote more and produced better-quality work than did students in comparison groups. I don’t think that research findings in general are conclusive at this point though.

Some folks would agree that computers could be a distraction if not used purposefully as a means to an end, rather than the end itself. NAEP has data from 2005 showing how teachers are using computers which you may find intersting too.

Question from K Dunn, MT AGATE Outreach Chair:
How do you see integrating technology within the urban poor schools to reach the gifted and talented and/or the average students who REALLY do want to learn?

I substitute teach in some low income schools and hear students lament that they are so tired of not being allowed to learn because of the naughty behavior of disruptive students. Yet, I almost shudder to take the whole class to the computer lab.

WHAT options outside of school could be or need to be developed so the brighter students have exposure to scientific/mathematical ideas which are not necessarily available in the school’s print library?

Andrew Trotter:
Educators generously have created loads of Web sites full of activities in math and science that would stretch bright students. For a start, try using Google to search for the Cornell Theory Center’s “Math and Science Gateway” out of Cornell University. It links to many other sites.

Another kind of activity that might be adaptable to different ability levels is the Web Quest, a series of research challenges on a given topic. I don’t know the fine points of how to put together an effective Web Quest, but I’m sure there are some, so do some research first.

Question from Michael Carlsson, Asst. Principal (retired) in Philadelphia:
Has the use of computers to write meant that students are writing better? worse? no difference?

Andrew Trotter:
I think students are writing both worse, and better. On the worse end, teachers complain that students cut-and-paste from online sources or simply repeat or paraphrase information without thinking critically about it.

On the better side, researchers who have studied student writing since the 1980s have found students feel more motivated when writing with computers and they produced papers that are neater, somewhat longer, with fewer spelling and grammar errors. The quality of the style and content is about the same, researchers have found.

But researchers have also found that students who normally use computers to write perform better on writing assessments when they use computers, rather than pencil and paper. That’s a logical finding, but it has implications for standardized testing, which today offers both paper and computer versions of writing assessments.

Question from Jim Ross, Learning Behavior Specialist, Harvard School District:
I’m not sure this is a question as much a comment. Three points to make. I don’t believe that educator’s (top to bottom) have a realization of just what technology can do for them. They have a difficult time understanding the concept of “time saving,” as cost saving. Efficiency is not in their vocabualry. How can those pushing technological advantages enlighten those in the decision making process the real work these tools can do? Additionally, software designed for education is so outrageously expensive (and inflexible) compared to that designed for the business sector that I feel that to be a huge stumbling block to advancing the PROPER use of this tool. Because of the larger base of users in business the pricing is notably more reasonable. Lastly, how do we train our staffs of the true potential of the digital world?

Andrew Trotter:
Teachers and administrators I’ve talked to do care about their time and efficiency. That’s why they are adopting e-mail and Web pages and searches--technologies that are not educational per se, and so don’t have the pricing problem you describe.

Many educators also fairly readily accept the automating of time-consuming school functions, such as using electronic gradebooks. But experts say they tend to resist more innovative uses of technology that change the teachers’ role: for example, Web research projects that give middle and high school students more control over their own learning.

Teachers don’t want to let go of the podium. But they also rightly fear that students will have poor judgment about trusting information on wikis (informational Web sites that allow just about anyone to contribute). The answer is to give students’ lessons in literacy for the digital age, but that requires changes in curriculum and teacher training.

Question from Ruth Ann Knapp, Fine Arts Coordinator, Saginaw MI Public Schools:
Is there a concerted effort to not allow technology funding or grants to be used in the visual and performing arts areas? Composition and graphic design are so much easier taught with computers and appropriate software.

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
I’ve heard how much easier technology makes teaching and learning in the arts from others too Ruth Ann. There’s a good article, “Teaching Assistants,” in Technology Counts. In it two art teachers talk about how they use drawing software and streaming video in their classes.

We do know that some states facilitate access to learning resources in the arts through group purchasing programs, collections of online resources, and subscription services. But the State Educational Technology Directors Association has a wealth of expertise about funding in technology so you might check their reports at

Question from Ms. LaTonya S. Garner, Executive Director, West End Community Center:
What can an after school program that just recieved a technology grant do to develop technology based educational supports for elementary aged youth, and support increasing reading and math competencies...

Andrew Trotter:
Robotics is a great after school project that teaches math and basic computer programming; notably the Mindstorms system to program robots built with Legos; it’s very popular with elementary schools in the Washington DC area, with competitions at various levels.

