Technology in Education
TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION
susan m. williams
howard d. mehlinger
susan m. powers
roger g. baldwin
Computers and Internet connections are becoming widely available in schools and classrooms. In 1999, 99 percent of teachers in the United States had access to a computer in their schools, and 84 percent had one or more computers in their classrooms. At the same time, Internet connections were also widespread, with 95 percent of schools and 63 percent of classrooms having access. Worldwide, many countries are making the creation and diffusion of information and communications technology (ICT) an important priority. Even in developing countries, usage is increasing dramatically. As ICT becomes more widely available, teachers and policymakers are turning their attention to the difficult task of understanding how best to integrate this technology into learning environments.
ICT can be used in many different ways, and how it is integrated into educational settings depends largely on teachers' instructional goals and strategies. Changes in the goals of education during the latter part of the twentieth century, coupled with increases in the amount and type of available technology, has created changes in teachers' use of technology. In the 1970s and early 1980s the primary goal of instruction was to have students memorize important information and procedures. Instruction was teacher-led and dominated by lectures, followed by practice using worksheets and short-answer tests. Students worked alone to complete assignments, and when help was needed they consulted parents, teachers, or textbooks for assistance. If computers were available in classrooms during this time period, their use mirrored this dominant mode of instruction; that is, they were primarily used to present passages of text and test students' comprehension and memory for information contained in the passages.
Research on learning has demonstrated the shortcomings of this type of instruction. Students often forget memorized information, or they fail to apply it in situations where it would be useful. They need help in connecting new information to what they already know and in extending and applying their knowledge to new problems. Researchers in the early twenty-first century believe that students learn best when they work to combine their own past experience with new information in order to solve problems that are personally meaningful to them.
In addition to changes in the understanding of how students learn, there have been substantial changes in what educators and policymakers believe students should know how to do. The exponential growth in information since 1950 has shifted the purpose of education. Information has become abundant and easily accessible. Rather than reading the unified perspective typically presented by a textbook, students have access to many different points of view. Instead of memorizing, students now need assistance in learning how to find and select relevant information for problems they need to solve. They need to learn how to collaborate with others as they solve these problems and communicate their solutions to their teachers and to the world beyond their classroom.
Along with changes in what students should know and an increased understanding of how they learn, new approaches to instruction are being advocated. Instead of listening to lectures and memorizing facts and procedures, educational reforms suggest that students learn best in the context of solving complex, realistic problems. Traditional computer-assisted instruction (CAI) and many integrated learning systems (ILSs) deliver precisely this form of instruction in a range of subject-matter areas. Typically computers dedicated to ILSs are clustered in computer laboratory settings, rather than being located in individual teacher's classrooms. Students who acquire new information as they solve problems are able to understand its usefulness, remember it, and use it to solve problems in the future. Solving interesting problems is more likely to stimulate a student's interest than memorizing isolated facts, and this interest has been shown to positively affect learning. Students solving real problems view their efforts as real work and have a sense of purpose and value.
Organizing instruction around problem solving makes new demands on teachers, including locating meaningful problems and projects and providing students with the resources and guidance for solving them. Teachers are finding that ICT can help them meet these demands, and they are integrating it into their instruction in many new and exciting ways.
Technology and New Forms of Instruction
Using technology to find and represent educational problems. One major challenge for teachers interested in problem-based learning is locating problems that are appropriate for their students and for the topics that they need to learn. Problems must be complex enough to support sustained exploration and encourage collaboration, and they should have multiple interrelated parts to develop students' ability to break problems down and organize their solutions. Representing and communicating such complex problem situations is an important function of technology. Unlike problems that occur in the real world, technology can incorporate graphics, video, animation, and other tools to create problems that can be explored repeatedly. Multimedia representations are easier to understand than problems presented as text. One example of using technology to present problems is the mathematical problem-solving series, The Adventures of Jasper Woodbury. Each problem in the Jasper series is presented as a video story that ends when the main character experiences a problem that can be solved using math. Using technology that can be easily searched and paused for inspection, students search the video looking for clues to help them understand and solve the problem. In one episode, students explore a variety of transportation methods and routes to rescue a wounded bald eagle. They compare their solution plans and develop ways to determine which plan is best.
Microworlds are another type of technology used to present problems. One example is Thinkertools, a computer-based learning environment that simulates aspects of Newtonian physics. Using the Thinkertools microworld, students can manipulate various aspects of the environment, observe the results, and attempt to discover the rules that govern this simulation.
Internet and videoconferencing technology allow students to participate in projects sponsored by researchers around the world. In the Jason Project, satellite and Internet technology bring classroom students into direct real-time contact with leading scientists, conducting scientific research expeditions around the globe. Each year the project explores a different location in order to help students understand the earth's biological and geological development. Some of the past expeditions have studied deep-sea archaeology, compared shallow and deep ocean habitats, studied plate tectonics and volcanoes, and compared conditions experienced in space and under the oceans. In addition to observing research activities, students are able to ask questions and get immediate answers from the scientists.
Whatever type of technology is used, an important goal is to create problem representations that are interactive and under the learner's control. The student creates a plan for investigating the problem, and the technology creates an environment that makes flexible exploration possible.
Using technology to find educational resources. A second function of technology in problem-based learning environments is locating information needed to solve problems or do other kinds of research. In the past, teachers attempting a problem-based curriculum felt the need to limit problems to those for which they had expertise or the local library had resources. Now the World Wide Web brings a seemingly endless amount of information on almost any subject, and it is possible for students to choose topics based on personal interest rather than availability of resources.
