Education Chat

Technology Counts 2007: The Evolution of Ed. Tech.

This discussion centered on the progress that has been made in the use of educational technology over the past 10 years.
Sponsored by CDW-G

April 4, 2007

Technology Counts 2007: The Evolution of Ed. Tech.

Guests: Margaret A. Honey, director of the Center for Children and Technology; Cathleen Norris, professor, department of technology and cognition, college of education, University of North Texas; and
Elliot Soloway, professor of computer science and education, University of Michigan.

Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):
Welcome to today’s online chat about the evolution of educational technology over the past decade. We have a very large volume of questions. So let’s get the discussion started ...

Question from Shelley McCoy, PhD Candidate, Univerity of Tennessee, Knoxville:
Rather than trying to fit technology into a mold that will work with standardized testing, has anyone ever taken the approach that standardized testing doesn’t really have a relationship to what future workers actually need to know to be successful in the workplace? Maybe tests (if they’re used at all) should be tied to the idea of what a real-world workplace requires. Very few decisions in peoples lives/jobs are restricted to four possible multiple-choice answers.

Elliot Soloway:
Great point, Shelley! But if we take your point to its logical conclusion -- BIG TROUBLE FOR ETS. The standardized tests are pretty irrelevant in terms of what people have to do. Yes. But changing the testing system now seems nigh unto impossible. We have SO much machinery geared to the standarized tests. In my younger days, I entertained the idea that we could change the tests, but I have pretty much given up that idea. YOU don’t give up, though; carry the torch and try to make the tests more relevant to the lives of children. Go for it!

Question from Lorna Paxson School Improvement consultant, Green Valley AEA 14:
In what ways have school technology plans changed as a result of the legislative requirements around educational technology? Are they more detailed? do they include standards & benchmarks as well as hardware, software lists? do they include assessment and evaluation plans, and projected allowances for new technology?

Cathleen Norris:
I think schools have changed and become more focused on the use of tech in ed. But the reality is schools still don’t see the value of technology. Until they do, no amount of regulation is going to really make a difference. Depending on the moment, I am confident/not confident that such a realization will happen.

Question from :
Are there examples of paperless classrooms at the elementary level, where the students do all their work on computers? If so where are they; how are those students doing on standardized tests? If students are doing all their work on computers shouldn’t the tests they take also be on the computer rather than paper and pencil? Perhaps the format of the standardized tests does not match their interactive learning exerience and so their learning does not translate to higher test scores?

Margaret A. Honey:
I don’t know if the classrooms are entirely paperless, but there is quite a bit of research that has been conducted around the Maine Laptop initiative. The studies can be found at the University of Southern Maine:

Question from Christine Guan, Student, Georgetown University:
We hear a lot about how computers could be used to improve teaching and learning. But are there specific ways in which computers should be taught/used that is beneficial to student performance. Are there bad ways? (examples?) How can the effective ways be translated to the use of computers in low-income homes to improve student performance?

Elliot Soloway:
I don’t see any real downsides to computers so I would say that there are good ways and better ways to use computers. Yes, there are probably extreme situations where computers are used inappropriately, e.g., as babysitting devices -- but the truth is, even such uses aren’t really bad. The REAL challenge for using computers with low-income families is providing sufficient access for these families to use the technology. We have to solve that problem first. We need to figure out how to put a computer in the homes/hands of each and every child; and give each family/child access to the internet - high speed access. THEN we can start to worry about the nuances of use. Bottom line: I think it is a red herring to focus on good/bad uses of computers. Now, others will disagree -- there are books and books about bad uses of computers for kids. But kids today love the technology; they want the technology. So, we need to give it to them.

Question from Laura Lag, Adjunct Professor, DePaul University:
What direction should technology be taking with preservice elementary math teachers or preservice teachers in all subject areas - what technology should they be familiar with or excel in as they enter the teaching field? Thank you.

Cathleen Norris:
The short answer is that they should be comfortable using computer technology. Even more important, they should be given as much information as possible about strategies for integrating the technology into their teaching. Much of the integration depends on what software (and hardware)they have available when they goe out to teach, and how much access their students have to technology. There isn’t really a simple answer to this question unfortunately.

Question from Mary Thomas, teacher District of Columbia Public Schools:
I teach third grade and think it’s critical that students develop writing skills using the writing process and the six traits of writing; however, I think the students’ lack of keyboard skills inhibits developing composition. I’ve also used technology for short math or vocabulary assessments, with considerably more success. What is a the appropriate use of technology for third graders?

Margaret A. Honey:
You are absolutely right that 3rd grades can and should use technology to support the writing process. They can also use multimedia authoring tools to develop interactive presentations. Using technologies in ways that encourage your 3rd graders to further explain ideas and communicate is a terrific idea, and doing this via word processing or multimedia authoring programs are effective strategies.

Question from Jan Leonard, Consultant, Two Rivers Professional Development Center:
What level(s) of classroom technology integration does promote student achievement? Also, how much

difference in student achievement does 1-1 computing make - what does any research say? Thank you.

Elliot Soloway:
Great question, Jan. There really isn’t specific data on that question, but we can put together a range of studies to address this question. The KEY to getting an impact of computing is USING computing for a concerted period of time. Limited, incremental, part-time, scattered use of computers - e.g., computers on carts, computer labs -- typically shows no impact -- because use is limited. 1:1 finally gives the children time to use the technology. NOW there can be some benefit. But, we have to be careful - it is NOT JUST use that makes the impact - one needs to use the computers in a focused way with software that addresses the learning goals. THEN we see impact. So 1:1 will get us the impact ONLY when we have the kids use software that is tied to the curriculum. Great question; thank you for asking it. I need to give this some more thought!

Question from Cynthia Overton, Research Analyst, National Center for Technology Innovation:
As more students with disabilities are mainstreamed and included in the general classroom with assistive technology (AT), do you foresee educators drawing on AT to help address the needs of students who struggle academically in certain areas, but are not necessarily identified as a student with a disability?

Margaret A. Honey:
Absolutely! One of the best organizations to turn to for research in this area is CAST:

Question from Mindy Willis, Teacher, Garrett Elementary:
Do you think some funding should be used to provide teacher training on how to utilize the technology they have in their classrooms?

Cathleen Norris:
ABSOLUTELY! Money must be allocated for professional development to help teachers integrate the tools they have into their teaching.

Question from Ying, student, Michigan State University:
Many K-12 teachers are learning technology in educational technology programs. Have their teaching philosophies changed after learning the new media? Any research done on it?

Elliot Soloway:
Good question.... There is no research that I know about that addresses how younger teachers deal with technology. THey SHOULD be more open to its use since they use the technology in their own lives. Interestingly, I have seen older teachers be the most effective users of technology -- they are comfortable with teaching practices and thus are comfortable making changes to their practices. Research on your question would be most appropriate.

Question from Don Knezek, CEO, ISTE (Int’l Society for Technology in Education):
What are the three or four top strategies (or techniques) technology enables that are out of the reach of educators without technology ... in the areas of student learning, teaching, and education leadership?

Elliot Soloway:
Hi Don! Great question -- what can you do with technology that you simply can’t do without it. Rather than write a dissertation or ten in response, let’s try this: (1) modeling and simulation - without computing a learner simply has no way to explore a dynamic system other than be in the dynamic system. But with a modeling or simulation application, a learner can get practice before going into the real thing. (2) change is cheap: the key to writing is rewriting and computers make changing one’s writing easy and quick. Yes, a student can rewrite without a computer, but a quantitative change introduces a qualitative change -- the type of change permitted by computing is significantly different than the opportunity for change afforded by say typewriters. (3) IMMEDIATE access to information -- books & humans. Google changes everything. IM/email changes everything. Learners now have access to ideas, images, people, words, etc., that they have never had before.

As for teachers... (1) Assessing in context: never before has a teacher had the opportunity to see how a learner can perform in a real situation.

I have run out of steam. I need to give your question more thought. Your question is worthy of a much more thought explanation. Thank you for asking this VERY and TRULY provocative question.

Question from Brad Huff, Project Director, Valley Arts & Science Academy:
Tutoring companies have mushroomed since NCLB made Title I moneys available for private companies to provide instruction to students in underperforming schools. Some of these companies use computers, but have you heard of a company called In addition to founding an elementary charter school restoring the arts and science in grades K-6, I am an online tutor for StudentNest because it allows direct voice communication using VoIP and screen writing using the mouse. I work with students in several states, and it is a joy to observe their progress. I understand this company’s technology is being considered as a platform for multi-user professional development and meeting formats in sparsely populated regions. In my experience the system is extremely user-friendly. I do not know how widely it is known.

Margaret A. Honey:
I am not familiar with, but it sounds like an excellent way to use technology to support students! And, I would think it could be used to effectively support PD in the ways you describe. Thanks for sharing the info!

Question from Heidi Coleman, Manager of Professional Development, The JASON Project (and former teacher!):
Many experienced educators, for example those with 20-25 years of service, are reluctant to learn or use new technologies. In fact, they don’t even want them used in their classrooms. How can administrators and/or state education agencies encourage or require the use of new technologies by reluctant teachers who are otherwise of high quality? And how can this be done without causing high levels of friction?

Cathleen Norris:
The reason these teachers are reluctant is that they don’t know what to do with the new technology. A Swedish study showed that these were actually the best teachers to use to integrate technology because they had already mastered classroom management and how to teach their content material. All they needed was appropriate software for their subject area and professional development to help them see how they could better engage their students with the technlogy and software. Also, the technology must not be the kind the adds an extra burden to what they already have to do.