Question from Ami Hicks, Roosevelt University:
Installation of technology is only one piece of student learning using Internet Resources. Have you included staff development efforts for teacher training for more effective use of technology. I find this is missing in the teachers I teach in graduate school. How can this be promoted?

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
What you are seeing in your students is interesting Ami. The results of our state technology survey in Technology Counts reveal that most states are offering teachers professional development to help them effectively integrate instructional technology into the classroom. Courses in some states cover topics as innovative as handhelds, tablet PCs, digital whiteboards, podcasts, and online course-management systems. Also 39 states offer some form of professional development online for educators (although this is not necessarily technology-related).

However the Teaching Assistants article in our report suggests that a majority of teachers may not be comfortable with newer instructional technologies and explores some of the reasons for this.

Question from Myron Gray, Program Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Human Development Corporation of Metropolitan St. Louis:
What partnership role could community organizations play with schools in providing technology supports to neighborhood youth?

Andrew Trotter:
Libraries, civic groups, businesses, even housing developments, have for years helped establish technology centers--though the projects come and go with the often-spotty funding.

Community groups have also provided volunteer staffing and given new and used equipment to help local young people and their schools gain access to technology. Some projects, such as volunteer efforts to wire schools and donate old computers have had mixed results, because they came with unanticipated costs and technical problems.

Grant-making organizations tend to favor flashy, cutting-edge projects that will spread lessons widely. But communities need old-fashioned community service to keep valuable efforts going.

Question from Ed Glickman former Principal, Superintendent, Currently College Faculty:
What does the research tell us about the degree to which school based administrators use and model the integration of technology? What strategies are in place to support improving the technology skills of school based administrators?

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
Ed, this is a really key question in an age where principals are expected to be instructional leaders. We found that 36 states have technology standards for administrators, but only 9 states require courses or a test for an initial administrator license. And just 13 states offer incentives for administrators to use technology.

You might be interested in looking at a program in West Virginia. The state’s department of education sponsors a summer institute for nominated principals. They receive materials, resources and equipment to support 21st century learning in their schools.

Question from Madge Haven, Manager Healthy School Communities; ASCD:
When I see a person walking a huge dog, I wonder if the person is walking the dog or if the dog is walking the person. Is technology walking educators? Should we should try for the ‘golden mean’ as we make technology decisions for education. George Washington did not have a computer or an iPOD, and he was pretty successful. Madge

Andrew Trotter:
Taking a middle course in technology is a good approach, because the advance guard usually pays high prices for everything and must endure the wrong turns and misfires from untested technology.

On the other hand, schools that are trying to be innovative have a better chance to win grants; foundations don’t pay to support well-known methods. And leading-edge schools usually develop better in-house expertise in technology that can help many aspects of their program.

Being a laggard, as opposed to a middle-of-the-packer, results in missed opportunities. Schools risk being out of touch with today’s digital kids. They may misunderstand trends such as social networking, student online publishing, student cell phones--resulting in clumsy, ineffective policies regarding such things.

George Washington was an innovator in agricultural practices in his day; I’m sure he would be computer-savvy today.

Question from George Thomson, Nogales High School, AZ:
Have you heard of the Senior Project ( and the use of digital portfolios to document students’ projects?

Andrew Trotter:
I don’t know that project. But digital portfolios--which are computerized methods of storing, organizing, and sharing student work--are catching on in many school districts, who want to have a richer picture of student learning than they can get with standardized tests.

This year’s Technology Counts shows how a Rhode Island school uses digital portfolios to assess student progress. Students upload their best work products--text, audio, and scanned artwork--to their online porfolios. Teachers see benefits from students’ self-appraisal and from getting a broader look at their performance.

Question from Lucy Brakoniecki, CT Women’s Education and Legal Fund:
We have been engaged in the evaluation of the blended learning environment (classes using Moodle to implement 4 curricula in CT). What we have found to date is that infrastructure is problemmatic in under-resourced schools; and that the courses are only as good (and rich and interesting)as the instructors teaching. Can you speak to professional development format and/or content that may best assist teachers (who might not be ‘digital natives’)with moving along the learning curve? MAny thanks!

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
Lucy,I haven’t found what are the best strategies for professional development for those who are not digital natives, but I do think that being paired with a digital native can be very helpful for ongoing support. Lead teachers, coaches, and model classrooms are all strategies in this regard too. And,The International Society for Technology Education has available a product called, “Using Model Strategies for Integrating Technology into Teaching.”