Internet research projects are gaining rapidly in popularity. In the spring of 1998, 30 percent of teachers surveyed (and 70% of those with high-speed Internet connections) reported they had assigned Internet research tasks for their students during the school year. Use of the Internet to gather information for solving problems sometimes resembles a modern version of library research, in which students gather and synthesize information from published reports. Despite the fact that the task seems traditional, the characteristics of this new medium require special skills for students. The sheer volume of information allows students to study almost any topic, but also makes it more difficult to locate precisely the right information from among the thousands, or even millions, of sites that might be located. In addition, the ease of publishing and accessing materials on the Internet increases the likelihood that students will encounter inaccurate or biased information. As a result, students must learn new strategies for conducting searches and evaluating the information that they retrieve.
In addition to its function as a source of information, the Internet's capability for communication and interaction provides many innovative educational opportunities. Many times students are unable to find or understand the available resources. In such cases, teachers are also turning to ICT to link their students with mentors and subject-matter experts. In one such project, fourth-and fifth-grade students in McAllen, Texas, compared the experiences of their families on the Texas La Frontera to colonial life in the original thirteen U.S. colonies, with the help of the director of a historic preservation center and museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Students carrying out scientific investigations can use the Internet to make observations and collect data. For example, fourth and fifth graders in California collected insects and sent them to San Diego State University. Using two-way audio and video connecting the school and the university, scientists guided the students in using an electron microscope to examine their specimens. Technology has made it possible to collect data from places students could never visit. In recent projects, high school students explored the floor of the Monterey bay by studying video from remotely operated robots, and middle school students were given time to use the Hubble telescope.
Students also use technology to collect data in their schools and communities. For example, using handheld computers outfitted with various types of probes, students can monitor the water quality at various locations in nearby streams or lakes. By transmitting their individual readings to a laptop computer in a field laboratory they can quickly graph their data and visually compare readings.
Using technology to summarize and present findings. In the past, students memorized and used formulas and models created by others to solve problems. Students often used these formulas, especially in the early stages of learning, with little understanding. In the early twenty-first century computer tools provide the opportunity for students to construct and test their own models using tools such as spreadsheets or concept maps. This type of instruction deepens students' understanding of abstract concepts and allows these concepts to be taught at an earlier age.
Once students have summarized their data and other information, they typically communicate their findings to others. In the past, this meant writing a report to be read by the teacher. Writing reports is still the most widespread use of ICT, with 61 percent of U.S. teachers assigning students word processing tasks. In addition to text, students also use computer-created graphics, video, and animations to communicate their ideas.
The teacher is not the only audience for students' presentations. Students are frequently expected to present their work and receive feedback from their peers and the world outside their classroom. Whether they are using presentation software to accompany a face-to-face presentation or developing materials to put on the Web, the trend is for students to be able to communicate and defend their work to a broad audience. This increases students' perception that problem-based learning is real work for real audiences.
Using technology for collaboration and distance education. There are many opportunities for individual students to use technology to enhance their learning. These include online courses that provide students in remote locations with opportunities for customized curriculum and advanced placement courses. These courses are conducted entirely online and offer asynchronous interaction among faculty and students. Because they allow students to participate anytime and from anywhere, online courses are becoming increasingly popular among postsecondary students whose job and personal commitments do not allow them to meet a regular class schedule.
Opportunities for interaction with peers from other countries can also contribute to knowledge and understanding of other cultures. ICT makes this type of communication possible for anyone with Internet access. For example, the KIDLINK project encourages students up to age fifteen to use the Internet to build a global network of friends. KIDLINK participants discuss issues ranging from how to make and keep friends to war and peace.
Teachers' Integration of Technology in Instruction
Although ICT is creating opportunities for fundamental changes in the way teachers teach and the way students learn, a recent survey indicated that only one-third of teachers feel prepared to use it effectively. This includes being able to use word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and Internet browsing software. Such tools help teachers increase their productivity by preparing reports or lesson plans, taking notes, and communicating with colleagues and parents. These basic skills are necessary, but not sufficient, for creating changes in instruction. Changes require that teachers are familiar with ICT tools and materials in the subjects they teach. They must also be able to incorporate these resources into classroom activities that accomplish important learning goals.
Research has shown that learning to incorporate technology into instruction occurs over time and follows a pattern. Initially, teachers incorporate new technologies into the things that they traditionally do. Then, after observing changes in their students–including improvements in behavior, absenteeism, collaboration, and independent learning–teachers gradually begin to experiment and use technology to teach in new ways. It often takes four years or more from initial attempts until changes in student learning can be observed.
Research indicates that change at all levels will be necessary to bring about widespread and effective use of technology. Successful programs must devote a substantial portion of their budget to extensive professional development and technical support; they must encourage a culture of collaboration in which teachers work together to explore more effective uses of technology; and they must modify their assessment systems to measure changes, such as deeper understanding and improved problem solving, that result from effective technology use.
Advances in hardware and software have the potential to bring about fundamental changes in how technology is integrated and even in education itself. Computers formerly tethered to desktops by cables are being rapidly replaced by wireless laptop and palmtop models that free students to move about the school; collect, share, and graph data on field trips; and communicate their whereabouts and progress to teachers and parents.
Monitoring students' independent learning in these flexible environments will be supported by sophisticated new assessment technologies that will help teachers collect and analyze student data and make instructional decisions. These tools will continually assess students' work and provide feedback to them and their teachers. Such assessment has the potential to make time-consuming standardized testing unnecessary and to personalize the curriculum for every student. Ubiquitous, well-integrated technology tools will bring educators closer to redefining the educational enterprise and providing customized, just-in-time solutions for the learning needs of adults and children.