Question from Ian Harrison, Prof Emeritus, Penn State Univ:
Educational technology means many different things from new computers, through notes on line, use of search engines, to sophisticated learning modules, etc. Would the panel describe what they consider appropriate ‘educational technology’ for the classroom and why?

Elliot Soloway:
The key to effecive use of technology is its relationship to the teaching goals of classroom, teacher, district, etc. So, the tech per se isn’t appropriate or inappropriate. Rather, that tech which supports the educational goals is appropriate and that tech that doesn’t do such support is inappropriate. Thank you for asking this question. You have caused me to frame an answer about tech in a way that I haven’t done before. Thank you!

Question from Tim Van Soelen, Professor of Education, Dordt College:
In your opinion or research, what reasons would you give to explain why technology has not stimulated student achievement gains that we hoped for?

Elliot Soloway:
Tech has not had the impact that we believe it should have primarily because kids aren’t using tech in any appreciable way in classrooms. We did a survey of tech use in 2002 and saw that 65% of the teachers had 1 or fewer computers in their classroom. Today, the ratio of computers to kids is about 5:1 -- with that sort of ratio, kids aren’t getting sufficient access to technology to make a difference in learning. Only when we get to 1:1 will we see a real impact on student achievement. Without access, there is no hope of impact. Now, with 1:1, we had better do some other things right in order to see those gains, but access is the first step towards impact.

Question from Richard Blake, Principal, Gates Intermediate School, Scituate, MA 02066:
What tech/engineering courses are now recommended for middle school students?

Elliot Soloway:
Science and math; math and science; science and math; math and science. Those are the rereqs. As for technology -- here is my prescription: use it as often as possible for as many types of tasks as possible. I don’t mean to be glib - you have asked a very serious question. But what I see in my engineering students -- I teach in an engin college -- are students with INTENSE backgrounds in science, math, and tech. Interestingly, the girls tend to have MUCH less experience in programming computers - they start programming in college, whereas the boys start at age 5 (or so). That puts the girls at a distinct disadvantage. I am not sure how to address this HUGE imbalance. But, if you could get more girls doing more tech in middle school, I think you would be doing them a great service.

Question from Ihor Charischak, Mathematics Educator, Stevens Institute of Technology - CIESE:
This year at the annual NCTM mathematics meeting for the first time in many years there were no computer lab sessions. Cost seems to have played a role, but also there was a decline in attendance. For me this says that NCTM needs to do a better job of promoting new, more dynamic models of how math can be taught in a time where Wifi, laptops and handhelds are becoming ubiquitous. How can we do a better job in the coming years of blending subject matter needs with technological solutions so the divide between technology and subject matter is narrowed?

Cathleen Norris:
I think the definitive word in your question is “becoming” ubiquitous. To some extent the digital divide is becoming a chasm. I still work in classrooms everyday where there is one computer (or less). These people don’t need lab sessions at NCTM either, because their lab access is seldom to never. I think what we need at NCTM is a clear division of sessions for people in the category that you are addressing and the one that I see on a regular basis. I do agree that the divide between technology and subject matter should ideally disappear.

Question from Arietha Lockhart, Computer Lab Assistant, Medlock Elementary:
What can older established schools do to get up to date technology into each of their classrooms. I’m talking about projection and more computers for student access. If the answer is writing grants, which do we need to be looking at?

Cathleen Norris:
Many of the schools I’ve visited lately are using citywide bond referendums to refurbish classrooms and to add new technology for students.

Question from Amy Bogan, Teacher, McCormick Middle:
If you were building a new 7-12 or 9-12 facility, how would you plan for the future?

Cathleen Norris:
Plan for sustainability. Plan for sustainability. Plan for sustainability. Did I say that load enough? Don’t go for the quick hit, e.g., give a bunch of kids laptops. That is NOT sustainable. Schools are not short-term fixes; schools are in it for the longer term. Invest in an infrastructure that will support a SUSTAINABLE technology model.

Question from Dr. jo Lynn Suell, Sul Ross State University, Alpine Texas:
What programs have been proven to be successful in improving student mathematics skills, particularly with students who are English language learners?

Margaret A. Honey:
The answer to this question really depends on what skills and concepts you are trying to help students learn. I would begin by trying to identify these and then I would look at simulation tools, graphing software, and visualization software like the geometic supposer that help students to understand mathematical ideas and relationships through visual representations. You might also check out the Gizmos developed by Explore Learning.

Question from Robert Slaughter, Sub. teacher, various schools, grad stud. in Instructional Tech.:
I have noticed in an interesting trend in a number of schools that I substitute teach at in NE Ohio. In the k-5 classrooms they seem to be putting less computers and more smartboard technologies. There is a computer lab for the students, but not many computers in the classroom; usually only the teacher has one. Is this the trend that we are going to be seeing in the lower grades and computers labs attached to media centers? Is this happening in other areas of the country also?

Cathleen Norris:
The number of smartboards in classrooms is increasing as schools look for ways to give students access to technology without the funds to really do it. I have seen one really interesting application of smartboards in a classroom where each child has a handheld computer. The smartboard uses a program called Synchronize that allows a thumbnail of each child’s handheld screen to be displayed on the smartboard. The teacher can then zoom on any child’s work for a discussion, to use it as an example, etc. This makes for a very lively classroom with a ton of engagement!

Question from Jim Ross, Learning Behavior Specialist, Harvard High School:
Two questions. How can we develop creativity within the educational community with regards to the use of technology within a curriculum? I like virtual classes as a way of expanding the curriculum to students but from my perspective administrators think they are something for others to do - not their staff or in their curriculum. How do you change that thinking?

Elliot Soloway:
Leadership is pretty much everything. So, we do need to help those at the top see the future. One way is for there to be success stories - espeically in schools that the administrators respect. Word of mouth in education is everything. I think that creating success, and beating the drum loudly and cleverly is the only way to have an impact on folks’ thinking. You have asked the hardest question.

Question from Firuz Hussin (just call me Roz) Lecturer Department of Curriculum & Instructional Technology, University of Malaya, Malaysia (currently on Research-leave in Lincoln, Nebraska):
I find the main barrier to embracing technology is human self-inflicted weakness(eg: prejudice, fear and inertia). One of my research outcomes, a model-of-instruction that I named “ASK4HeLP” (Acquisition of Skills & Knowledge for Humanistic e-Learning Protocols), focuses on “re-programming humans” to be more technology-friendly. This is the opposite of typical research which focus on programming technology to be more human-friendly. So far, ASK4HeLP has been amazingly successful, able to modify Learner Readiness (Bruner) in participants aged between 10 (youngest) to 83 (oldest). However, my experiments so far have only been in selected pilot project communities. QUESTION: do you think psychosocial techniques such as ASK4HeLP could be the answer to speeding up the technology-usage in mainstream education?

Elliot Soloway:
We need good strategies for PD. ask4help sounds like one of the good ones. There is no one right answer.

You will need to move your ideas from the univ to the commerical work if you want to see an impact. It’s a hard row to hoe, but it is rewarding. I wish you all the best!

Question from Lori Dobler, teacher, Rockford Lutheran JS High School:
If I were to add 3 technology items this year to class, what would they be and how would I start?

How can we motivate the reluctant teacher to try?

Cathleen Norris:
I am sorry, but I wouldn’t frame the question like that. There aren’t “3 tech items.” One needs a “tech item” for each child. THEN the tech items will get the kids going -- and yes, then you have a problem with the teacher. 3 tech items won’t have any impact -- except negative, except causing a teacher management nightmares. How much fun is it to have 1-2 computers in the back of the room - especially in a Jr. HS where kids rotate in and out of the room, where lectures dominate, etc. I am really sorry; i don’t mean to be glib or nasty or anything like that. I just don’t want to set up a bad expectation that putting in a few gizmos will make a positive difference. I apologize if I said anything offensive.

I wish you all the best in your classroom. Being a teacher is the most noble of professions.

Question from Dr. Bruce McLaren, researcher Carnegie Mellon University:
One success story of educational technology has been the use of Cognitive Tutors in algebra and geometry high school classes across the country. Do you see intelligent tutoring systems increasing their presence in U.S. classrooms?

Cathleen Norris:
Cognitive Tutors in math are a wonderful thing for the schools that can afford them. Based on the number of questions I have answered today about funds for providing technology, I can’t see an exponential growth in Cognitive Tutors. Most schools are just looking for funds for a projector in the classroom.

Question from Lorna Paxson School Improvement consultant, Green Valley AEA 14:
Does anyone have suggested sites for reference or print materials for development of technology plans? I currently have resources from Dr. Larry Anderson’s site and would like to find more if available.

Margaret A. Honey:
Two additional resources:

Technology Planning: Critical Issue: Developing a School or District Technology Plan

Technology Planning for K12 Education Texas Center for Educational Technology

Question from Janice Winbush Instructor, General Education/Students with Disabilities 5-9 Bronx High School for Writing and Communication Arts ,New York:
As an educator interested in technology how has technology pace itself to address the needs of our students especially students with disabilties who are forced to take the same Regents exams as the General Education students. How can the use of technology increase their passing rates ? How can I better perpare students different abilities? How can I better prepare myself for the meeting student needs?