Question from David Garratt, Principal, Daramalan College, Canberra, Australia:
Do you have any particular suggestions as to how to energise teachers to integrate technology into their teaching?

Andrew Trotter:
Here’s what I’ve heard from teachers and experts: Teachers, first of all, need good access to technology themselves, such as their own laptops and fast Internet connections. They need training on each new technology that the school adopts.

Teachers should also be encouraged to participate in online and in-person professional forums to share ideas and expertise, both in the school and beyond. Teachers will need a bit more planning time in their schedules to incorporate technologies into their lessons, especially during transition periods.

Having both a tech-savvy librarian/media specialist and a school technology coordinator, who is also a teacher, will go a long way to getting past technical problems and on to real learning.

The school needs a reliable technology budget.

I could go on. None of these ideas is new, but schools have trouble implementing them.

Question from Paul Reinert, Assistant Superintendent, Dallas School District, Dallas PA:
How are schools addressing the fact that the technology many of our students have at home far surpasses what most schools have the resources to provide?

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
Paul, We have two really great articles that address this issue from both the teacher and student perspective with real life examples. See Technology Counts: “Teaching Assistants” and “Outside Interests”. For many educators the challenge is how to make school relevant to students not only in content but in technology too.

It is worth noting though that students from lower income families often don’t have the same technology at home as their higher income counterparts. So for them, school may be the only place to become conversant in the high tech world.

Question from Paula Sereleas, DePaul University:
In what ways can we begin to ensure that technological use in the classroom is not simply a “dog and pony show” but a teaching and learning tool utilized in parallel to the curriculum?

Andrew Trotter:
The school’s academic supervisors, starting with the principal, have got to be sophisticated about the use of technology in learning. It is a mistake for a school to send only teachers to training and conferences on education technology without having administrators get the same grounding, too.

Schools need to have clear plans on how each piece of the curriculum is taught, which spells out the role of technology as well as other methods. Then, those methods can be evaluated in light of data from student assessment.

Question from Sheri Hunter, Director of Professional Development, Clinton Central School District:
Are keyboarding skills still important for students to learn, and, if so, at what age should we start teaching them, now that children begin playing with computers before they even come to school?

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
Sheri, I taught my own children keyboarding skills because they weren’t taught at school when they were young.

Some states that have more detailed technology standards for students include keyboarding in those standards. North Carolina, for example, requires students to become familiar with a keyboard in kindergarten. In 5th, 6th, and 7th grade, students are expected to learn proper techniques and gradually increase in productivity and accuracy in keyboarding. In the 8th grade, students take an online assessment of computer skills. Keyboarding is one of the topics tested.

Question from Don Stalls, Laptop Program Coordinator, Lausanne Collegiate School:
How has technology integration in the independent school changed over the last 5 years, and what do you think the role of a Technology Integration Specialist will be in years to come assuming teachers continue to gain independence and integration of technology becomes more and more part of the classroom norm?

Andrew Trotter:
I haven’t reported on technology in independent schools lately, but I suspect they face many of the same challenges of technology integration that suburban public schools do.

An article in Technology Counts, cites a 2005 survey in which 80 percent of teachers said that their students used a classroom computer less than half their time in class.

That suggests that there is a lot of room for more integration of technology into the classroom. Not to mention the new types of technologies coming down the pike that will change the integration challenge.

Long ago, some school learned the great value of having a school technology coordinator, who knows the technology but who is also a teacher. This professional will understand classroom challenges like a purely technical specialist cannot.

Comment from Carole Hayes, Education Policy Analyst, Board of Governors, State University System of Florida:
I believe that the term technology is used advisedly in this context. Technology is most any intervention that enables more predictable outcomes. As for the tail wagging the dog, I’d suggest that the technology is easy; it’s the sociology that takes time. Please refer to the National Center for Academic Transformations many excellent projects wherein technology can be used to solve various problems by employing them appropriately in the learning experience. I think we are just in an adoption phase that takes time and further evolution of people’s attitudes and expectations along with the evolution of technological solutions and challenges. Thank you!

Question from Eric Willard, Director of Technology, CUSD #300, Carpentersville, IL:
I’m interested in comparing the collected data across time to predictions. That is, where are we today compared to where we predicted five years ago that we would be today? With that as a base, where do we predict we’ll be in 2012?