See also: Assessment Tools, subentry on Technology Based; International Assessments, subentry on IEA Study of Technology in the Classroom; International Gap in Technology, The; Mathematics Learning, subentry on Learning Tools; Science Learning, subentry on Tools; Technology Education.
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Susan M. Williams
The term educational technology refers to the use of technology in educational settings, whether it be elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, corporate training sites, or independent study at home. This discussion, however, will focus on educational technology in grades K—12.
Educational technology has both general and specialized meanings. To the lay public and to a majority of educators, the term refers to the instructional use of computers, television, and other kinds of electronic hardware and software. Specialists in educational technology, in particular college and university faculty who conduct research and teach courses on educational technology, prefer the term instructional technology because it draws attention to the instructional use of educational technology. This term represents both a process and the particular devices that teachers employ in their classrooms. According to the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, one of the principal professional associations representing educational technologists, "Instructional Technology is a complex, integrated process involving people, procedures, ideas, devices, and organization for analyzing problems, and devising, implementing evaluating, and managing solutions to these problems, in situations in which learning is purposive and controlled."(p. 4). Educational technologists often employ the term instructional media to represent all of the devices that teachers and learners use to support learning. However, for many educators the terms educational technology, instructional media, and instructional technology are used interchangeably, and they are used so here. In addition, the principal focus will be upon the most modern computational and communication devices used in schools today.
History of Educational Technology
The history of educational technology is marked by the increasing complexity and sophistication of devices, exaggerated claims of effectiveness by technology advocates, sporadic implementation by classroom teachers, and little evidence that the technology employed has made a difference in student learning. Although technology proponents have from time to time claimed that technology will replace teachers, this has not occurred. The typical view among educators is that technology can be used effectively to supplement instruction by providing instructional variety, by helping to make abstract concepts concrete, and by stimulating interest among students.
The terms visual education and visual instruction were used originally because many of the media available to teachers, such as three-dimensional objects, photographs, and silent films, depended upon sight. Later, when sound was added to film and audio recordings became popular, the terms audiovisual education, audiovisual instruction, and audiovisual devices were used to represent the variety of media employed to supplement instruction. These were the principal terms used to describe educational technology until about 1970.
The first administrative organizations in schools to manage instructional media were school museums. The first school museum was established in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1905. Its purpose was to collect and loan portable museum exhibits, films, photographs, charts, stereographic slides, and other materials to teachers for use in their classrooms. District-wide media centers, common in school systems today, are descendants of school museums.
By the first decade of the twentieth century, silent films were being produced for instructional use. In 1910 George Kleine published the Catalogue of Educational Motion Pictures, which listed more than 1,000 titles of films that could be rented by schools. In 1913 Thomas A. Edison asserted, "Books will soon be obsolete in schools …. Our school system will be completely changed in the next ten years" (Saettler 1968, p. 98). In 1917 the Chicago public schools established a visual education department to take responsibility for the ordering and management of films, and by 1931, thirty-one state departments of education had created administrative units to take charge of films and related media. Despite these efforts, films never reached the level of influence in schools that Edison had predicted. From evidence of film use, it appears that teachers used films only sparingly. Some of the reasons cited for infrequent use were teachers' lack of skill in using equipment and film; the cost of films, equipment, and upkeep; inaccessibility of equipment when it was needed; and the time involved in finding the right film for each class.
Radio was the next technology to gain attention. Benjamin Darrow, founder and first director of the Ohio School of the Air, imagined that radio would provide "schools of the air" (Saettler 1990, p. 199). In 1920 the Radio Division of the U.S. Department of Commerce began to license commercial and educational stations. Soon schools, colleges, departments of education, and commercial stations were providing radio programming to schools. Haaren High School in New York City is credited with being the first to teach classes by radio, broadcasting accounting classes in 1923. Peak activity for radio use occurred during the decade between 1925 and 1935, although some radio instruction continued through the 1940s. Nevertheless, radio did not have the impact on schools its advocates had hoped. In the beginning, poor audio reception and the cost of equipment were cited as obstacles to use. When these problems were overcome in later years, the lack of fit between the broadcasts and teachers' instructional agendas became more important factors. Ultimately, efforts to promote radio instruction in schools were abandoned when television became available.
World War II provided a boost for audiovisual education. The federal government and American industry were faced with the challenging task of providing training for large numbers of military recruits and for new industrial workers. Ways had to be found to train people swiftly and effectively. The U.S. government alone purchased 55,000 film projectors and spent $1 billion on training films. In addition to films, the military used overhead projectors to support lectures, slide projectors to support training in ship and aircraft recognition, and audio equipment for teaching foreign languages. Experience gained from the wartime use of these media fueled their subsequent use in schools in the decades to follow.
Instructional television was the focus of attention during the 1950s and the 1960s. This attention was stimulated by two factors. First, the 1952 decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set aside 242 television channels for educational purposes led to a rapid development of educational (now called public) television stations. A portion of their mission was to provide instructional programs to school systems in their viewing area. The second factor was the substantial investment by the Ford Foundation. It has been estimated that during the 1950s and the 1960s the Ford Foundation and its related agencies invested more than $170 million in educational television. One of the most innovative efforts at this time was the Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction (MPATI) which employed airplanes to transmit televised lessons over a six-state area.