Margaret A. Honey:
I’m not sure technology is going to be the magic wand you are looking for! However, there are interesting formative assessment tools that can help teachers to more effectively diagnose their students strengths and weaknesses. Take a look at Wireless Generation, you can find them online.

Question from kayode, teacher, NYC public school:
How can we engage the students by meeting the students where they spend most of their time, such as myspace, youtube,and facebook?

Elliot Soloway:
Tricky problem. We would need to see how to make the curriculum make use of youtube, myspace. For example, using video clips on youtube that address curricular issues would be an easy first step. But making tech effective means integrating it into the curriculum. Teachers are MASTERS are figuring out ways to TEACH and thus if teachers are familiar with those “places” i think they will figure out to use them. Great question.. I need to give this more thought! Thank you for asking this provocative question.

Question from Jose Flores, Regional Program Manager, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development -ASCD:
What impact is digital gaming having on how students want to be taught?

Elliot Soloway:
Gaming is a good idea. Everyone is excited about it. But kids are in school for about 8 hours a day. Do they do games for 8 hours? No. They read, they write, they interact, they sit and dream. Gaming is an opportunity for learning -- i think a small opporunity that is being blown way out of proportion since education is always in need of the next greatest thing. Kids need to learn to read and write. Games can be used to do that. But they have to actually write something; they have to actually read something. If that is part of game; ok, that’s fine. But it is the reading and the writing that is important.

If we make games into a fad, then when the results are disppointing we will drop games. But games have a legitimate place in the school day. But games are not the centerpiece of learning.

Question from Peggy Spradley, Florida Secondary Educator:
In your opinion, what technology training is necessary for pre-service teachers to be prepared for the secondary classroom? What specific training should be included in ongoing professional development classes for veteran teachers to better integrate technology into their curriculum?

Cathleen Norris:
I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “teachers to better integrate technology into their classrooms”. Most pre-service courses and professional development focus on the technology. The emphasis must be helping the teachers integrate the technology into their teaching. Any professional development should include time for teachers to develop lessons along with the other teachers in their subject area. Teachers need software that helps them with the material they need to teach and then training on exactly how it can help them. So much time is spent on adapting generic clerical applications to classroom teaching.

Question from David Weksler, math education and technology consultant:
How to encourage collaboration between ISTE and NCTM to promote the user technology in math education?

Cathleen Norris:
Great question David. When this chat is over I will broach the topic with ISTE. I think Don Knezek, ISTE’s CEO is participating today so perhaps he will see it too. However, ISTE is all about appropriate use of technology in all subject areas, but perhaps there is some special focus on which they could collaborate with NCTM.

Question from Susan Stillman, School Counselor, TUSD; Doctoral student, Fielding:
What’s the best tool and technology for creating a sense of community on-line? For one class at a time, and also for a group such as a students interested in learning about something together? I know there are tools but which ones really cement the feeling of collaboration and community?

Margaret A. Honey:
I’m not sure there’s one best tool. What I would suggest is that you identify some online collaborative projects that impress you and take a look at what they are using to support engagement. And, while it’s true, of course, that you want the tool to be easy to use, what’s most important is how you facilitate and build a sense of community. Margaret Riel has written a lot about this, as has Linda Polin. They are both at Pepperdine University. Also, Mark Schlaeger at SRI has done extensive work in this area.

Question from Fernando Topete - Network Administrator - San Miguel/Catalyst Schools Chicago:
What are schools doing to integrate their curriculums with the technology in their classrooms? At this point, every classroom has a good amount of PCs, but are not utilized to their full potential.

Elliot Soloway:
What is a good amount of PC’s? Until the number is 1:1 there isn’t enough, in my humble opinion. A teacher has a managment nightmare, trying to schedule kids through the computers in the back of the room. Computers are using by and large, like typewriters. Why? Well, how much special purpose EDUCATIONAL software is on those machines. Browsing the web is wonderful, no question; but children need to engage in a substantive, significant manner with teh content and with each other.

Schools definitely need to invest in professional development to help them understand how to integrate the tech they have. Afterall, teachers are not curriculum developers. Curriculum developers are not necessarily teachers. Teachers excell at classroom management, at instructional management. They will learn how to enact a curriculum and then fold that information into the strategies they have developed. But, we can’t expect each and every teacher to figure out how to use technology in robust, imaginative, and productive ways.

Question from Janie House, 5/6 grade teacher, Elkton Elementary, Oregon:
Is there a a particular technology that has proven espicially successful in classrooms, that all classroom should use deliberately,and is there a technology or practice using technology, that is proving useless or of little value?

Cathleen Norris:
Low-cost,mobile technology is the way to go. (I should point out that I am CEO of GoKnow Learning that focuses on the use of low-cost, mobile, handheld technologies in K-12..

You can put in “response pads” from say e-Instruction - those “work” in the sense that teacher asks a question, kids respond. The kids love it.. it beats taking a pencil-and-paper test. Is that good instruction? Do the kids really get something? They learn some facts. Is that your goal? If so, then that’ technology will work.

But, using 2-3 computers in the back of room or a computer lab you visit once every two weeks.. does that help? There is no magic bullet. Kids needs ACCESS. once they have access then technology can make a difference.

How do they get access? Administrators must provide resources. Teachers then can incorporate the technology. I wish I had a simple answer that one could buy off the shelf tomorrow. If only... I wish you all the best in your classroom -- being a teacher is the most noble of professions!

Question from Erin McCloskey, Doctoral Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education:
Can you talk about a few new technologies that hold the greatest promise for their application to K-12 classrooms?

Cathleen Norris:
The only thing that will really make a difference to students is that to which they can have access 24/7. How useful would any technology that you have be if you had to share it with 6 other people or you only got to use it once or twice per week. In the real world classrooms, that is the case for almost any technology. Cell phones are the closest thing we have to one-to-one, so from just an access perspective, the more we can do with cell phones, the more hope we have of reaching every child.

Question from Deb Johnson, homeschooling mom:
I have a bright 11 year old who, I’m convinced, will be an engineer someday. He participates in

FIRST Lego League and builds things constantly. What computer programming languages should I expose

him to?

Elliot Soloway:
BASIC is a fine beginning language. LOGO is another good language. If he likes to play games, then getting him involved in modding various games would also be a good idea. I think the goal is BREADTH of experience, not just depth. I think providing a RANGE of experiences is the key. The data says that expertise in computing does not correlate with years of experience but with computer languages known. Variety is the spice of life, so providing your child with a range of experiences is the goal.

Question from Candace Hackett Shively, Director of K-12 Initiatives, NITV ( a not-for-profit education and technologies corporation):
What assurance do we have that the goal of “getting more technology into the schools” has actually been accomplished in a barrier-free, supported mode that allows teachers to actually learn and USE these technologies with equity across the wide range of schools in the U.S.? How can we assure that real teachers can actually access and use the technology on functioning computers in the actual rooms where they teach and with ongoing, pragmatic, and realistic support so they can focus on student learning instead of technology barriers? Is there a way to verify accurate reporting from those in the trenches as to their equitable access, professional development questions, and logistical concerns for using technology as a seamless part of successful teaching and learning?

Elliot Soloway:
Let me see if I understand your question - you are concerned with verifying that tech is being used effectively, that tech is available for use, that tech use is being supported with PD. Is that right?

The ISTE NETS standards are a first pass at establishing guidelines for WHAT needs to be done. But, there are no mechanisms that I know that are in place that can indeed verify what is really happening.

WHy aren’t there such verification mechanisms? I think it is because tech isn’t seen as particularly valuable to teaching and learning. Why verify something if that something isn’t important? Until folks see that tech is important, we won’t see the any real attempt at making sure that tech is in place.

Good question, Candace. I need to give this more thought! Thank you for asking it.

Question from Vanessa Coca, Research Analyst, Consortium on Chicago School Research:
Although many want to make the link between technology use and test achievement, there are other outcomes we need to think about. Is there any research on how an increase in technology use might improve other outcomes such as employment opportunities or postsecondary readiness(or achievement)?

Elliot Soloway:
GOOOOOD question and GOOOOD point Vanessa. The Holy Grail is achievement, but there is much more that tech can impact - and there is no research that i know that explores those other impacts. we are SO focused on test scores... to our detriment and to the detriment of our children. KEEP PUSHING YOUR PERSPECTIVE!!!

Question from Hayes Mizell, Distinguished Senior Fellow, National Staff Developmetn Council:
Are there examples of public schools (or classes/subgroups within them) that have transformed almost entirely to virtual learning; that is, where students only occasionally come to school but mostly learn from their homes? Does this almost certainly lie on the horizon for many schools? What are potential implications?

Margaret A. Honey:
The organization to check with is the North American Council for Online Learning.

Question from Tamyra Williams, Educator, South Summit Middle School:
Is putting in complete computer labs really allowing all students access to technology? Might there be other paths to take to get all students technically literate?

Elliot Soloway:
THe old way was computer labs -- when computers were expensive, we needed a way to share the resource. But now, when handheld computers are literally in the low hundreds, we need to think differently about computer purchases. YES, there are OTHER paths -- and one of those paths is providing a “computer” - a low-cost, mobile, handheld computer for each child. Yes, we will need some bigger iron for compute-intensive tasks, but we need to provide IMMEDIATE 24/7 access -- and that is NOW finally possible. The old is the old. We need to stop thinking in the old way and do as you suggest -- other paths. PLEASE push your perspective!!! Folks need to hear it... You go sister!! (sorry if I am too informal!)