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
Hi Eric. I would recommend that you check out a timeline called Ed. Tech. Evolution at

It is a special web-only feature created in honor of Technology Counts’ tenth edition that examines key educational technology trends over the past ten years and features information from previous editions of Technology Counts as well as Education Week articles.

Question from Alan Warhaftig, Teacher, Fairfax Magnet Center for Visual Arts, Los Angeles:
In Technology Counts, you quote Marc Prensky about the increasing irrelevance of school for “digital natives,” yet Mr. Prensky has acknowledged that it will be a challenge to deliver the “21st century learning tools” he envisions before the end of the 21st century. Doesn’t this leave schools in an impossible position - feeling obliged to educate via media not yet available? What portion of their energies, now largely devoted to teaching to standards and preparing for standardized assessments, should schools allocate to developing and implementing 21st century tools and methods, especially in these years before they’re readily available in the marketplace?

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
Marc Prensky, an expert on digital games for learning, was quoted in our report, warning that schools are losing touch with digitally savvy students and missing opportunities to use technology to connect them to academic content.

It’s true that teachers need methods they can use on Monday, not 10 years from now.

But new tools and media are available now, if schools think creatively. The same article, for example, in one school teachers record stories in English that students with weak English skills can download onto their iPods and listen to after school.

Question from John Eldredge, President, Education And Globalization Info Exchange:
I see the 1990s as Education’s Introduction to Technology with a focus on and benefit to Student and Teacher Productivity. Isn’t the next step the use of technology applications to directly enhance student learning and achievement? (e.g., Cognitive Tutoring).

Andrew Trotter:
So far, digital technology has been adopted most successfully to automate functions in school, including communication, information access, and back-office administrative tasks.

Technological methods for student learning have been uneven, depending greatly on the abilities and training of the teacher. Some would argue that this means that teacher quality will always take precedence over technology tools.

As you suggest, however, there has been a lot of research into creating computer-based “environments"--some like tutors, some like video games--that use findings from cognitive science to teach academic concepts. Much more research is needed for these tools to become well-developed and affect more than a few strands of the curriculum.

Question from Dr. David Bradford, Headmaster Pillar Institute, Florida:
How should cell phones, iPods, MP3s, etc. be treated? Embrace the technology or have the students turn them off while in class?

Andrew Trotter:
Respect for one’s teacher and fellow students--and the classroom enterprise--should never become obsolete.

Students need to learn how to manage their personal technologies appropriately, which probably includes keeping them turned off in class, unless the assignment includes calling up an expert, or listening to a relevant podcast.

Question from Daryl Diamond, Project Manager:Technology and Instruction, Education Technology Services, Broward County Public Schools:
As we witness the exponential growth of virtual high schools, and the continuation of its trend to reach younger and younger students in the K-8 grade levels, how are researcher monitoring and reporting its growth and effectiveness; and what are post secondary educational institutions doing to help prepare teachers for conducting classes in the e-Learning space?

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
Hi Daryl. You bring up really important issues. Many states now require their teacher prep programs to train teachers to use technology in their teaching. A smaller number of states (19 actually) tie teacher licensure requirements to technology coursework or a test. And professional development in technology for teachers is one of the goals of NCLB so it is widely offered in schools, although it may be optional.

The Metiri Group came out with a report “Technology in Schools: What does the Research Say” in November 2006. One of the findings was that students’ performance in virtual classrooms was as good as or better than their performance in face-to-face classrooms. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in September 2006 announced plans for a five year study to research technology’s effect on students, so hopefully we will be learning more on how younger students fare with virtual education. You might also look at the article in Technology Counts that starts on page 30.

Question from Linda Vorderer, art teacher Queen of Peace High School:
Our school is going to issue laptops to each student next year. What ways can I best use this opportunity in the art room. I guess I am asking about ‘best practices’ as I transition into a wireless classroom and want to use this technology efficiently while still teaching a project-based subject.

Andrew Trotter:
Ideas for secondary school include using the laptops for online research into background historical and cultural information for art projects, and artistic techniques. Visual art can be scanned and presented online or on-screen, combined with audio and text, even shared with the community in an electronic publication. If you can acquire the software, students can try animation art.

You might find that students, with their own laptops, will be inspired to work on digital art projects on their own time.

But you should quickly join an online community of art teachers that you can tap for ideas about how to use those laptops. They will have many more suggestions than I do.