By the 1970s much of the enthusiasm for instructional television had been exhausted. Educational television stations continued to provide some programming, and school systems and state departments of education formed consortia to pool funds to provide for the cost of program development. Congress also provided funds to support instructional television via satellite transmission in an effort to help rural schools, in particular, to obtain courses that might not otherwise be available to their students. However, instructional television appeared to prosper only where there was substantial public, corporate, or commercial support. Schools found it difficult to meet the substantial costs incurred for program development and the purchase and maintenance of equipment. Moreover, despite repeated efforts, it proved nearly impossible to broadcast instruction when individual teachers needed it.
The next technology to capture the interest of educators was the computer. Some of the earliest work on instructional applications of computing took place in the 1950s and the 1960s, but these efforts had little impact on schools. It was not until the 1980s, and the appearance of microcomputers, that many educators and public officials became enthusiastic about computers. By January 1983, computers were being used for instructional purposes in 40 percent of all elementary schools and 75 percent of all secondary schools in the United States. These percentages can be misleading, however. In most cases, students had only limited access to computers, often in a computer laboratory and only for an hour or so a week. In 1995 the Office of Technology Assessment estimated that the optimum ratio of computers to students was five to one, and by the year 2000 the National Center for Educational Statistics reported that there was, in fact, an average of one computer for every five students, with 97 percent of schools having Internet connections.
Technology and Learning
A primary purpose for employing instructional technology in schools is to enhance student learning. Has technology been successful in helping students learn more effectively and efficiently? Much research has been done on this question, but the answer is far from certain. Most research on educational technology has consisted of media comparison studies. After assigning comparable students to control groups or to experimental groups, the researcher presents the experimental group of students with instruction that employs the new media, while the control group experiences the same content without the new media. The researcher then compares the achievement of the two groups.
After reviewing hundreds of such studies, educational technologist Richard Clark concluded that "there are no learning benefits to be gained from employing any specific medium to deliver instruction," and that "media do not influence learning under any conditions," but are "mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition" (1983, p. 445). According to Clark, any positive results that were gained by experimental groups over the control groups were easily accounted for by differences in instructional strategy.
Clark's findings were controversial and have been disputed by other reputable scholars. Nevertheless, Clark's opinions are useful in clarifying technology's role in instruction. Technology is neutral; there is nothing inherent about the media that assures learning. A poorly designed computer program is unlikely to advance learning and may even hinder it.
This relationship between learning and technology is further complicated by disagreements over what constitutes learning. During the first half of the twentieth century, transfer-of-learning theories were popular among classroom teachers. According to these theories, the principal task of the teacher was to transfer the teacher's knowledge and textbook content to the students' minds and, through periodic examinations, determine if the transfer occurred. The task of instructional media was to assist in that transfer process by means of accurate and compelling presentations of content.
During the second half of the century, educators embraced other theories of learning. At least two of these theories have influenced the development of instructional media for schools. One of these theories is behaviorism; the other is constructivism.
Although the intellectual roots of behaviorism can be traced to the beginning of the twentieth century, behaviorism did not have much impact on education until the 1960s. Drawing upon B. F. Skinner's concepts, educators promoting behaviorism emphasized the importance of providing clear statements of what learners should be able to do following instruction. These educators also sought to break complex units of knowledge and skills into smaller and simpler units, sequencing them in ways that would lead to mastering the more complex skills and content. Frequently, their goal was also to individualize instruction as much as possible. Thus, the focus of instruction shifted from presentation of content knowledge before a group of students to a focus on the behavior of individual learners, an analysis of the steps needed to ensure learning, and the reinforcement of desirable behavior when it occurred.
The interest in behaviorism occurred about the same time that the first computer-assisted programs (CAI) were being developed. It is not surprising that the first CAI programs were essentially computer applications of printed, programmed learning books. Computers appeared to offer a good solution. Students could be assigned to a computer to work at their own pace, and the computer would keep track of students' work and provide a record of each student's progress for the teacher. Such programs evolved into what were later called individualized learning systems (ILS). ILS software and hardware were installed in school computer laboratories; they provided drill and practice exercises that were judged valuable, especially for students with learning difficulties. The behavioral movement also had an impact on the educational technology profession. The belief that it was possible to design instruction so that all students could learn led to an interest in the design of learning materials and in a systems approach to instruction.
During the last half of the twentieth century, cognitive theories of learning gained ascendancy over behaviorism among psychologists, and some of the views of cognitive psychologists, represented by the term constructivism, began to influence education. Constructivists argued that learners must construct their own understanding of whatever is being taught. According to this perspective, the teacher's task is not primarily one of promoting knowledge transfer, nor is it one of ensuring that students perform consistently according to a predetermined description of knowledge and skills. The teacher's role is to create an environment in which students are able to arrive at their own interpretations of knowledge while becoming ever more skillful in directing their own learning.
Many constructivists were initially critical of the use of computers in schools because they equated the use of computers with behaviorist theories of learning. Other constructivists recognized the computer as a potential ally and designed programs that took advantage of constructivist beliefs. The result has been computer-based programs that promote higher-level thinking and encourage collaborative learning.
Current Technologies Used in Schools
Whatever learning theory a teacher may embrace, many technologies exist in schools to enhance instruction and to support student learning. While teachers vary greatly in their use of these technologies, teachers select media they believe will promote their instructional goals. Following are a few examples of computers being used to support four goals: building student capacity for research, making student inquiry more realistic, enabling students to present information in appealing forms, and offering students access to learning resources within and beyond the school.