Question from Dave Bishop, Principal, Sierra VIsta Primary, Ruidoso Municipal Schools:
In trying to utilize all space and staff to the best of our abilities, it has come to our attention that a computer lab in the 1st and 2nd grades may not be the best of time and resources. Is there any valid research or data supporting learning in a lab setting at the 6-7 year old age?

Cathleen Norris:
I am not familiar with research on 6-7 year old childrens’ use of computer labs, but many schools are teaching keyboarding in the 2nd grade. However, if you are only teaching keyboarding, it can be done on a much less expensive device, i.e. the Alphasmart keyboard.

Question from Jane Canner, Chief Education Officer, Classroom, Inc.:
How can school systems help teachers who want to use technology but are often frustrated with the lack of technology support and maintenance available in schools?

Elliot Soloway:
You are presently an impossible situation, one totally fraught with pain for everyone, Jane. YIKES. Schools notoriously do not provide support. In the biz world, for every 5 workers there is 1 IT person. In schools.. ha ha ha.. 5000 students and 1 IT person is more like it. At best!!

If teachers voted with their feet and moved to districts that were more technologically supportive, then schools might get the idea. But, that is a very difficult procedure to enact. There is almost no motivation for administrators to change their policies, so nothing will change.

In your role, you clearly see this situation. I am optimistic though about the future. With low-cost devices -- mobile, handheld devices -- there is a much lower need for support and that may well be the way around the conundrum. Laptops/destops are business machines that need business level support. However, mobile devices are built to be much less support intensive. In a mobile computer, one simply clicks on the reset button and bingo, a frozen machine is back to working in about 10 seconds with no need to call IT. The future is NOT the past; the past requires too much support. The future is about low-cost - low TCO devices that are designed, from the ground-up, to be less in need of support.

If you would like to chat more about this, I would love the opportunity to talk with you. My email is Thank you for your thought-provoking question.

Question from Bruce Blanton ECE Instructor Henry Co. MS,Ky:
What kind of grants can be found that would assist in keeping technology folks full time and a computer lab person for one school the complete yr.? So financing a position for up-keep of all the quick changes in technology would be the biggest benefit for technolgy in all the schools I have ever worked in.

Margaret A. Honey:
Grants to support personnel to staff a computer lab are admittedly hard to come by. The Public Education Network runs a list serve that always includes a summary of recent grant opportunities. You can subscribe by going to:

You should also keep your eye on changes to the e-rate. There are a number of organizations that are advocating for changes that would make it possible for schools to update their technology infrastructure and use e-rate funding not only for networking infrastructure, but hardware as well. The Consortium for School Networking ( is a good source for information on the e-rate.

Question from Robyn-teacher:
Do you feel that many schools have failed to utilize technology where it could best impact student achievement and are there too many teachers in the system that are reluctant to change the way they have done things forever and are too close to retirement to change now.

Margaret A. Honey:
I don’t think we can lay the blame for lack of technology use at the feet of teachers. The research we’ve conducted at EDC’s Center for Children and Technology shows that when teachers are provided with adequate professional development opportunities they do use technology as part of the instructional process. Changing instructional practices to make effective use of technology is not a simple undertaking. Teachers need support, time, and resources to be able to integrate technologies in ways that will help students learn.

Question from Sandy Lieberman, Lieberman Educational Consulting:
I have been tutoring students online--(SAT/ACT prep and math support). Are you aware of any “meeting” technology that is particularly good for this type of application?

Margaret A. Honey:
There are any number of widely available applications that can be used to support online meetings and conversations, and many of these are free. I would check several sources to look for reviews of specific products. ISTE – the International Society for Technology in Education (; the Consortium for School Networking (, and I would also look at the George Lucas Educational Foundation website (

Question from Pamela Eder, Doctoral candidate in education technology at Walden University:
I currently work in a Title One school in IL. I would love to take technology into the classroom. Most of our technology is 10+ years old. Is there anything on the horizon that will help address the technology needs of underprivileged students so when they get into the workforce they are up to date and equal with other workers, working with technology?

Cathleen Norris:
I believe that it is not a matter of taking technology into the classroom as it is putting technology into the hands os students. There are many low cost devices currently available and/or that will be available soon that will give students experience with technology that will transfer to the workplace.

Question from Jess Meyer, Teacher, Hopkins House:
How can I introduce technology to my toddler/twos preschool class?

Margaret A. Honey:
You know, of course, that young children learn most effectively through play and exploration of different environments. I have seen the learning center concept used in preschool classrooms to support young kids engagement with technology. A learning center might include a variety of technology experiences that range from a computer that runs creative software such as Kid Pix, to the Leap Frog interactive learning resources, along with other devices that support play and learning. IBM has created an excellent resource for preschool educators called: Kidsmart:

Question from Nancy Reuter, Pre Service Teacher:
With all this technology and rapid advances in the space program, which translates to lucrative jobs for the next generation: what steps are being taken to support teachers at the school level? It seems that the knowledge is there, yet, too little importance and funding is given to the very professionals that can make the greatest use of it. Teachers in the K-12 classrooms.

Elliot Soloway:
You ask a VERY important question .. if not THE MOST IMPORTANT queston. Teachers are second -- no, third class citizens. We in this country do not support educators. My wife is a kindergarten teacher and she has the patience of Job. And she gets paid $19,000. Give me a break!! Being a teacher should not require the teacher to be on a mission, to sacrifice their family and well-being. You need to keep talking; you need to keep telling folks: I NEED A LIVING WAGE. I will use your question in my presentations... we need to be listening to the next generation of teachers. Thank you for your question. Thank you for going into teaching.

Question from Hope Will, Home Registered Childcare Provider, VT:
Back say 3 yrs ago we were told that giving children (birth to ?) technology was over stimulating their brains and causing ADHD and other growth problems. What in such a short time do you feel has changed for this technology push, which was harmful, to be a neccesity now?

Margaret A. Honey:
I’m not aware of any conclusive research that says young children MUST use technologies in order for their brains to develop effectively. There may be marketing information floating around that is trying to suggest this to drive sales of commercial products. Young children need what they have always needed to learn effectively: environments that are safe and nurturing, and where they are exposed to different kinds of opportunities for engagement and learning. The best early childhood centers are staffed by knowledgeable professionals and children have opportunities to learn and explore in centers that support a wide range of activities: block play, art, science, early literacy activities, etc. Having a computer available that has developmentally appropriate software programs available can add to children’s learning.

Question from Christine G., Intern, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation:
Would you advocate for a mandatory technology-training curriculum for all teachers? If so, what would such curriculum look like (would it be uniformed nationally, what main elements would it contain? What are some implications of such action?

Cathleen Norris:
It would be wonderful if all teachers were required to complete some level of technology training. However, as important as the technology training is, the need is as great to help teachers with technology integration. It doesn’t do teachers any good at all to understand technology if they don’t know how to incorporate it in a meaningful way in their classrooms. The training would include a wide range of technologies starting with the least expensive and going up but the training should always be in the context of how it is to be used in their content area.

Question from Sue Ruiz, Teacher, Sullivan West Central School:
I would like to know what funding either through privately funded grants or state initiatives that individual teachers can access to get equipment such as SmartBoards, Interactive Whiteboards for students etc.? I am a strong believer in professional development, however, it appears teachers do not have enough equipment in their classrooms beyond computers to adequately support their new knowledge. Thank you for helping us by doing this chat.

Margaret A. Honey:
This is the same answer I gave to another question: The Public Education Network runs a list serve that always includes a summary of recent grant opportunities. You can subscribe by going to:

Question from Julia Cespedes, Guidance Counselor, Robert Morgan School:
Hello and thank you for taking my question. I would like to know how to spread the word from parent to parent about educational resources that use the latest technology that is available for parents in an after school setting. What I am talking about is a program that I use for my children called FasTracKids Enrichment Education. They use Smart Boards that are interactive with the children and lots of experiments and activities that my children love to do every week! I tell everybody I see and they have never heard of this place! It is the best technology and my children love it!

Margaret A. Honey:
Are there ways that your school and district communicates regularly with parents? If so, sharing information in the parent newsletter makes good sense. I would also suggest that you and some of your students do a presentation before your local board of education. You are very likely to get press coverage from the local newspaper and that’s an excellent way to spread your message!

Question from Deanna Enos, Retired teacher/author:
What is the danger of young children (under 4th grade) losing their ability to think independent thoughts because of excessive use of technology at an early age?

Margaret A. Honey:
Young children need balance and they need to engage in a range of activities in order to learn and grow and develop AND become independent thinkers. If all young children do is play violent video games, common sense tells us this can’t be good for them developmentally. Technology, per se, is NOT the problem. Rather, we need to look at what young children and doing with computers and make sure that there is balance in the kinds of programs they are using.

Question from Kathy Scott:
Please give your top three strategies to improve the integration of technology in to classroom instruction.

Cathleen Norris:
1) Give teachers software tools that are appropriate for their content area 2) Model the use of the software for the teachers 3) Work with them as they create lessons, units, projects, etc. that reflect their understanding of what they have learned or are learning

Question from Sue Bertram, teacher, Mitchell Middle School:
Do you find that it is difficult to get some of the teachers to use new technology or is it just due to lack of staff developement opportunities?