Question from Sheri Hunter, Director of Professional Development, Clinton Central School District:
Our district is working on K-12 technology benchmarks for students, to ensure that all students have access to digital media and are prepared to continue to learn in the digital age. What would you consider to be essential technology skills for students to learn, and at what point in their K-12 careers should they learn them?

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
Sheri, We have found that many states look to ISTE-NETS for guidelines on technology standards. The ISTE-NETS standards are very broad, and when it comes to digital media, they say that students should use and create developmentally appropriate multimedia products.

But you can also look at states like Wisconsin which has more explicit guidelines on digital media. The standards include the common media formats that students should know by the ends of grades 4, 8, and 12. The standards even go so far as to recommend that students do things like produce a short video program or use video conferencing equipment by the end of grade 12. Hope this is helpful to you, and good luck with that.

Question from John Richard Schrock, Chair, Dept. Biological Sciences, Emporia State University:
With on-screen reading 30% slower (Bigelow et al) and with 30% less comprehension (Forrester Research, et al), shouldn’t students at “paperless” high schools have to attend five years instead of four to receive the same education?

When we sent students to the library, where materials were classified (500s and 500s were science, 100s is occult, etc) and selected (library funds are limited and libraries only bought the better reviewed materials), students were mining a rich resource efficiently. Today’s online sources are neither classified nor selected and the search engines push slick commercial and political sites to the front. During the recent election, we saw manipulation of web hits driving searches for “evil” to various politician websites, and commercial enterprises now advertise services to push your site to the front of much for the “wisdom of the commons.” So-called techniques for recognizng quality of websites only work for advanced experts, not novice students. (How can they know that the Discovery Institute is a creationist site, not mainstream science?) What is the future consequence of our throwing students into this vast low-quality wasteland versus other countries that do limit students to bonafide science websites? My student teachers estimate that in biology, the percent of science-inaccurate websites in the first hundred listed ranges from 60% to over 90%, depending on subdiscipline.

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
Another way to look at the question about years in school, is to examine outcomes rather than time spent reaching those outcomes. In this day and age of compentency-based testing that’s pretty easy to do.

I completely agree about the importance of giving students the tools they need to use technology effectively, ethically, and safely. The preliminary report from the Educational Testing Service’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy Assessment that we reference in Technology Counts suggests substantial disparities in students’ abilities in that regard.

Question from Alberto Corrales, Vice Principal, Orosi High School:
There is no question that educators desire to have 1:1 computer to student ratio, but as usual funding in education puts a crimp in the efforts. If technology has demonstrated to have such a high impact why is there not the funding to support it?

Andrew Trotter:
You’re right that many teachers think 1:1 computing is the ideal. But it is hard to convince school boards because no rigorous study has demonstrated unequivocal learning gains from having a 1:1 computer to student ratio.

Such a study would be very complex partly because of the many ways laptops could be used.

No question, laptops are very expensive and need to be upgraded and replaced every few years. Theft and loss are another problem. Some experts think schools could get significant benefits for less money by using other digital mobile devices on a 1:1 basis.

Learning activities are already available for handheld computers and advanced cell phones (with GIS), including those that students are bringing to school in their pockets.

Question from Hayes Mizell, Distinguished Senior Fellow, National Staff Development Council:
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that after “dabbling with online training, Home Depot is relying more on personal mentoring.” One executive notes “There’s no substitute for having skilled tradespeople in the aisles, informally spreading knowledge.” Does this corporate experience also have implications for school systems’ use of technology for professional development? What is the potential and limits of technology for professional development?

Andrew Trotter:
I think most experts would agree that professional development, like teaching students, is a human enterprise at its core. People usually interact more effectively with people than with machines.

But online technology is a great assist, bridging distances and marshaling resources that can save time and money and propagate the best ideas.

Question from Jack Fretwell, Owner, Starboard Training Systems:
When most people hear the term educational technology they think of computers and the internet. Originally, however, ed tech dealt not so much with computers as with learning systems, their design, and measurement of their effectiveness.

Chief among contributing educational psychologists and scientists were people like B. F. Skinner, Robert Mager, Robert Gagne, Bob Glaser, Karl Popper, and Norbert Weiner. They focused on such things as programmed instruction, feedback, individualization, criterion-referenced objectives, and self-paced learning.

In general, they viewed the learner as a participant in a cybernetic system of reciprocal feedback.

Computers are unique in their capacity to support such systems. The popularity and addictive power of computer games is obvious evidence.