Student research. Students once relied upon local and school libraries and their printed reference materials to research topics. Now, however, computer technologies provide access to digital versions of these references–and to libraries worldwide. Encyclopedias on CD-ROMs provide information, digital images, video, and audio, and also provide links to websites where students access tools such as live web cameras and global positioning satellites. Dictionaries and thesauruses are built into word processors. Through the Internet students can gain access to a wide variety of primary and secondary sources, including government documents, photographs, and diaries.
Student inquiry. Educational reformers believe education needs to be real and authentic for students. Technology can engage students in real-world activities. In the sciences, electronic probes allow science students to collect precise weather or chemical reaction data and digitally trace trends and answer hypotheses. Graphing calculators, spreadsheets, and graphing software provide mathematics students with the ability to visualize difficult mathematical concepts. In the social sciences, electronic communication tools (e.g. Internet conferencing, e-mail, electronic discussion groups) allow students to communicate with their peers from many parts of the world. In the language arts, students use handheld computers and wireless networks to create joint writing exercises and read electronic books that allow them to explore related topics. Concept-mapping software provides all students with the opportunity to build the framework for a story or report and to map out linkages among complex characters, such as those in a play by Shakespeare. In the arts, students can explore images of original artwork through the Internet; with appropriate software they can create original digital artwork or musical compositions. Physical education students can use electronic probes to learn about the relationship between the impact of physical movement and physiological changes.
Authentic student inquiry extends beyond data collection. It also implies the opportunity for students to investigate questions or issues that concern them. Communications technology allows students to contact experts such as scientists, book authors, and political leaders. Electronic communication tools support interactions and increase the probability of prompt responses. Students who want to learn more about a current event, such as an experiment on an international space station, scientific endeavors in the Antarctic, an international meeting of environmentalists, or a musher during the Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska, can use the Internet to investigate the topic, participate in a virtual field trip to the event, and watch the event as it unfolds through a web camera. In this manner, instructional technology assists students who wish to investigate their own questions and concerns.
Constructing new knowledge. James Pellegrino and Janice Altman (1997) believe the penultimate use of technology occurs when students use technology to move from being knowledge consumers to being knowledge producers. Results of original student inquiry usually take the form of printed reports or oral presentations. With advanced technologies, students can present their original data or newly interpreted data by integrating digital video, audio, and text into word-processed documents, multimedia presentations, videos, or web-based documents. Local, state, national, and international media fairs provide opportunities for students to demonstrate the new knowledge representations that students are capable of creating when given the opportunity. Media fairs showcase photographs, original digital images, overheads, videos, and interactive multimedia projects from students of all ages.
In the past, award-winning projects have included a video created by fourth graders that demonstrates their feelings regarding acceptance, diversity, and compassion; an interactive, multimedia presentation by second graders about the water cycle; and an interactive multimedia project by a high school student depicting the history of war experienced by one family. Each of these projects illustrates student-generated knowledge that could have been demonstrated through a traditional paper or research report. However, the instructional technology tools provided students with a way to express their knowledge in a more interesting manner.
Access to learning resources. Some schools lack the resources to provide all of the courses that students may need or want. Advanced placement and foreign language courses can be particularly expensive for a school system to offer when there is not a high level of student demand. A variety of technologies (e.g. interactive television, Internet videoconferencing) provide students the opportunity to participate in a class that is located in a different school, in a different town, and even in a different state or country. Instructional technologies can also serve the instructional needs of students who may be unable to attend classes in the school building. Students who are homebound, home schooled, or who may be forced to drop out of school can take advantage of course-work offered over the Internet. Virtual high schools, online college credit courses, and for-profit companies all make courses available to students through the Internet. Through an online program, students can obtain their high school diplomas or GED without attending a particular school.
Instructional technologies also provide some students important access to traditional classroom instruction. Students who have physical or learning disabilities can use a variety of assistive technologies in order to be an active member of a mainstreamed class. Braille writers and screen readers allow students with sight limitations to use a computer for work and communication. Various switches allow students with limited mobility to use a computer to speak for them and complete assignments. Switches, similar to a computer mouse, manipulate the computer through a touch pad, by head or eye movement, or even by breath. Handheld computing devices and specialized software allow students with learning disabilities to function in traditional classrooms by helping them organize thoughts, structure writing, and manage time. Instructional technology is also used to provide alternative forms of assessment for disabled students, including digital portfolios that electronically capture the accomplishments of students who are not able to complete traditional assessments.
Approaches to Computer Use in Schools
The function of computers in schools differs from that of other educational technologies. In the case of films, radio, instructional television, overhead projectors, and other instructional media, educational technology is used to support and enhance the teacher's role as instructor. Teacher support has also been one of the justifications for the introduction of computers in schools, but it has not been the only, nor the most important, justification. Computers are also promoted as an important part of the school curriculum. Learning about computers and acquiring computer skills have been accepted by educators and the lay public as a necessary curricular requirement because they give students tools needed to function effectively in modern American society. The role and function of computers in schools can be classified according to three categories: (1) computer literacy, (2) computers as tools, and (3) computers as a catalyst for school transformation.
Computer literacy. Beginning in the 1980s it was assumed that all children should become computer literate. While the meaning of the term computer literacy has changed over time, all children are expected to graduate with knowledge about the role of computers in society and essential skills in their operation. Educators continue to debate what skills are essential and when and how they are best learned, but there is little controversy about whether students should be competent in the use of computers. No such discussion surrounds the school use of film, radio, and instructional television.
