1. In what ways has technology improved the effectiveness of your classroom, school or district?

Note: This is the first of four questions being posted. For those in the U.S., Secretary Spellings has asked for ideas on the integration of technology in education. There is a form on the ed.gov site, but no ability to dialog or even leave your contact information if you fill it out. Therefore, I have created a forum thread for each of Secretary Spellings' questions, and propose that we discuss them here and invite her office to view the dialog on this website and even participate. This is a terrific opportunity to not only respond but to also show the benefit of Web 2.0 technology in addressing this kind of issue.

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I'm going to take this opportunity to say what my district *hasn't* done, nor have many districts, but what I think they *should* do to get schools rocking with tech.

First, what they *have* done is a very good job of getting computers into the K-4 classrooms. All K-4s now have 4 student computers, as well as three rolling laptop carts. So... the hardware is there, as well as some software (which is another story... another thread about how to spend money on tech). What they *haven't* done is give access to the higher grades. Starting in 5th, there are maybe one or two student computers in the classroom, and by the time they're in middle school, they only have access through their computer labs. But even the K-4 access is inadequate. Why? Read on.

K-4 students learn very quickly how to point and click (if given the opportunity). Indeed, with the proprietary software installed (SuccessMaker), they may do a number of (potentially drill and kill) assignments or possibly visit sites like PBSKids or Starfall. However, doing more complicated tasks which require typing completely slows them down and all but nullifies the advantages of tech. I volunteer in my daughter's class and help out with computers twice a week. Still... the kids can't type very well... nor should they have to.

Instead, the schools *should* at the beginning of the school year get "speech to text" working on all their K-4 computers. Any Masters student out there will tell you about Bruner, Gardner, etc. and about multiple intelligences and various learning styles, etc. Of course... *tech learning style* and *tech intelligence* wasn't really around much when they developed their theories. Nor is tech integrated into Bloom's taxonomy. I argue that if you really want students to develop language skills at an early age, then get them working with speech to text from the start! That's right... start it in kindergarden! "Oh," I hear you say, "But speech to text doesn't work very well." Well, it's integrated into XP, is supposed to be enhanced with Vista, and there's always Dragon Naturally Speaking and several other softwares that could be utilized. And frankly, *I don't care if it's not perfect... neither is their writing!*. If students started with this, they would certainly have their own difficulties with the software, just as they do now have difficulty with the mechanics of holding pencils and writing. No student writes better than they speak at that level, and should be encouraged from the beginning to develop their own natural voice and thoughts. That's just the beginning.

If students could interface with the computer, then the next step is... where and how? It only took me three years to get Tapped In unfiltered by the district. Students could chat real time with each other, and indeed, with other students around the country (and world). Of course, as it stands now, virtually *all real time chat is banned in schools* as are blogs, social networking sites, etc. The next step is *remove the paranoia and develop safe practices and sites for student use*. In addition to building a techucational framework on something other than paranoia, students and educators need support... constant support in building and developing their use of technology.

Each district should have at least half a dozen technology support specialists. I'm not talking here about the guy in the basement who fixes your printer (although they could do this thing too), but going from school to school and giving inclass support, regular and sustained professional development, and continuous online support and collaboration opportunities. THIS DOESN"T HAPPEN FOR THE MOST PART! If you have a district where you have a number of teachers on special assignment helping educators and students in an ongoing fashion, then please let me know. Our district finally got around to hiring *one* support specialist. His job however centers mostly in supporting EdLine, GradeQuick, high stakes tests, etc. and he doesn't have time to give onsite support, let alone online support.

There's more... but that's enough of my rant for now... I'll take a look at the other questions and get back to you. I am somewhat surprised (read: annoyed) that ed.gov doesn't have a similar feedback option on their site. No... I take that back... I guess I'm not all that surprised. They *should* have online surveys and forums for support and collaboration... but what can I say that I haven't already?
I think this question should be targetted to a specific group of schools:
To schools which used computers extensively in classrooms
with features like teacher can see the monitor view of student computers and
control their activities.
To schools where e-learning is integrated with school education
and where content available in school computers is specially designed keeping in view
the school syllabus.
To schools where testing and evaluation is computerised to track the year-long
performance of student.
I think feedback from those schools will be useful to arrive at right answer to the question.
As the state frameworks for social studies have made some significant changes, access to the internet using pre-selected websites has provided research materials not available in the school libraries. Also, having dynamic district and school websites has provided full access to parents and the community to vital information about the schools. The use of listserves to communicate notices to parents and having the school newspaper online not only save money, but provide better methods of communication.
In the schools I see as a parent, I would say that technology has not improved their effectiveness. My children have gone to good schools with good teachers, and they have learned their subjects well. They have been educated based in 19th and 20th century standards. They can read well, calculate well, memorize well, and write passably well.

What is missing from their education is a sense of context. They know history, health, and science but they do not understand them. They know how to pass tests, but they are not so good at solving real problems. Appropriate uses of technology could help by making them exposers, explorers, experimenters, and discoverers.

The analytical problem solving skills they have learned happened on their own time, through interactions with each other and through bedroom technologies, mostly video games.

