echnology in the classroom has been growing exponentially over the past few years and Internet collaboration and alternative approaches to coursework are becoming a part of professional development. The neglected concept of a student portfolio has become a reality with the growth of blog, ning, and wiki. Even President Obama has embraced technology in learning, although his head of Education has not given up his position on standardized tests. It is not what you can do, but how well you can score that is still of primary importance. I trust that will change.

This is not a new phenomen, but a rebirth of a spirit of innovation that is 25 years old. As I have written elsewhere, K-12 Education was a pioneer on telecomputing before there was a viable Internet Kidsnet was an email list where K-12 educators could share projects online. In 1987 in the UK, the Chatback Trust was created by Tom Holloway for children with processing disabilities and ran collaborative projects on My Christmas Dinner, Far Star (an alien speaks to students), Steel (a daily chronicle of a race around the world among 10 steel hulled Tall Ships.) I collaborated with teachers who worked with LD students in Middle and High School. Educational MOOs were developed which were the text only virtual worlds that led the way to Second Life. The MOO was an extensible text environment where students wrote to create their appearance, home, pets, and projects. They became so popular they were banned in Texas. That really is mind boggling: students were forbidden to read and write because they were enjoying it.

This attitude was arising in the school establishment as it was forced to deal with the new technology. In 1990, a rural Virginia teacher of LD HS students brought her Apple II and 1200 baud modem and had her students emailing around the world. They started caring about spelling and grammar. At a time when her students were emailing around the world, the gifted students were learning to play bridge. The teacher was marginalized and tolerated. A similar thing happened to a Teacher of LD students in suburban New York City. When came the epiphany, these pioneers were supplanted by the right kind of teacher. Suddenly, the computers were relegated to the students who could most use them. The success of the computer with the LD students were ignored and they had to "learn the basics" before they were "ready" for a computer. As a result the innovative teaching that marked the Golden Age of K-12 tele-education came to an end and computers were relegated to "educational games" and electronic drilling. And this period can be considered the Dark Ages and the students belong to the Lost Generation of the computer in education.

The emergence of technology in education is really a Renaissance of the Golden Age with richer tools. Why the Dark Ages, followed by the Renaissance? In the 1990's most administrators and teachers were afraid of computer. Today, administrators and teachers grew up with the computer.

Post Script

To underline the Pioneer status of k-12 education, you need only look at the Universities. In 1995, 10 years after K-12 made its appearance on the computer networks, I worked at a large metropolitan university. I was able to provide two of the 12 computer dial-in lines available to students. Since there was so little use, they could afford to let outsiders use them.

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Comment by Bob Zenhausern on December 24, 2009 at 9:43pm
I am not sure this is exactly the same thing, but close. We are so enamored with the new tech, that it becomes an end rather than a means. Glitz for the sake of glitz, not for what you can do with it.


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