Computers as tools. With the continuing increase in computer power and the decline in cost, schools have steadily increased the numbers of computers in schools and their use by students. Rather than place computers in specialized laboratories where students have access to them for only a limited period each week, computers have increasingly been placed in libraries and in classrooms. Beginning in the 1990s the goal became to make computers ubiquitous and to integrate them across the curriculum. Computers had become something more that a curriculum topic; they had become a tool that students needed in order to perform their work. Students were expected to use the Internet to gather information and to use word processing and multimedia software to produce their reports. While other instructional media were seen as tools for teachers, computers are accepted as tools for both teachers and students.
Computers as a catalyst for school reform. Throughout the twentieth century, technology zealots have heralded one technology or another as having the capacity to transform schools, but such transformations have not occurred. Film, radio, television, and other instructional media have enriched the classroom resources available to teachers. However, rather than challenging traditional classroom practices, they were used to maintain traditional practices. The culture of schooling, with teachers in charge of instruction before a class of students, has remained relatively constant. Some proponents believe that computers have the power to transform schools because they empower learners in ways that previous technologies were unable to, because they challenge the authority of teachers to be the sole source of information, and because they encourage an active, rather than a passive, learner. Computers may eventually provide the catalyst that will result in school transformation.
Current Issues Relating to the Use of Educational Technology
The effective use of technology in schools involves more than the purchase of educational technologies and their integration into the curriculum. The existence of technology within a school can create special concerns–particularly regarding legal issues, ethical issues, media literacy, and funding–that must be addressed.
Legal issues. Software piracy (the installation of nonlicensed software) is an important legal concern. When software is purchased, generally the buyer obtains one license, which allows that software to be installed on only one computer. Schools may purchase site licenses that permit the software to be installed on multiple computer stations. While the practice of loading software without licenses onto multiple computers (piracy) may seem benign to school officials, it is a form of theft that results in billions of dollars in lost revenue to vendors, and it can result in fines to school corporations.
Technology also raises important legal issues regarding copyright and privacy. Technology allows for easy duplication of many types of media. With a videocassette recorder, a teacher can record a television program for reuse in the classroom. Artwork, photos, and articles can be scanned and reproduced digitally. The Internet provides easy access to digital images, movies, music, and written works from all over the world; these can be downloaded and used in multiple formats, raising not only questions about copyright, but also plagiarism.
When a student or a teacher uses a piece of media that is not in the public domain (copyright-free), they must be certain that they have not violated the doctrine of Fair Use. Fair Use (Section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act) considers the purpose of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount used in comparison to the entire piece, and the impact of classroom use on the work's commercial value. Therefore, while showing videotape in a classroom to illustrate a point of history may be permissible, the downloading of images from the Internet into a calendar for the student council to sell is probably not.
The right to privacy and free speech is considered an essential American ideal. However, with computer technologies and the Internet, there is little actual privacy. All electronic communications (e-mail, web forums, etc.) pass through multiple computer sites before arriving at a destination. During that process, information is saved that can be read by anyone who has the knowledge to do so. In order to ensure the safety and security of everyone, students and teachers need to be informed that electronic communications from their school are not private and can be accessed. In 2000 Congress passed the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and the Neighborhood Children's Internet Protection Act (NCIPA), which require all schools and libraries that receive federal technology funds to have an Internet safety policy to protect children from visual depictions that are obscene, contain child pornography, or are otherwise harmful to children. An adequate technology protection measure can be an Internet block or filtering software that prevents the objectionable material from being displayed. However, blocking software and other practices to eliminate access to websites raises issues relating to rights of free speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The conflict about free speech, privacy, and the obligation of schools to protect children make this issue quite controversial within some school systems.
Ethical issues. Ethical issues often relate to whether schools are providing students with equal access to technology. Gender-equity issues arise when girls are treated differently than boys in terms of the use of, and encouragement to use, technology. Girls tend to enroll in fewer computer classes, spend fewer hours on the computer either at home or at school, and are less likely to choose majors in computer-related fields than do boys. For example, in 2000 only 15 percent of the students who took the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam were girls. There are a number of factors that contribute to this gender difference, including the limited number of female role models in computer-related fields, adults who especially encourage boys to use the computer and computer games, and software that tends to targets boys' interests more than that of girls.
The digital divide is the division that exists between the information rich and the information poor. Advanced technologies, and the Internet in particular, provide easy access to vast amounts of information. Digital inequities can exist along racial, economic, academic achievement (low-achieving versus high-achieving classes), and geographic (rural, urban, and suburban) lines. A student in a rural school that lacks fast Internet connections does not have the same access to information as a student near a major city.
The digital divide also extends beyond the school. More economically advantaged children usually have access to information sources through Internet connections and microcomputers at home. Those who are more disadvantaged must rely upon limited school and public library resources. Minority students may be discouraged from accessing online content because of an absence of exposure to computers in general or because of a lack of racially and ethnically diverse information on the Internet. Finally, computers are often used as a reward for high achieving students, leaving out those students with poorer academic records, while some students are simply not encouraged to use technology to fuel their interest in academics.
Media literacy. Media literacy is the ability to access, evaluate, and produce information. Teachers themselves not only need to be media literate, but they must also ensure that their students are able to access the information they need, are capable of determining the relative merits of the information obtained, and are able to represent the information they have gathered in new ways using the different forms of media available to them (print, video, audio, digital). The concept of media literacy is not unique to computer technology. For decades, child advocates have expressed concern about the impact of movies and television on children and about whether children can distinguish the illusion presented to them from what is real. Media literacy has become an even greater teaching responsibility for educators, as the Internet provides access to vast quantities of information, much of which is inaccurate or represents biased views.