I fear that in most schools this question is unanswerable — because we have not come nearly far enough to draw any meaningful conclusions.
With tools such as Moodle, students, teachers, and staff are able to post, submit, review, and assess assignments. It has become a launching page for web-based activities in class. This course management system gives up-to-date grades, class conduct, and other valuable class information for a course that meets daily. Additionally, lab monitoring software has become invaluable in a computer lab, allowing me to open designated programs or websites, or limiting only certain options as well. This has been invaluable at facilitating classroom management in a computer lab. We go far beyond basic web-browsing for up-to-date research online pertaining to our course content. I still find some limitations in using our technology. Namely, I'd like to implement wikis and blogs from an educational use and proper instruction, but find limitations due to security concerns.
I ask that responses to this question separate teaching with technology, teaching about technology, and the effectiveness of our teaching, especially as measured by the extent of the learning that has taken place. I have taught with technology and it is fun, interesting, new, and at times hip. I have taught about technology and that helps students to use and appreciate technology. But if you ask whether students really learn more (other than learning about technology), learn faster, or if I am more efficient in my teaching, the answer is a resounding NO. Technology has added to the cost of instruction, not to the quality and not to the efficiency. As a small example, I used to teach Calculus with a piece of chalk and a blackboard. As I moved into various stages of technology, I have taught Calculus with plotters, computer simulations, multi-function calculators, graphing calculators, special math programs on computers, web pages, Javascript in web pages, Java applets, access to the internet, and data projectors. Has the quality of my teaching gone down? No. Have I maintained excitement in my classes throughout? Yes. Have I enjoyed continually learning new technology and implementing its use in my classes? Yes. Are there things that I can do and show and ask of my students now that I could not have done or asked years ago? Certainly. However, I teach the same number of students in the same amount of time and they learn essentially the same basic concepts and skills. I am having fun, I think that they are having fun, and we have spent incredible amounts to provide all of this technology. In short, instructional technology has not improved the effectiveness of my teching. Furthermore, from what I have observed, once one eliminates the "fun" factor and instead concentrates on the real effectiveness question, I have yet to see anyone who can really show that instructional technology has improved effectiveness.

I blogged about this earlier so I will just share my post. In it is the email that I sent. Not spectacular, but I felt it was better act than just re-post complaints.

Thanks for the forum,
Well said Ken!
I'm an 8th grade science teacher. Concepts such as atoms and forces are hard for middle school students (and many adults!) to grasp. The ability to teach using color/moving images with a projector and then manipulate them with an Interactive White Board has greatly improved understanding. The web and sites such as this have also helped me find great lessons and incorporate them into my classroom. As a new teacher the web has been indispensable in constructing my curriculum to construct student knowledge.
Technology has improved student ownership of their learning. The motivation to go after the "quest" for knowledge is exciting to watch. Students are engaged and the learnig experience of doing a webquest or building an i-movie project makes a great learning impact. Teachers in our district also really worked in a collaborative manner that made the learning experience that more meaningful.
Technology has made some improvements upon effectiveness in the school in which I teach, but there is a long way to go before it could be said that it is transformative. I can detail what we have and how we use it. Its effectiveness is debatable in some regards. Our primary use of technology includes using eSchools for tracking students and grading. This is more effective for maintaining records and getting information to parents quickly. It removes an extra step in grading and attendance. We use smartboards in most classrooms. This has been effective in my classroom, particularly in whole class instruction that may be applied later individually. We have three full labs and two laptop carts. They are used frequently for writing, revision, project based education, skill drills. There is some individual use of websites for homework and resources, emailing parents and students. Parents definitely have more reliable and immediate access to teachers. There is a push toward data analysis of NCLB materials. This is marginally effective in that it provides an easy assessment when talking to a parent about a child's skill base or why they did or did not get into advanced. There is room for some assessment over time, but since the tests themselves vary in difficulty, it's not that useful. Few teachers have time to disagreggate data and apply specifically related instruction directly to students based on how they perform on specific tests or questions. It's more useful as a general tool and for resource room teachers who deal with students in much smaller numbers. Some teachers make use of graphic software and other software programs for skill development and project based education. I prefer this use myself. I think my students learn more from creating with technology than from imbibing technology.

I see some significant use of technology, but I feel like we have more infrastructure than we have application. Sort of a "if we build it, they will come." mentality that is only semi successful right now. I think that will change as more and more teachers come to teaching already prepared for using technology and as those who use it successfully share their information with colleagues.
It is impossible to measure the effect of technology on the districts that I have worked in recently (Austin Independent School District-most recently). There are so many changes in the way that technology is used for attendance, grades, and other office tasks. The effect is HUGE. It has also improved the communication about the school to the community. Those schools that have effective web pages find them to be really helpful in communicating about what they do. People moving into the community with children often look at the web pages to see what the schools in the area are like.

Technology has allowed the collection and sorting of much more data than ever before. We are just beginning to understand how that can assist us in applying the assessment, attendance, and discipline data to enhance the education of each student.

In the classroom email has made it much easier for teachers to connect with parents. A parent can write at any time without concern that they will be bothering the teacher. Teachers can respond with a cool head after researching situations when it is best for them. This is so much better than phone calls during lunch or prep time.

I could go on... In some schools technology has made a huge difference in what happens in the classroom, but in others there is very little change.

Janice Friesen



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