Margaret A. Honey:
This is the answer I gave to a very similar question: I don’t think we can lay the blame for lack of technology use at the feet of teachers. The research we’ve conducted at EDC’s Center for Children and Technology shows that when teachers are provided with adequate professional development opportunities they do use technology as part of the instructional process. Changing instructional practices to make effective use of technology is not a simple undertaking. Teachers need support, time, and resources to be able to integrate technologies in ways that will help students learn.

Question from Kathleen Dunn, Professor, Simmons College:
If you had to recommend one piece of hardware or software under $500 that would help middle school students to learn actively in at least two subjects, what would that be and why?

Margaret A. Honey:
I’m really not in the business of recommending specific products, but that won’t stop me from mention a few products that I think are first rate! I think that you have to answer this question by taking into consideration who the students are that you are trying to educate. Let’s say you are talking about struggling readers at the middle grades level. What I would avoid is extensive use of drill and skill software that is nothing more than computerized spreadsheets. Why? Chances are these students are already doing a lot of drill and skill worksheet activities in their classrooms and more of the same is not going to help their learning, even when dressed up in a computer program. I would look for software that both supports and scaffolds the kinds of cognitive strategies that we know are associated with effective reading. One of the best examples of this kind of software is called Thinking Reader. It’s published by Tom Snyder productions and was developed by a research organization called CAST ( It is an excellent example of a product that provides real support, but in the form of the kinds of “higher order” strategies that children need to be successful. In the domain of math and science I would look Explore Learning’s Gizmos:

Question from Glenn Markle, Program Officer, National Science Foundation:
What should be the focus of NSF solicitations for proposals to support educational technology research and implementation?

Margaret A. Honey:
The focus should be on INNOVATION in the STEM area!! I would also encourage the NSF to think about collaborative projects between the commercial and R&D sectors. This way promising practices that support innovation have a chance of finding their way into the marketplace. One of the most successful programs ever funded by NSF was the National Geographic Kids Network, done in the early days of telecommunications. This was a collaboration between TERC and National Geographic and the program reached thousands of children over a number of years. It would be interesting to dig into the NSF archives and look at the rfp that gave birth to this program and others. My understanding is that it is a very interesting example of an rfp that called for innovation, but also wanted to drive promising products and programs into the market place. As a result, it emphasized commercial and R&D collaboration. This is a very different model from simply finding a publisher to bring to market a product or curriculum after the development work is done.

Question from Dr. Paul M. Marino, Professor of Education:
There may be a lot of computers in schools, but is there any data on how the technology is being used instructionally. My feeling is that computers are used to play games and to keep students busy, but not for instruction.

Margaret A. Honey:
Sadly, the last large-scale, nationally representative data we have addressing this question is from 1998 – Hank Becker’s and Ron Anderson’s research. Their survey research investigated how teachers were using technology for instructional purposes and was funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Their have been no such studies conducted by the current Department of Education. The State Education Technology Directors’ Association has worked with the Meteri Group to conduct state studies. You can check out what they have done at

Question from Awilda Hernandez, Elementary Teacher, Antilles Military Academy, Puerto Rico:
Reality: Some teachers are not aware how important is the use of technology in the classroom. Are teachers ready to deal with Educational Technology? Is it a matter of attitude or aptitude?

Elliot Soloway:
Yes, teachers are not prepared to deal with technology. Computing technology is relatively new. If school leaders were to take a firm stand on what expertises teachers in their schools need, then teachers would go back to school and learn. Attitude trumps aptitude; anyone can learn to use computers.

Question from Kaara Kallen, editor, The Great Books Foundation:
Major textbooks are now accompanied by software, either on CD-ROMs or on the Internet. Is there research examining the degree to which these components are used in the classroom? To extent of their usefulness?


Cathleen Norris:
I think the answer to this question depends again on how much access the teachers have to be able to make use of the resources provided. I have not seen any research on this topic (but then I haven’t looked for it), but I think that when schools are able to use textbook funds to buy digital textbooks and then readers for the digital textbooks things will begin to change more than they have in many years. When there is a new funding model for technology schools will be in much in a much better position to take advantage of the all of the plusses that technology can add.

Question from Michael Fischer, owner, TechnoCrayons:
Children learn computers quicker than adults. Mastery of difficult programs at a young age will make learning any program in the future substantially easier. Art improves academic achievement. There is a multitude of ways that art helps the development of students. Yet, most children abandon visual art around age nine. Learning about technology tops every list of necessary twenty-first century skills. Combining art with technology seems a no-brainer. Yet, almost no one does this. If I developed an effective way to teach young children computer art where would the best forum be for presenting this?

Elliot Soloway:
The sad truth is that it will be very hard for you to get a hearing on your computer art ideas. Schools have mandated curriculums; state tests rule the land. You would need to show how your computer art activities addressed the issues schools face, e.g., having their children do well on the standardized tests. Indeed, you might be able to show that your curriculum does have such an impact, but i don’t think many schools will even give you the opportunity. I am sorry to bring you this news. I think a better strategy would be look at the existing curriculum and see how you might include some of computer art activities in that curriculum - don’t beat’em, join’em. Good luck!

Question from Brenda Matthis, Faculty/Co-Director, Technology in Education Division, Lesley University:
Many of my graduate students around the country (we have a national cohort program) who are also teachers consistently name two reasons that technology is not successful in their schools. (1) Lack of sufficient support (professional development, direction and incentives) in using and integrating technology in the curriculum and classroom. (2) Plenty of computers but deep lack of upgrading resulting in reduced use. Assuming that the administrator is the key to success in the integration of technology in schools, two questions: How much of a role does the administrator have in schools where technology use is successful? And how deeply does the administrator have to understand the pedagogical and social importance of technology for students who are native users?

Elliot Soloway:
Leadership is a major determinant of success. Angus King, then governor of Maine, observed that those schools whose administrators didn’t go tnrough PD with their teachers were those schools that failed to to be successful with the laptop program.

But, it is not clear how deeply an adminstrator needs to go. Afterall, a good administrator knows what they know and leaves the instructional stuff to the teachers.

Question from Georgeanna P. Kiser, Bisk Education:
How can graduate education for teachers and administrators best support meaningful achievement of technology goals in the K-12 environment?

Cathleen Norris:
The focus of the graduate eduaction courses should be the integration of the technology into the classroom for the teachers or the application of the technology to the tasks that the administrators need to accomplish. It is also helpful if the administrators understand fully the tasks that the teachers need to accomplish.

Question from Kathleen Nollet, doctoral student, Lesley University:
I notice many schools teach keyboarding in third or fourth grade computer classes. Do you think it is important to teach keyboarding in elementary school? Also, what are your thoughts about the computer and classroom teachers teaching as a team? How does this work?

Margaret A. Honey:
I don’t think keyboarding should be taught as a discrete skill. Rather, students should learn to type and use computers in the context of doing actual work – writing stories, essays, etc!

Question from Mike Damyanovich, Associate Superintendent Education Services, Township High School District 279:
What are some types of questions a school district should be asking itself when trying to determine the return on investment for instructional use of technlogy?

Margaret A. Honey:
The first question to ask is whether the use of technology resources is well aligned and coordinated with your instructional objectives. And, you should also consider whether you are adding real learning value; meaning, are you doing something that could not be done as well without technology? There are many, many factors that influence students’ learning, so to try to determine the value of your investment by answering this question is a complicated undertaking. There are examples of technology use that save teachers real time – for example, conducting formative or diagnostic assessments using handheld computers (see

Question from Judith Baker, Boston MA educator, tchr support in Africa:
How does open source software use and development figure in - particularly because even US schools are finding it too expensive to stay upgraded and because African countries can barely provide technology to schools at all?

Cathleen Norris:
Open source software is a good thing to the extent that it is supported in the schools. Red Hat linux is open source but it is supported by the company, Red Hat to the users who subscribe to the service. It takes a bit more technology expertise to use many open source products and that is the downside. This is a very difficult question because the answer is not as straightforward as it appears on the surface.

Question from Julie Brinker, Education Policy Consultant, Independent:
While I am sure this will be brought up - What are some examples of where cutting-edge technology is being used effectively already? - Either in model schools or educational services or in some other way tied to education? Also, what do you perceive to be the top 3 most useful and efficient ways to use cutting-edge technology to educate? (gaming vs. online classes vs. providing all children with the $100 laptop?) Thank you!

Margaret A. Honey:
The best resource for this kind of information is the George Lucas Education Foundation: There you will find rich media case studies of the best practices in the country!

Question from Peggy Keohane, Middle School Instructional Technology Specialist Waltham, MA:
When school districts need to make budget cuts one area considered is Instructional Technology Specialists and technology curriculum. Do you think this is a wise decision?

Cathleen Norris:
Understandably, I think this is a horrible mistake. On one had technology integration is mandated and on the other hand the support for achieving the goal is taken away. It places yet a further burden on teachers.

Question from Cynthia Billescas:
I am going to be the administrator for a Health Science Community next year with the restructuring of our high school, Pharr San Juan Alamo High School. I would like to know what technology is available to help students in the medical and allied health fields to gain clinical knowledge and experience, as well as getting prepared for the state assessment, TAKS tests, AP tests and any other high stakes assessments.