Adequate funding. The Office of Technology Assessment described four barriers to technology integration in instruction: inadequate teacher training, a lack of vision of technology's potential, a lack of time to experiment, and inadequate technical support. Each of these obstacles stems in part from weak or inconsistent financial support for technology. Much of the money used to support technology in schools has been provided through special governmental appropriations or by private funds. Technology funds have rarely become a part of the regular, operating budget of school systems. For technology to achieve its potential, funds are needed to provide adequate training for teachers, to keep equipment repaired and up-to-date, and to provide the time necessary for teachers and administrators to plan ways to use technology effectively. Only then will the schools be able to experience the advantages afforded by technology.
See also: Assessment Tools, subentry on Technology Based; Instructional Design; Media and Learning; School Reform; Technology Education.
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Howard D. Mehlinger
Susan M. Powers
Colleges and universities have generally been quick to adopt new technologies, often even before their educational value has been proven. Throughout its history, higher education has experimented with technological advances as diverse as the blackboard and the personal computer. Some technologies have become permanent parts of the higher education enterprise. Others, such as the slide rule and the 16-millimeter movie projector, have been replaced as more sophisticated or more cost-effective technologies have emerged to take their place.
At the dawn of the twenty-first century, new and rapidly improving technologies are in the process of transforming higher education. Each year since 1994, the Campus Computing Survey has shown increased use in college classrooms of technology-dependent resources such as e-mail, the Internet, course web pages, and computer simulations. Technology has the potential to revolutionize the traditional teaching and learning process. It can eliminate the barriers to education imposed by space and time and dramatically expand access to lifelong learning. Students no longer have to meet in the same place at the same time to learn together from an instructor. Fundamentally, modern technologies have the ability to change the conception of a higher education institution. No longer is a higher education institution necessarily a physical place with classrooms and residence halls where students come to pursue an advanced education. Thanks to recent developments in technology, the standard American image of a college or university as a collection of ivycovered buildings may need to be revised for the first time since the founding of Harvard in 1636.
Computers and telecommunications are the principal technologies reshaping higher education. Due to advances in each of these domains, electronic mail, fax machines, the World Wide Web, CDROMs, and commercially developed simulations and courseware are altering the daily operations and expanding the missions of colleges and universities.
Forces Promoting and Inhibiting Technology Use
Powerful forces are promoting higher education's adoption of new technologies. The rapid advance of globalization that is lowering international barriers and transforming the business world is also expanding the potential reach of colleges and universities. With sophisticated communication technologies, institutions of higher education are no longer limited to student markets or educational resources in their geographic regions. Likewise, the growing need for lifelong learning opportunities to keep pace with social, economic, and technological changes fuels demand for accessible alternatives to traditional real-time, campus-based instruction. In addition, competition among higher education institutions contributes to technology's advance within colleges and universities. Not wishing to be outpaced by competitors, many institutions are active participants in a technology "arms race" that requires the rapid adoption of new technological innovations as soon as they become available. The alternative is to fall behind other schools that are attempting to recruit the same students, faculty, and donors.
In spite of technology's promise, its integration throughout higher education has not been rapid or painless. Many barriers to technology-based innovations exist within colleges and universities. Academic traditions, such as the faculty-centered lecture, make many professors reluctant to adopt alternative instructional strategies using the computer or telecommunication devices. The cost of many technological applications also prohibits their easy adoption at many resource-limited institutions. Before technology became such a central part of institutional operations, many colleges paid for new or improved technologies from funds left over at the end of their annual budget cycle. Now that technology has become an essential and recurring investment, most schools must locate additional funds to meet their increasing needs for technology resources.
Limited support to help faculty and staff members learn how to take full advantage of technology is another factor inhibiting more widespread use of technology in colleges and universities. According to the 2000 Campus Computing Survey, the single most important educational technology challenge facing colleges and universities is helping faculty integrate information technology into their teaching. The second most important challenge is providing adequate user support. According to Kenneth Green, director of the Campus Computing Project, higher education's investment in technology hardware is, by itself, not sufficient to reap the full benefits of new technology advances. Green concludes that "the real [information technology] challenge is people, not products" (p. 1). Technology will neither reap its full potential nor revolutionize higher education if these barriers to its adoption are not resolved satisfactorily by individual institutions or the educational system as a whole.
Impact on Teaching and Learning
No aspect of higher education remains untouched by the technological developments of the 1980s and 1990s. Academic administration, as well as the instructional process, has been dramatically altered by new technologies. When compared to other college and university operations such as student services, housing, and administration, however, the teaching and learning process probably is being changed most dramatically by technology.
Traditionally, professors have used much of their class time with students to disseminate information through lectures and follow-up discussion. This was especially the case in introductory-level courses, where students lack a foundation in the basic concepts and principles of a field. In an era of advanced technology, this approach to instruction seems archaic and inefficient. Computers, especially web-based resources, can disseminate basic information more efficiently and more cost effectively than human beings can. For example, Gregory Farrington recommends that instructors use the web to do what it can do well. This includes presenting information to students in a variety of formats, twenty-four hours per day. Students can access course material when it is most convenient for them and return to it as often as they need to achieve basic comprehension, competence, or mastery.
This approach to information dissemination can save precious class time "for the intellectual interactions that only humans can provide" (Farrington, p. 87). Following this revised method of facilitating learning, traditional lectures can be replaced or pared down. In their place, classes can be more informal, seminar-like sessions with more free flowing discussion structured by students' interests, questions, and concerns. In other words, appropriate use of technology applications can help instructors to structure more active learning opportunities. Research shows that active engagement in the learning process helps to motivate students and enhance their learning outcomes. New technologies can facilitate active engagement in learning by reducing the amount of class time where students sit passively listening to lectures.