Yet there remains a dearth of computer-based instructional material that seems strongly and intentionally founded on early ed tech notions. Most programs merely attempt to automate traditional instructional tasks usually performed by teachers, e.g., present material, administer tests, maintains scores, etc.

Are the fundamentals still being taught? To what extent do they guide developers of computer-based materials and those who use and critique them, namely teachers?

__Jack Fretwell, Owner Starboard Training Systems

Andrew Trotter:
The learning systems that you refer to have heirs that are still used in schools today, to drill students in basic skills in reading and math. Teachers often disparaged them as “drill and kill” but the fact is that research in the 1980s showed that they were effective in achieving their admittedly narrow learning goals.

Technologies that appeared in the 1990s, with the World Wide Web, opened up many new possibilities for both math and reading, but many activities were not designed with the same rigor as the old learning systems.

But increasingly popular today are hybrids that combine self-paced computer-directed learning with noncomputer activities such as reading story books and teachers’ observational assessments.

One example that has some promising research results is Scholastic’s Accelerated Reader.

Question from Theresa Perry, Tech Mentor, Navarro Elementary:
How do we convince our teachers and administrators to focus on technology when all classroom emphasis is on TAKS testing? TAKS trumps technology in Texas schools. Technology takes a back seat to test-prep unless, of course, it’s online asssessment practice.

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
The state technology survey conducted for Technology Counts found that states are integrating technology into the classroom in many ways. Several states embed technology standards within standards for core subject areas, which allows teachers to prep students for tests while also addressing technology literacy.

And you’re right of course about online assessment practice which is more and more common along with online formative assessments. Also, as of 2006-07, students were offered the opportunity to take statewide assessments on the computer in 23 states, so that is an emerging trend. In addition, our survey found that most states offer teachers training on incorporating instructional technology into the classroom.

Question from Tom Zurinskas, creator of the truespel phonetic s:
Next year England is changing it’s method of teaching kids reading to “synthetic phonics”. Are there any new technology developments for teaching phonics or phonetics to kids to foster “phonemic awareness”, a key indicator of success in reading?

Andrew Trotter:
An approach generating a lot of interest in the U.S. is to equip teachers with handheld computers that allow them to easily record their observations of students who are reading special grade-level texts. That information, which includes phonemic awareness, is then fed into a database, compared with data from thousands of other students, and used to prescribe strategies to teach reading.

Wireless Generation Inc., in New York, is working with the Montgomery County schools in Maryland, among other school districts on this.

Question from Dotti Morrison, Elementary School Teacher, Cook School System:
Good Afternoon Mrs. Bausell and Mr. Trotter, Let me begin by explaining my dilemma on the issue. When teaching elementary school age children technology, we must place a lot of attention to the methods in which they are learning. Teaching proper keyboard mechanics should be part of that instruction as to avoid students developing bad habits of typing before they enter middle school. Like P.E. class, our students do attend a computer class once a week, but they are not taught the mechanics of where to place the hands and fingers on the keyboard, they are taught basic applications about the computer and they are allowed to play certain educational games. Many High School teachers in our area complain that students are not being taught the proper way to type on the keyboard and therefore by the time they enter into the ninth grade their bad habits are almost impossible to correct. I support technology in the classroom in every grade level, but this matter can not be omitted from the discussion. If children are not taught early the basic mechanics of how to use the keyboard correctly, by the time they reach High School, the technology classes will resemble chicken coupes. Students pecking away at a keyboard with only a few fingers and never looking at the screen while typing, only pausing to mull over how much they have typed and how many words are underlined in red or green. If technology is being utilized in the classroom, should the mechanics of proper keyboard typing also be taught in the classroom or should this fall on the responsibility of the computer teacher? Is this issue part of any other related report linked to technology in the classrooms? What are your thoughts or ideas on this matter? Thank you,

Andrew Trotter:
Alas, just as many elementary schools are cutting back the time they spend teaching handwriting--arguing that kids will be using keyboards instead--they are also saying they don’t have time to teach keyboarding because of the pressures to prepare students for state academic proficiency tests.

So we are developing a generation of lousy typers with horrific handwriting.

I’ve heard teachers say typing skill is now up to the family to provide, like driving instruction in many places.

The only saving grace here is that young people are motivated to type fast, if not necessarily properly, in order to chat online. So they may muddle through.