Margaret A. Honey:
This question stumped me! I did a bit of research online and turned up the following article which looks relevant:

Guman, J., Garcia, R., Pacheco, M. & Ortiz, G. (2006). Interdisciplinary Educational Model that Incorporates Technology for Health Professions’ Students. In T. Reeves & S. Yamashita (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2006 (pp. 549-550). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

I also know that New York University’s medical and Columbia’s Medical school have been developing interesting technology applications for their students. I imagine there’s lots of this work taking place in different medical programs around the country. However, I do not know of applications that are designed to prepare students for AP or the TAKS tests.

Question from phuertas, ESL teacher, mcnair ms:
How can schools keep up with technology when on hand hardware is out dated? More money needs to be invested to help defray the costs of acquiring the new technology in smaller districts. The federal dollars that are available only begin to address the needs, technological advances are rapid and the funding can not keep with it. The teacher/staff also needs to be trained on the newer technology how can this be done and at the same time keep that valuable person where the need is?

Cathleen Norris:
Even at the University, I always tell my students that I am teaching from a historical perspective because we can’t keep up with the cutting edge technologies either. You can only hope that if you are teaching your students how to use the technology to manage their own learning that the skills and the knowledge will be transferable/applicable regardless of where they go in the future. Again, your problem is the same one that the majority of districts are experiencing. The real answer is to get a new funding model for technology in the schools.

Question from Cheryl Jaffe, Radar Engineer, Math Teacher, Parent:
In my brief experience as a math teacher, I found that the mandate to use scientific calculators in the classroom produced students who were exceptional programmers, but understood so little of what they were programming that they had little to no ability to extrapolate meaning from the results. In a more extreme example, I had a graduating senior tell me on a pre-calculus exam that she could not divide -7 by 2 without a calculator. Clearly, this technology has been abused in the classroom. How did the balance between technological efficiency and educational content get lost? I am coming to understand that many teachers in the early grades are not proficient in math, do they rely on calculators in the classroom?

Cathleen Norris:
As a former math teacher, my students never used calculators in the classroom. The lowest grade I ever taught was 6th grade and never, until I began teaching Computer Math did my students use anything other than their brains to do their work. And it is very true that many elementary teachers are not only not proficient in math, but they don’t like teaching math. However, as I found out personally, the administration in many cases must assign you where there is a need, not where you would like to be or even where you are qualified to be teaching.

Question from phuertas, ESL teacher,mcnair ms:
How can schools keep up with technology when on hand hardware is out dated? More money needs to be invested to help defray the costs of acquiring the new technology in smaller districts. The federal dollars that are available only begin to address the needs, technological advances are rapid and the funding can not keep with it. The teacher/staff also needs to be trained on the newer technology how can this be done and at the same time keep that valuable person where the need is?

Margaret A. Honey:
These are such important issues! There is growing advocacy around e-rate funding to be able to use that money to support more than just technology infrastructure. You should also look into what, if anything, your state is supporting. Many schools handle the issue of updating hardware by entering into leasing, rather than purchasing, agreements. And, of course, your local school board needs to understand the importance of technology for learning in the 21st century!

Question from Mike Damyanovich, Associate Superintendent Education Services, Township High School District 279:
What are some types of questions a school district should be asking itself when trying to determine the return on investment for instructional use of technlogy?

Margaret A. Honey:
This is the answer I gave to a very similar question:

The first question to ask is whether the use of technology resources is well aligned and coordinated with your instructional objectives. And, you should also consider whether you are adding real learning value; meaning, are you doing something that could not be done as well without technology? There are many, many factors that influence students’ learning, so to try to determine the value of your investment by answering this question is a complicated undertaking. There are examples of technology use that save teachers real time – for example, conducting formative or diagnostic assessments using handheld computers (see

Question from Tina Stanford, educational researcher, SRI International:
What do you think is the most powerful use of technology in terms of potential impact on student learning?

Elliot Soloway:
Use the computer every day, all day long, for all learning activities. When computers become integrated into the daily activities, then we will see impact. One off uses have never had any real impact. We need to stop thinking about spot uses of technology and move to 1:1, 24/7 use. I wish there a magical app that can make a difference. But that’s magic...

Question from LaTrice Thompson, Special Education Teacher, Morrow Middle School:
What has been the documented successes and / or concerns with using technology with special education students with SLD, MID, and / or EBD disabilities?

Margaret A. Honey:
There are a couple of places to turn to for answers to your question:

CITEd is a site that locates the most up-to-date resources for implementing technology in education. Their resources are geared towards both special education and general education needs.

The National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc., was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from 1992-1998 to promote the effective use of technology to enhance educational outcomes for students with sensory, cognitive, physical and social/emotional disabilities.

Question from Dea Conrad-Curry, Educational Consultant:
My interest and skills in technology’s application in the classroom have grown at exponential rates the last few weeks as I took a tech course in my doctoral work. As I visit schools, I ask teachers and administrators what they know and think of wikis, blogging, and podcasting. Their answer is typically, “very little” to both questions....they know little about them and think even less in relation to their value....really seeing them as social networking devices rather than educational tools. How can I help educate educators? They won’t be taking course on educational applications of emerging technology...what venue is there to help them see what they are currently not exposed to? Advice!!

Cathleen Norris:
That is the question we are all asking--how can we help educate educators? Professional development is the only tool that is available and we should be ready to give them the software they need and then let them create lessons, units, etc. during the PD time so that when they leave, they already have a headstart. They must also see that there is value, it isn’t a terrible time drain and they can be more effective teachers with this technology.

Question from Joe Rueff, President, Eye2theWorld, Inc.:
The goal for some schools is to have one laptop per student. Others, such as one I’ve worked with here in Indiana, aims to place students within reach of computers in labs and media centers. Which direction makes the most sense for elementary and secondary levels?

Cathleen Norris:
The problem with making technology “within reach” as you have described is that when students leave school, the technology stays in school. I believe that every student should have their own personal techonolgy (note that I didn’t say laptop) that is with them 24/7, and that when their own technology is insufficient for the task they need to perform, then their should be technology available that they can use for that particular task. In a report in 2005, William Penuel from SRI published a study in 2005 and what he found was that students who had laptops used primarily wordprocessors, email clients, chat, and browsers, so giving them any personal appliance that supports these activities should be sufficient

Question from John Borrero, Region 2 Head Start Technical Assistance Team:
Have you seen patterns, identified specific needs or developed strategies that you can share in helping teachers and students from Spanish-speaking communities develop and use technology skills?

Margaret A. Honey:
I spent a number of years working with faculty and students in the Union City New Jersey Schools. They used technologies very effectively with their Spanish speaking students. On our web site you can find papers that describe the work:

You can also go to and look at the video documentary they did on Union City.

I would also look at the work CAST is doing and the software they developed - Thinking Reader - now published by Tom Snyder. Very good software that supports students who are Spanish speakers!

Question from Rebecca Chao, Principal, Denver,CO:
I am a new principal, how can I best support teachers with regards to educational technology to focus on students and improve achievement?

Elliot Soloway:
I think the issue for you is to get a pilot project going using low-cost, mobile devices. You want a success; you want a team of teachers to see that they can use technology to make a difference. I do NOT think you should do a bunch of projects; pick ONE and focus and make it successful. Pick a handful of teachers who are gung-ho, who are leaders, and let them start a pilot project. But NOT a laptop project -since that is NOT sustainable. You MUST do a pilot for a project that can have legs, that can move ahead over time.

Rebecca, I would love to chat with you more about this. My short answer needs to be expanded and discussed. How to implement that pilot idea in your school needs to be examined; each school is different. If you would like to chat, drop me an email and we will do so. I should point out that in addition to being a professor, I am a CEO of GoKnow Learning, Inc, a company that supports the use of LOW-COST, mobile, handheld computers for education. 734 355 4098

Question from Rebecca Chao, Principal, Denver,CO:
I am a new principal, how can I best support teachers with regards to educational technology to focus on students and improve achievement?

Cathleen Norris:
The best way to support teachers is to give them appropriate software tools that support the tasks that they are required to do and then to give them sufficient professional development so they are proficient at using the technology to accomplish the tasks.

Question from Monica Poitras, Teacher, Worcester Public Schools:
What portions of the funding has been allocated professional development for teachers in technology? We all have technology but many teachers do not know how to use it, we need training to use it effectively!

Margaret A. Honey:
You raise an extremely important issue! The amount of funding varies from district to district and state to state. At one time, the U.S. Department of Education put our a recommendation that said 25% of funding for Ed Tech should go to teacher professional development. I’m not sure we’ve ever achieved that goal!

Question from Ted Kraver eSATS non-profit advocacy organization:
At the current rate of adoption of digital curriculum and educating/developing eLearning savvy teachers it will be 2050 before all our students experience the academic performance boost of eLearning. What is your plan/design to have every student in an effective environment and when will that transformation be complete.

Elliot Soloway:
Good point. Unless we get a DISRUPTION, business as usual will kill the schools. I see the disruption as mobile, handheld devices, that kids already have. Those devices are VERY powerful. They bring them to school. Instead of banning them, we need to embrace them. This is a “disruption” in the sense of the Innovator’s Dilemma (Christensen). Will schools accept/allow a disruption? They will be forced to by kids and parents.

If you want to chat about this issue further, please contact me, Ted. 745 ( -- I am biased, I run a company that focuses on LOW-COST mobile computers. I have to give you the party line; I apologize on one hand, but on the other.. I believe that what I said is the right way to go.

