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Reasons For Bringing Technology Into Schools

The teachers and administrators at our case study sites expressed different reasons for bringing technology into their schools.

Support Thinking Processes

Many teachers at case study schools cited a belief that computer-based technologies could provide support for thinking processes.

Many respondents stressed opportunities that technology provides for acquiring problem-solving skills - either through instructional software designed to teach problem solving (including open-ended exploratory software such as LOGO) or through the many requirements for solving problems that naturally emerge when one is trying to use computer tools to accomplish a task (e.g., the selection of appropriate software, figuring out what to do when the system doesn't behave as you expect it to).

Some described supports that technology can provide for acquiring complex concepts, for example by graphically representing abstract concepts such as acceleration, or by providing scaffolding for thinking, such as the cognitive prompts embedded in CSILE (Computer-Supported Intentional Learning Environments).

Stimulate Motivation and Self-Esteem

A second frequently cited rationale for introducing technology was to stimulate motivation and self-esteem. Through either personal experience or a review of the literature, many innovators perceived the dramatic effects that technology can have on students' interest in class activities and their sense of their own capabilities.

While these benefits are perceived as occurring across the board, our case study sites, most of whom serve student bodies coming predominantly from low-SES homes, felt that these benefits would be particularly important for their students. Thus, a related reason for using technology was the promotion of equity.

Promote Equity

In the case of ShareNet, the districts recognized the wide disparity in the resources available to them and felt that a unifying network could promote a more equitable use of those resources.

In the case of several schools serving students from low-income homes, technology innovators stressed the importance of giving these students the technology tools that would equip them to compete with children coming from more affluent homes where technology is commonplace.

As soon as I heard that [the technology middle school] was opening up and it was going to be a technology school with the majority of kids being minority kids and low SES kids, I wanted to come here. . . .I came from a school where most of the families could afford a computer and the kids that didn't. . .had the tendency to withdraw and put their heads down and not really want to be into anything technology-based. . . - Middle school mathematics teacher

Prepare Students for the Future

The concern for equity is related to a fourth major motivation for introducing technology--to prepare students for the future. Respondents at a number of sites foresaw a future in which both higher education and the world of work would be infused with technology. These educators argue that schools have a responsibility to give students--and especially students from low-income homes--the confidence and skills in using such technology that they will need after graduation.

I don't care what field they're in, be it factory worker, office worker, medicine or whatever. [There is no place where technology will not be used.] It's getting harder and harder to get jobs. You want your kids to get a leg up. It's becoming a necessary ingredient. - Middle school principal

Support Changes in School Structure

Researchers have argued that technology has the potential to dramatically change the way in which our schools are structured--providing pressure to do away with the division of instructional time into small blocks and discrete disciplines and to rethink the way we use physical classrooms and teaching resources (Collins, 1990; Newman, 1990). A number of our sites reported consciously deciding to use technology in order to support changes in school structure. Several district administrators expected technology to free up teacher time by taking over or supporting administrative and routine teaching tasks. The administrators setting up ShareNet expected it to lower boundaries between schools, districts, and even states.

Explore Technology Capabilities

Finally, in several cases, there were individuals who were simply intrigued by new technologies and wanted to explore what they could do. Not surprisingly, the desire to explore technology capabilities was most likely to be a factor in cases where there was an external partner involved in the design, manufacture, or selling of technology products. Although we felt that technology push was one motivation for some implementations, in no case was it the sole motivation.

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