A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

[Go Home]

Overview of Technology and Education Reform

In the past, application of technology to education was often motivated by a desire to implement "teacher proof" instruction. Technology was viewed as a "black box," something that could be bestowed on schools and classrooms from above. An increasing body of literature on technology implementation efforts suggests that this goal was not only unrealistic but also fundamentally misguided. To be effective, technology and teachers must work together to provide challenging learning opportunities. At the nine case study sites, technology serves the goals of education reform by contributing to:

Of central concern to this project is the use of technology as a catalyst for changing schools in ways that better support the acquisition of higher-order skills by all students. Such uses of technology can have a particularly significant impact on the schooling of economically disadvantaged students, whose educational experiences frequently have stressed repetitious rote drill on lower-order skills, with relatively little attention to the areas of comprehension, problem solving, composition, and mathematical reasoning that will support both higher education and effective functioning in the real world.

In the remainder of the overview, we discuss:

Technology, Education Reform, and Goals 2000

The Goals 2000 legislation codifies a set of national education goals and provides a structure for making the federal government a supportive partner in state and local systemic reform efforts. The Goals 2000 agenda calls for a challenging set of expectations for students and for coherent, high-quality educational opportunities to meet those expectations. The systemic reform concept suggests that the provision of those high-quality opportunities will require broad, coordinated change across the many levels and facets of the education system. As part of their Goals 2000 planning effort, states are directed to develop technology plans describing how they will use technology to support systemic reform and to help their students achieve high standards.

There are many different kinds of technology, technology applications, and technology uses. What vision of technology use best fulfills these goals? We have classified technology applications not in terms of their base technologies but in terms of how they are used with students (Means et al., 1993). Our classification scheme encompasses tutorial, exploratory, tool, and communications uses of technology.

We reason that tutorial uses of technologies (e.g., drill and practice programs, tutoring systems, satellite transmission of lectures) may be useful but are unlikely to transform education. These uses in essence use technology to do the same things that schools have traditionally done for more students--albeit perhaps more systematically and efficiently.

Exploratory programs can be exciting adjuncts to an instructional program, but rarely carry a major part of the core curriculum in practice (Levin & Meister, 1985).

If our goal is really to provide students with a different kind of education--structured around the provision of challenging tasks that can prepare them for a technology-laden world--the most relevant uses of technology are as tools and communication channels . Giving students experiences in selecting appropriate technology tools and in applying technologies such as word processors, spreadsheets, hypermedia, and network search tools to their work supports the performance of complex, authentic tasks and provides experiences that prepare students for the world outside of school.

We call these uses of technology authentic because students are using them for the same kinds of purposes and in the same ways that adults would use technology outside the school walls. That is, they use word processing and desktop publishing facilities in the same way that any practicing professional in a job requiring writing might do so. They search for information resources on the Internet using the same kinds of resources and for the same kinds of reasons that practicing researchers or an informed individual seeking broad information might.

Authentic Uses of Technology

Examples of such authentic uses of technology can be gleaned from the nine case study sites. These examples illustrate several key features of our concept of authentic uses of technology:

The concept of authentic uses of technology may be demonstrated more clearly by providing some examples of technology uses that do not exhibit the features described above. Traditional uses of technology should not be construed as "bad" practice but simply as activities that are not likely to transform a classroom or school.

The kinds of complex, meaningful projects within which authentic technology use occurs require extended periods of time for their implementation. They almost always call on skills and knowledge from different disciplines (e.g., mathematics to analyze survey responses, meteorology to consider natural disasters that might strike a city). They are naturally conducive to small group work, with different students performing different functions as on a sports or workplace team, and with the teacher acting as a coach and facilitator for multiple groups. In these ways, such projects exert pressure to break down traditional school schedules of short blocks of time, artificial barriers between what are viewed as separate subject areas, and the boundaries between the classroom and the outside world (Newman, 1990).

At the same time, such authentic uses of technology have advantages over more didactic uses simply because they are so flexible. Many tutorial or exploratory technology applications are not adopted by schools and teachers because the content they convey does not match the objectives of the particular teacher, district, or state. Thus, the technology application is used only with a few students as "enrichment" or is never adopted at all. In contrast, technology applications that can be used as a tool or a communications vehicle (e.g., word processing and spreadsheet software, drawing programs, networks) can support any curriculum and can be fully assimilated into a teacher's ongoing core practice (Means et al., 1993).

[Go Home]