Question from tmims, adjunct instructor, Texas Woman’s Univ:
Is anyone beginning to measure the effectiveness of 100% online learning vs classroom experience? Effectivness meaning, retention, understanding, application of the content. If someone is measuring, who is it, what are they measuring, and when will we hear results? Thank you, new to teaching-- Tina C. Mims, MBA Adjunct Instructor Texas Woman’s Univ

Margaret A. Honey:
There is a recent study conducted by the North American Council for Online Learning. They should be able to point you to lost of resources.

Question from Jill Razzano, Teacher, Charlotte Wood Middle School, Danville, California:
My middle school has begun plans to implement a One-to-One Laptop program for all 6th graders. I am concerned about how to integrate frequent and meaningful use of laptop computers in the classroom without real technology-based curricula. Any thoughts? Any schools to model from?

Elliot Soloway:
YOu are right to be concerned. There are a number of schools who have gone the laptop route. But SUSTAINING that model is a real challenge -- if you can even get past the integration phase. If you send me your email, I will send you a paper that talks about the problems of doing that integration. For a more positive look, look at what they are doing in Maine with their laptops. There is also a book by ISTE called 1:1 Laptops by Anita Givens. Buy that book.

If you want to chat further about this, let me know. I should point out that I am CEO of a company that focuses on the use of low-cost mobile computers for 1:1. -- i don’t feel that laptops are sustainable over the long term.

Good luck with your efforts!

Question from Ying, student, Michigan State University:
Many K-12 teachers are learning technology in educational technology programs. Have their teaching philosophies changed after learning the new media? Any research done on it?

Cathleen Norris:
I haven’t seen any research but teachers’ phisolophies can only change when they see something that would truly make a difference in their classrooms. If there is not too much overhead, most teachers are willing to do anything to improve their teaching and the learning of their students.

Question from Lorna Paxson School Improvement consultant, Green Valley AEA 14:
Will there be changes in expectations of what is required of schools inthe realm of technology education in the future? Up to now it really has been pretty broad and open to interpretation,,,will there be specific guidelines and expectations of what students will need to be able to do in the realm of technology?

Elliot Soloway:
The organization called ISTE has put forth NETS - a set of standards. I think that those sorts of standards will be put in force. But, first technology needs to be seen to be valuable in k-12 -- and that hasn’t happened yet. Once tech is seen as valuable, then guidelines will be imposed.

Question from Jennifer Andresen, Admissions Director, Lutheran High School Elk Grove, CA:
We’re a small high school and we would like to use technology to offer a wider variety of foreign language courses for our students. What are the benefits and pitfalls of requiring students to use an online classroom modality to learn another language?

Margaret A. Honey:
I have not reviewed this literature myself. However, I just checked on and my searched turned up a number of articles and one book. Here’s the book info:

BTechnology-enhanced language learning MD Bush, RM Terry - 1997 - Technology-Enhanced Language Learning. 1996 Volume in the Foreign Language Education Series of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. ..

Question from Madelaine Kingsbury, English Teacher, Overbrook HS, Philadelphia PA:
How do we get the latest technology into the average city school? Besides financial constraints, I see major problems with infrastructure, i.e., schools are old and lack adequate wiring.

Elliot Soloway:
There is no magic here. The school has to believe that tech is important -- and then they find the money. It is amazing that when something is important, money is always found. When someone says: we don’t have the money, what that really means is we don’t see the value in that. THe principal and up have to be leaders. I wish it were simple, but it’s going to take a lot of vision on the part of the administrators. Do they have it? I wish I knew.

Question from Kiran Gaind, candidate MA Instructional Technology SF State, Social Science Teacher, Oakland Unity High School, charter school, Oakland Unified School District:
Could students in low income schools be trained in web design and entrepreneurial studies to start school-based businesses whose profits can be reinvested in school/community growth and college scholarships? This is one of my ideas for school reform and low income community development - what do you think?

Elliot Soloway:
Good idea, Kiran. We need new ideas for how to fund educational projects. KEEP IT UP!!

Question from Carol A. Mollard, Lecturer, College of Ed, University of Nebraska at Kearney:
I’d be interested to see your opinions about the use of technology in rural schools vs urban districts? Budgets are tight in many places, however, it appears, to me, smaller rural schools have a tougher time obtaining equipment, implementing programs, and simply accessing the web because of money constraints.....what have you found so far?

Margaret A. Honey:
I don’t know this literature inside and out. I have, however, seen technologies use in various creative ways in rural schools and I do know that online learning is of great interest to rural communities. I recommend using google scholar and search under “rural schools and technology.” I checked and this strategy turned up a number of interesting and relevant studies.

Question from Sandra Campie, math consultant, Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency, Iowa:
I am impressed with the success of How well is technology supporting online tutoring or learning by using internet phones and computer-based whiteboards applied in schools today in the US?

Elliot Soloway:
We need a range of new solutions. I am not familar with Tutorvista, but based on your comment, I will look into it. The Internet and mobile devices can provide new opportunities. Bring ;'em on! Thanks for pointing this out to me.

Question from Erin McCloskey, Doctoral candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education:
As students’ daily lives become more and more inseparable from technologically-mediated environments, are we heading towards an insurmountable divide between students and teachers re: how they communicate in and relate to the world? How can schools best prepare and continue to develop teachers’ ability to marshal technologies’ affordances to promote better student learning?

Elliot Soloway:
Professional development must be intensified. there is no magic bullet here. We need to continue to work with teachers to help them better understand technology. You are right -- the gap will grow and grow. So, we need to put more money into PD. If we don’t schools will continue to be places of alienation and boredom. Sigh.

Good point, Eric; good point. Good luck in your pursuit of the PhD. Maybe YOU can develop a strategy for educating teachers. Give it a go!

Question from Elizabeth A. Wheeler, Esq., education law editor, Progressive Business Publications:
What should teachers be doing (and not doing) to get the most out of their class websites? Any possible legal ramifications they need to watch out for?

Cathleen Norris:
Class websites? how many teachers have them? 6? I don’t think that is an issue. The copy-paste from websites is an issue -- I don’t think much thought is going into figuring out what kids need to do or not do with respect to copy-paste from websites.

Maybe we need to make some guidelines for class websites -- but it’s so new that it’s hard to know what to do. You asked a very good question - I wish I were better able to address it.

Question from Elizabeth Schwerdtle, Parent:
Our high school was built 5 years ago with a so-called “Distance Learning Lab,” which is a 165-person capacity amphitheater-style lecture room. It has never been used for distance learning and has no special technology for its intended purpose. What types of technology are available today that could cheaply be used for distance learning in this environment, and what are one or two ways that you think this room could better be used to enhance our children’s learning opportunities?

Cathleen Norris:
You have a lemon on your hands, or maybe a pickle or maybe... a dinosaur. There is nothing short of starting over that you can do to make that room useful -- it is an auditorium. Those are good things. But reworking it for technology? Whoever had that idea -- well sold the school a bill of goods. It’s sad to see such a waste of resource. Start again; think again. How do we reuse this space? No magic from me today; sorry!!

Question from Betsy DeBiase, SpecEd Aide/Graduate Student, Monroe MS:
I am looking into reading software. I want to know different modalities so I can support students with reading/literacy problems.

Margaret A. Honey:
Betsy - I’m not quite sure what you are asking for. How old are the students you want to support? Do they have specific reading difficulties? If you supply a bit more info, I’ll try to point you in the right direction.

Researchers who work in the are of technology and literacy are Michael Kamil at Stamford and Donna Alverman at the University of Georgia.

Question from Pamela Shufro, Director of Curriculum, Medfield Public Schools, Mass.:
What do you suggest students should be able to do using technology by the end of grade 4, grade 8 and grade 12--and why? Are there some widespread practices which you think are less than worthwhile for students to learn?

Margaret A. Honey:
At NECC in June, ISTE (the International Society for Technology and Education) is going to be releasing the refreshed NETS documents. These have been developed by committees of experts and should provide you with the answers you are looking for!

Question from Valerie Merriam,School Board Trustee, Monroe County Community School Corporation:
Are you supportive of New Tech high schools as prototyped in Napa Valley? Our corporation will probably be supporting such an initiative.

Margaret A. Honey:
Yes! Every indication is they are doing fabulous work.

Question from Vicki Ross-Norris, Literacy Coach,School for Excellence:
1.How do you beleve literacy supported technology can enhance literacy instruction?

2. Do you believe literacy supported technology addresses the Multiple Intelligences (MI) of students?

Cathleen Norris:
Technology gives kids opportunities to learn -- opportunities that they wouldn’t have with pencil-and-paper. I firmly believe that technology will be the key to enabling children to explore and expand.

Question from Fred Flener, Retired, Math Educator Northeastern, Illinois University:
Why is education so slow on the uptake with technology? I have a grandson who is very “mouse and keyboard skilled,” but his k teacher still spends time focusing on handwriting skills, and he is never going to succeed. He can “interpret” decimals using his calculator, yet he is encouraged to “memorize” his addition facts. For this he will succeed without the teachers intervention. Our kids can learn much more with technology, but teacher still believe (with no evidence to support their beliefs) that the old stuff that is to be learned is the important stuff.

Elliot Soloway:
You have raised a very good and very provocative question, Fred. What is core and what isn’t? What is old and what isn’t. If a kid has to take out his calculator every time he needs to know if there is a good deal in a store, then that will slow him down -- i know, the calculator is built into his wristwatch or his cell phone, but he will have to stop and do a task that should be instant. He will have to get off the problem solving process and drop down to the calcuation level. What a waste of effort and time.