It doesn’t have to be so. There a bunch of computer games that are designed to teach typing. And there are cheap electronic keyboards that can be purchased by the classroom set, if a school will only step up to the challenge.

Comment from Dr.Wes Perusek, Director, OSGC(NASA) Invention Innovation Centers Project:
The documented national issue and needed discussion is not whether or not schools and classrooms have or need more educational or instructional technology in its latest iteration of computers and information processing systems, but are the schools advancing technological literacy and understanding. Are the schools advancing STEM education across the grades? Are the schools addressing the recommendations of Project 2061, AAAS, ITEA’s Standards for Technological Literacy K-12 funded by NSF and NASA; National Academy of Engineering’s Technically Speaking- Why All Americans Need To Know More About Technology and its Tech Tally- Approches for Assessing the Technological Literacy of All Americns and the National Research Council’s National Science Education Standards which contain a reasoned portion of technology education.

The September 7, 2006 National Academy of Sciences Forum on STEM education drew some 146 leaders, including this writer, from across this nation to address the issue of total inclusion of all: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics in an integrated, holistic, thematic curriculum and not simply the “S&M”. AAAS Project 2061 Benchmarks says it well: " By ‘science’, Project 2061 means basic and applied natural and social science, basic and applied mathematics, and engineering and technology, and their interconnections-- which is to say the scientific enterprise as a whole. The basic point is that the ideas and practice of science, mathematics and technology are so closely intertwined that we do not see how education in any one of them can be undertaken well in isolation from the others.”

Educational technology should always be labeled as such. It is but one component of “information processing technology” which is but a part of technology and technology education and literacy. So, indeed, Technology Counts. But focus on only one aspect of it is about as useful as focus only on the tires or the transmission of your automobile while ignoring the rest of the system such as highways,bridges, fuel,licenses,proof of competency to drive,oil and lubricants, coolants, filters, brakes which makes safe transportation possible, and in this instance, literacy, possible.When the term edcational technology or information processing technology is dropped and the term technology is substituted, without explanation, you have a major literacy issue.

Question from Mary Wilkes-Dyette, GA Educator, Parent:
How well are our public schools addressing issues of equity & access in the direct instruction of technology skills?

My concerns arise from my perceptions of how I, as an African-American, and a Latina colleague were treated in a state mandated Technology in the Classroom Training Program. We were the only minorities and received less direct instruction than other participants.

Carole Vinograd Bausell:
Hi Mary. The “digital divide” has been of great concern over the past decade. We know that great progress has been made in access to computers at school. Students of all races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds have close to the same amount of access at school. Access at home is another story though. There are wide disparities based on race and ethnicity, economic background, and parent educational level. How these disparities affect students is something that schools need to consider.

Question from JOhn Middleton, International Education Consultant:
What is known about the use of computers wihtin “new basic skills” curricula? In more traditional seconday vocational education programs? Myclients in Africa are very interested in this.

Andrew Trotter:
I’m not sure what the “new” basic skills are, but computers are very good at drilling on reading and math skills.

Being educated today requires much more than basic skills, however, and schools want to tap the broader potential of technology in learning, and to stay relevant to the ways students are accessing information.

The possibilities in vocational education include computer-aided design and computer-controlled lathes, etc. Those activities will prepare students for today’s workplaces.

Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):
Thank you for joining us for this very informative chat. And a special thanks to our guests for taking time out of their busy days to address your questions. We will be holding a second Technology Counts chat on Wednesday, April 4, from 3 to 4 p.m. Eastern time. The featured guests for that chat will be Elliot Soloway, a professor of computer science and education at the University of Michigan, and Margaret A. Honey, the director of the Center for Children and Technology. Today’s chat is now over. A transcript will be posted shortly on

The Fine Print

All questions are screened by an editor and the guest speaker prior to posting. A question is not displayed until it is answered by the guest speaker. Due to the volume of questions received, we cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered, or answered in the order of submission. Guests and hosts may decline to answer any questions. Concise questions are strongly encouraged.

Please be sure to include your name and affiliation when posting your question.’s Online Chat is an open forum where readers can participate in a give- and-take discussion with a variety of guests. reserves the right to condense or edit questions for clarity, but editing is kept to a minimum. Transcripts may also be reproduced in some form in our print edition. We do not correct errors in spelling, punctuation, etc. In addition, we remove statements that have the potential to be libelous or to slander someone.

Please read our privacy policy and user agreement if you have questions.

Chat Editors