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Technology in the Classroom: Is Your School'sTechnology Up-to-Date?Linda J. Wilson , Thomas E. Gatewood a & Susan H. Conrad ba Northern Virginia Center of Virginia Tech , USAb Fairfax County, Virginia Public Schools , USAPublished online: 18 Jul 2012.
To cite this article: Linda J. Wilson , Thomas E. Gatewood & Susan H. Conrad (1997) Technology in the Classroom: IsYour School's Technology Up-to-Date?, Childhood Education, 73:4, 249-251, DOI: 10.1080/00094056.1997.10521106
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00094056.1997.10521106
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Is Your Schools Technology Up-to-Date? A Practical Guide for Assessing Technology in Elementary Schools Thomas E. Gatewood and Susan H. Conrad
Thomas E . Gatewood is Director, Education Programs, Northern Virginia Center of Virginia Tech. Susan H . Conrad is Classrooni Teacher, Fairfax County, Virginia Public Schools.
e can hardly open a newspa- per or magazine, attend a con-
ference or watch television these days without being bombarded by information about technology. How do we react when we hear terms like Internet, Information Highway, E- mail, World Wide Web, networking and CD-ROMs? Do we feel like the technology train is leaving the station and we are running after it, desper- ately trying to get on board? If we do, we are not alone. Many educators today feel that their technological skills are inadequate and outdated.
This guide is meant to help educa- tors assess elementary schools tech- nology programs and determine their needs in this increasingly im- portant area. The authors hope to bring schools into the fourth wave of technology (Changing the way we learn, 1996). It is generally agreed that the first wave tookplace in the early 1980s, when a small number of personal computers were used in schools, mostly to teach stu- dents how to write programs using the BASIC language and to run a few educational software titles. The second wave crashed with the in- troduction of computers into labo- ratory settings, such as writing and math labs, and with the use of gen- eral purpose software, such as word processing and spreadsheets.
In the early 1990s, the third wave moved across the education land-
scape. Educational software and reference works started to appear on single CD-ROM disks, which combine text, pictures, sound, ani- mation, video clips and greater interactivity. Software for word processing, databases and spread- sheets, as well as for specific sub- jects, became easier to use, more available and affordable, expand- ing the use of computers into areas like the sciences and the arts.
Now, in the midst of the fourth wave of technology, everyone from kindergartners to graduate students is using computers to connect to the Internet, send electronic mail (E- mail), browse the World Wide Web (WWW)and shareinformationelec- tronically. Another characteristic of the fourth wave is the interconnec- tion of computers among schools, homes and community resources.
Unfortunately, few schools or teachers are adequately prepared for this fourth wave. A recent re- port reveals that only a few teach- ers in a relatively small number of schools have been trained to maxi- mize technology use in classrooms (Teachers and Technology: Making the Connection, 1995). By the time this article reaches print, we may be approaching the technological fifth wave, in which digital technology will increasingly revolutionize how people produce, store, retrieve and use information.
Setting the Stage for a Needs Assessment Before conducting a technology as- sessment, educators need to ensure that their schools environment is suitable for higher level learning, not an end to itself. Technology is only a means to enhancing students intellectually appropriate learning. Does learning in your school or class- room intellectually challenge stu- dents through sustained critical thinking and problem solving? Are your students actively constructing knowledge by using primary infor- mation sources, active research and open-ended inquiry they themselves have proposed? If your answer to these questions is yes, technology can and should play a vital role in improving teaching and learning.
Or do students in your school spend most of their time listening to teacher-led lectures and discussions, or doing worksheets and other forms of seat work? Do they participate in whole group activities with little accommodation of individual dif- ferences? If so, technology will not be very helpful. Instead, it would be far better to change the teaching and learning model of the schools pro- gram to make it more intellectually engaging and rigorous. As Chris Dede, an international expert in computer technology, warned, If technology is used simply to auto- mate traditional models of teaching
SUMMER 1997 249
and learning, then it'll have little impact" (Brandt, 1995). A technology plan that reflects a student-centered
learning environment is a second prerequisite to a technology needs assessment. The technology plan should be integrated with and augment the school district's education program. The plan must be a vision for technology's role in the school.