Does he need to know the quadratic equation? Probably not. What is in and what is out is a difficult question.

As a parent/grandparent, you can help the child learn the newer stuff. But not at the expense of what is still good and important.

Question from Erin McCloskey, doctoral candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education:
Research suggests that teachers often don’t know how to make pedagogically sound use of the tech tools they have, and that ‘technology training’ has little impact. What has to happen - in professional development, in organizational structures, in policy - to improve teachers’ ability to use technologies in ways that foster durable learning for students?

Margaret A. Honey:
Erin, we’ve been studying for many years the impact of Intel’s Teach to the Future program. Our research suggest that the program helps teachers to more effectively use technologies in pedagogically sound ways. You can check our web site for the reports:

It’s also the case that Intel has managed to scale this program and reach impressive numbers of teachers around the globe. It’s interesting to me that it’s the corporate sector that is taking action, and not our federal government! Food for thought.

Question from Joe Rueff, President, Eye2theWorld, Inc.:
The goal for some schools is to have one laptop per student. Others, such as one I’ve worked with here in Indiana, aims to place students within reach of computers in labs and media centers. Which direction makes the most sense for elementary and secondary levels?

Cathleen Norris:
Cathie passed this off to me, Elliot Soloway. Let me say at the outset that I am CEO of GoKnow Learning,, where we focus on the use of low-cost, mobile, handheld computers.

I think that Indiana is going down a bad path and that they will be sorry in a couple of years. Desktop machines -even with Linux - are a nightmare for mainteance. Still further, kids will not see desktop machines as the future, as desireable. They will do their assignments on them in teh same way they do their assignments on pencil-and-paper. Perfunctorily. Ok.. maybe they will be a bit more excited to use the technology -- anything is better than pencil-and-paper. But the framework that Indiana adopted -one that ostensibly saves money - is not about giving kids access to technology.

So, that’s not the answer you wanted to hear, is my guess. But I truly believe that Indiana has made a fundamental mistake. Sorry.

Question from Takumi Sato, M.A.E. Student, University of Florida:
How do we adequately train teachers to integrate technology into the classroom when faced with multiple issues that seem to inhibit such efforts? The issues include budget money and release time for professional development at the school level as well as time to lesson plan after the training. Teachers need to overcome the fear of students being more technology savvy as it seems to limit classroom use. Schools may have technology but access is often limited. How can we keep teachers up to date with the latest resources as students move beyond basic web searches and Power Points?

Cathleen Norris:
As for the fear of students being more technologicaly savvy that the teacher--this is just a fact. No matter what the teacher does, the students (or just one student) will always know more about technology. Use this fact and let the students contribute what they know. The teacher is the subject matter expert. Teachers need time in their professional development to create their lessons under the supervision of PD experts and in conjunction with their subject matter colleagues. Professional development is extremely important and it should be used just for the integration. Most teachers will tell you that the technology per se is not the issue--it is how to integrate it into their teaching in a meaningful way that doesn’t place an unreasonable burden on them.

Question from Daniel Van, Parent.:
How can the computer usage be continued at homes while there are many homes without the access of computers.

Elliot Soloway:
You are asking a political question - one that will take political will to resolve. Putting a computer in the hands of each child is easy if we decided that this was important. Putting a computer in each and every home again is easy. IF we have the will. I think this will happen locally for a bit and then the federal government will step. I hope. I hope. A chicken in every pot - a computer in every home.

Question from Maria Rodriguez O’Keefe, principal, Chicago Public Schools:
What have you found to be best practice for integrating technology into the classroom?

What does research indicate for schools that use tutorial programs as part of their computer class?

Elliot Soloway:
When you say “tutorial programs” do you mean integrated learning systems? If so, the reserach shows that they will work if the kids put in the time.

The deeper question is about integrating the technology. It is hard to integrate technology when there is 2-3 machines in the room, or when there is a cart of laptops that floats around the school. NOTHING is going to happen with such limited technology access. We are fooling ourselves if we think we can integrate that level of technology and actually have an impact. Teachers know that and resist making any real effort. Unless there is sufficient access to technology, there is really no point to trying to integrate it. How can technology can have an impact if a child uses it for 1 period - at most - a week? Technology is a burden to teachers in this sort of situation.

I am sorry to sound negative; but i am trying to be realistic. There is no magical best practice that will take limited access and make it work. Oh yes, one hears about the outstanding teacher who can do something. One in a million.

If you want tech to work, then you have to put tech in place. I run a small company -- and we worked in Calhoun elementary school with Gerry Beilmer and under Sharnell Jackson’s direction-- to try out the use of mobile, handheld computers. The project was a success - why? primarily becuase there was sufficient access to the technology -- 1:1 - and because we did understand how to use it with the existing curriculum. That integration wasn’t rocket science.

If you want to chat further, please send me an email... - I do wish you all the best in your school! Elliot Soloway

Question from Logan, Curriculum Coach:
Our school has 2 computer labs. We have students PrK - 8th grade. The county has a requirement for 4th graders to have keyboarding and 8th to have a technology class. Other technology Course of Study objectives are to be interwoven with academic content. We are contemplating the BEST use of the computer lab and the most appropriate software to use for this wide range of students. It seems the faculty is split between using the lab time as a place to remediate or enhance the general curriculum through content specific programs such as Mathematics and Reading games, tutorials and reinforcement of concepts taught in those classrooms OR a course that would teach the students about the “technology” component of the computer as a machine and the basic applications of use. (I personally would love to see actual student produced projects such as Powerpoint reports, published pieces, or graphs to support a research project.) All teachers at our school have laptops, Teacher workstations, and student workstations in the classrooms. They also have LCD projectors and 5 have smartboards. We are also embarking on a merger with a grant and a graduate school CSR grant to incorporate Plato learning software and web access for our students. In your opinion, what is the best use of our labs and what would benefit the students most?

Cathleen Norris:
I personally would recommend taking the machines in the labs and putting more machines into teachers classrooms. For your 4th grade keyboarding requirement, you could use a much less expensive device like and Alphasmart to teach keyboarding. Since you do have an 8th grade “technology class” requirement, you probably should keep one of the labs that would be utilized full time for these 8th graders. (Will one lab meet these needs?) When you say you have 5 Smart Boards, does that mean that only 5 teachers have them? The general problem with labs, other than the ones you’ve already cited is that teachers must sign up and go there--i.e. they are not a resource that is always available. If a student doesn’t finish an activity they started in the lab, when is the next opportunity they will have to finish?

Question from Carole Wacey, Executive Director, MOUSE (NYC):
Given the cost of using technology in the classroom (infrastructure, professional development, content), how do we demonstrate the effectiveness of educational technologies where there are multi-faceted factors impacting a wide array of student outcomes?

Margaret A. Honey:
Hi Carol! I think for the most part it makes little sense to conduct studies that try to isolate technology as THE factor that makes THE difference. I saw your MOUSE squad kids at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning last week in New York. They were using the skills they’ve learned through your program to help the speakers with their tech presentations. The students were knowledgeable, poised, professional, and patient. That is evidence of your program’s effectiveness. Just the fact that you can send your kids out into the world to provide support and expertise is testimony to the quality of your program. So, the point is there are lots of ways to get creative -- we should stop assuming that evidence only comes in a certain kind of package!

Question from Tina Stanford, educational researcher, SRI International:
What do you think is the most powerful use of technology in terms of potential impact on student learning?

Margaret A. Honey:
There are multiple answers to this question and it depends a great deal on who the students are. That said, I think software programs that are built on solid cognitive research have tremendous potential to impact student learning. The tutors that have grown out of the Carnegie Mellon research and are now being published by Carnegie Learning are excellent examples. So are the software programs developed by David Rose’s group CAST. Wiggleworks and Thinking Reader are CAST products currently published by Scholastic. What makes these programs effective is that they scaffold and support “higher order” learning strategies – in other words they are very different from drill and skill software that is nothing more than dressed up worksheets.

Student authoring projects are also powerful learning opportunities. The Think Quest program, now run by the Oracle Foundation is an excellent example. Also, look at the Adobe Youth Voices initiative, and the Apple Educator’s Network.

Another domain that can have a big impact on student learning are tools that enable teachers to do their work more effectively. Here I’m thinking of the products developed by Wireless Generation. The company’s core work has been in the area of preK-3 assessments, focused primarily on diagnostic tools that enable teachers to assess young children’s reading and mathematics competencies. The assessments run on handheld computers (Palm pilots or other small devices) and thus are able to provide teachers with immediate results. My colleagues at EDC’s Center for Children and Technology have been conducting research on the implementation of the Wireless reading assessments in New Mexico. What we’ve seen is that teachers are able to use the assessment information to acquire an understanding of student thinking and learning, and to use that understanding consciously to affect practice and develop instructional strategies designed to meet the needs of individual students. The real power resides in the fact that teachers “own” the assessment information; it’s a very different experience than data that’s generated through high stakes assessments. And, it’s a technology application that not only saves teachers considerable amounts of time, but provides a powerful diagnostic window into children’s thinking and thus helps them address student learning needs in a much more targeted fashion.

Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):

Thank you for joining us for this very informative online chat. And a special thanks to our guests for taking time out of their busy days to offer their tips and insights. This chat is now over. A transcript will be posted shortly on

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