To help educators and technology leaders find solutions to their problems and open their minds to new ideas, edweek.org sponsors occasional chats with school technology experts. Following are edited excerpts from a recent chat, “The Evolution of Ed. Tech.,” with Margaret A. Honey, a former director of the Center for Children and Technology who is now the senior vice president of strategic initiatives and research for Wireless Generation, a New York City-based company that develops mobile technologies for use in schools; Cathleen Norris, a professor in the department of technology and cognition at the University of North Texas in Denton; and Elliot Soloway, a professor of computer science and education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
What level(s) of classroom technology promotes student achievement?
Elliot Soloway: The key to getting an impact from 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. One-to-one [student-to-computer ratios] finally gives the children time to use the technology. … 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 learning goals. Then we see impact.
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?
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 technology and software. Also, the technology must not be the kind that adds an extra burden to what they already have to do.
What’s the best tool and technology for creating a sense of community online?
Margaret Honey: 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 [International, based in Menlo Park, Calif.,] has done extensive work in this area.
What are a few new technologies that hold the greatest promise for application in 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 six other people or you only got to use it once or twice per week. … Cellphones are the closest thing we have to one-to-one [computing access], so from just an access perspective, the more we can do with cellphones, the more hope we have of reaching every child.
What are the documented successes and concerns with using technology with special education students?
Margaret Honey: There are a couple of places to turn for answers to your question: CITEd (www.citeducation.org) is a site that locates the most up-to-date resources for implementing technology in education. Their resources are geared toward both special education and general education students. [Also], the National Center to Improve Practice (www2.edc.org/NCIP/) [was established] to promote the effective use of technology to enhance educational outcomes for students with sensory, cognitive, physical, and social/emotional disabilities.
What impact is digital gaming having on how students want to be taught?
Read the full transcript of this chat, Technology Counts 2007: The Evolution of Ed. Tech..
Elliot Soloway: Gaming is an opportunity for learning—I think a small opportunity 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 we make games into a fad, then when the results are disappointing, we will drop games.
Compiled by Kevin Bushweller
A version of this article appeared in the June 20, 2007 edition of Digital Directions as Making Ed. Tech. Work