Conducting a Needs Assessment Elementary schools commonly form a technology ad- visory committee, which is often composed of an ad- ministrator, two or three teachers, two or three parents, a technology coordinator working exclusively for the school, and a technology director assigned to the entire district. Typically, the coordinator is a staff member who is given reduced time or an extra duty assignment to coordinate and direct the school's use of technology.
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The committee is responsible for conducting a com- prehensive assessment of the school's use of technol- ogy. The following list of questions and guidelines can help to direct the assessment:
Are there enough classroom computer workstations
Each classroom should have at least one teacher workstation and one or more student workstations (one for each five students is ideal); the computers should be equipped with both hard and floppy disk drives, color monitors, CD-ROM drives, mo- dems, sound cards, speakers and sufficient RAM memory (8 megabytes minimum, 16 megabytes highly recommended). The classroom computer workstations should share a laser or color ink jet printer. The software installed on each computer (or avail- able via a classroom or school-wide local area network [LAN] from a central computer server) should include a graphical operating system (Win- dows 95 or Macintosh); word processing, spread- sheet and database suite software ( e g , ClarisWorks or Microsoft Office); CD-ROM and disk-based edu- cationalsoftware appropriate for the subject taught (see the appended box for examples of recom- mended titles); and hypermedia authoring soft- ware (such as Hyperstudio). Each workstation should have access via a modem or the school's LAN to the Internet (AmericaOnline is an example of an Internet provider that charges a monthly usage fee). The workstation should have software installed that enables students to use the World Wide Web (WWW) and to send and receive E-mail (e.g., Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Eudora).
and are they up-to-date?
Does the school have a technology resource center? This center, often located in or near the school's media center or library, should have more ad- vanced hardware and software than is generally available on the classroom workstations. It may also serve as the hub for a school-wide LAN that connects all of the school's computer workstations to one another. Several computers should be networked to each another via a LAN. Each of the computers should be equipped with at least the same options that are installed on the classroom workstations. In addi- tion, they should have more RAM memory (at least 16 megabytes), larger hard drives, a high capacity laser printer and a color scanner. One of the computers should be designated as a net- work server to operate as the hub for the school-wide LAN. The LAN should connect classroom worksta-
250 + CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
tions, computer labs (for subjects like mathematics, word processing and technology education) and the schools administrative office. Properly installed cable wiring is necessary for the school-wide LAN.
One innovative program, called NetDay 96, could provide a model for states and localities around the nation. On that Saturday in March 1996, tens of thousands of parents, students, teachers and engineers installed network wir- ing in over 13,000 public and private schools in California. The program was sponsored by hundreds of Californian companies. The schools negotiated an agreement with supply vendors whereby, for less than $450, they could pur- chase a complete kit of wire, connectors and a patch panel. Each sponsor was responsible for helping the school to purchase the necessary materials and to recruit and train volunteers to wire the school. The details of this very success- ful program are available by contacting the NetDay 96 World Wide Web site at http:/ / netday96.com I . Subsequently, many other states have implemented similar NetDay initiatives. The software recommended for each classroom workstation could be installed on the computer server and made available via the LAN to all of theschoolscomputers. Inaddition,schoolsshould install the software to operate the LAN that al- lows E-mail and software resources to be shared.
Riding the Wave Your schools instruction fosters intellectually ap- propriate school learning. Your school has a technol- ogy plan that reflects this atmosphere and is integrated with your district education program and state policies. You have conducted a needs assess- ment of your schoolsuse of technology. What is next?
The results of the needs assessment will enable you to review and revise your original technology plan. This review may lead to new recommenda- tions for software, hardware and training. It may be necessary at this point to submit your plan and recommendations to the local school board for sug- gestions and approval. Your technology advisory committee will be instrumental in estimating costs and implementing the plan.
The thrill of being on the cutting edge of technol- ogy can permeate your entire building, giving con- fidence, vision and life skills to faculty as well as students. It will foster a positive image of your school and engender dynamic, mutually beneficial partnerships with parents, businesses and other community organizations.
Is your schools technology up-to-date? It is time to find out and ride the wave!
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References and Resources Brandt, R...