Technology can also help to make education a much more interactive and collaborative process. Email, course-based websites, and computer-based chat rooms are some of the technology-enabled resources that facilitate communication and teamwork among students. Research by education scholars has shown that collaborative learning opportunities enhance recall, understanding, and problem solving. Technology can greatly ease the work of collaborative design teams, peer writing groups, and other types of collaborative learning groups, even among students who do not live in the same geographic area and who cannot meet face to face.
While technology helps to promote collaborative learning, it also helps to personalize and individualize education. By reducing the need to deliver vast amounts of information, technology can free an instructor to devote more time to individual students. With more time to interact and get acquainted, professors can adapt their teaching strategies and assignments to bring them more in line with the interests and needs of the students in their classes. Technology's capacity to deliver large quantities of information over networks also expands the potential for tailoring educational programs to the specific needs of each learner. Dewayne Matthews argues that technology-enhanced programs "can be custom-designed around the needs and interests of the recipient instead of around the scheduling and resource needs of the provider" (p. 3). With the help of technology, educational programs–even full degrees–can be structured around flexible course modules that students can combine in a variety of forms to meet their personal and professional objectives. Matthews suggests that technology-mediated education makes traditional academic calendars and rigid curriculum structures obsolete because it can adapt education so well to individual learning interests and needs.
If education's goal is to help the learner reach his or her full potential, why should education be designed for the convenience of the instructor or the educational institution? Essentially, technology is empowering learners to take more control of their education than ever before. The expanded reach that technology affords educational institutions has encouraged many new providers to offer educational services. This increased competition enables consumers to choose the learning opportunities that best meet their needs within the constraints of their life circumstances. As technology transforms the educational marketplace, the balance of power is shifting from the education provider to the education consumer. Education consumers are now freer to pick and choose, from a variety of sources, the learning opportunities that meet their goals. In this fluid educational environment, the old system of accumulating credits from one or two nearby institutions becomes too restrictive for many students who are balancing a variety of personal and professional roles.
There is a related shift underway as technology transforms the teaching and learning process. The traditional higher education measure of educational achievement, the credit hour, is also being questioned. Matthews argues that "learning outcomes, as measured by student competencies [rather than course credits], is the quality measure that makes the most sense to consumers" (p. 4). In the new educational environment defined by technology, innovative institutions such as Western Governors University award degrees by certifying that students have achieved certain required competencies, regardless of where those competencies were acquired. Such a dramatic shift in the way educational achievement is documented would have been unthinkable before the advent of the free market educational system stimulated by the technology advances of the late twentieth century. Measuring competencies rather than credit hours represents another shift in favor of the consumer. As long as a student can document competence in a subject or skill area, it makes no difference where or how the learning occurred.
Technology's potential to lower the cost of education has been one of its principal appeals. The ability of computers and telecommunications to reach large audiences with the same high-quality educational programs has raised hopes for economies of scale never possible in the very labor-intensive traditional forms of instruction. To date, technology's promise to lower instructional costs has not been realized. Developing the infrastructure to support technology-mediated teaching and learning has been a very expensive proposition. The possibility remains, however, that new, advanced technologies may eventually lower the costs of higher education as researchers and educators learn how to blend technology-delivered and traditional instruction in a more cost-effective manner.
Impact on Professors' Roles
Technology has already changed the lives of college professors in significant ways. As the twenty-first century unfolds, professors' roles will most likely evolve further as computers and telecommunications media are more fully integrated into higher education. Professors can now use technology to prepare for classes, conduct research, deliver instruction, and keep in touch with their students and colleagues in far away places. Electronic mail, fax machines, computerized databases and search engines, and high-tech classrooms are some of the technologies that have transformed the work of college professors. Many experts on teaching and learning and instructional technology are suggesting that a fundamental shift in faculty duties is underway as more technology applications are adopted in higher education. Because technology calls into question the professor's role as a knowledge transmitter, educational reformers such as James Duderstadt, former president of the University of Michigan, suggest that professors should become "designers of learning experiences, processes, and environments" (p. 7).
Rather than serving primarily as a subject expert who shares specialized knowledge with students, this new type of professor acts more as a consultant or coach. With the aid of technology, his primary instructional role is to inspire and motivate students, to construct an environment that promotes learning, and ultimately to manage an active learning process. Ideally, in this carefully designed context, students take more responsibility for their learning and construct meaning themselves, rather than passively absorbing information from a professor. According to conventional wisdom in contemporary higher education, the professor has moved from being "a sage on the stage to a guide on the side." This individual knows his subject deeply, but is also skilled at constructing situations conducive to learning. Effective utilization of instructional technology is part of the twenty-first-century professor's redefined duties.
There has been some discussion that technology may eventually make many instructional positions obsolete, the same way it eliminated the need for telephone operators or police to direct traffic at busy intersections. Why employ undistinguished professors to lecture in classes when sophisticated telecommunications technology can bring world-renowned authorities into classrooms via satellite or the World Wide Web to inspire students and share the latest information in their fields? Critics of this proposal counter by arguing that big academic "stars" do not hold office hours, grade papers, construct exams, or counsel troubled students. They believe that professors should not lose their jobs to automation. According to this view, there will always be a need for many of the conventional faculty functions, such as designing learning opportunities, motivating students, and evaluating performance.
The future probably lies somewhere between these two contrasting options. Higher education will undoubtedly supplement its local talent with other human resources that have become easily accessible through technology. Yet it will also continue to employ professional staff members to design curriculum, manage academic programs, and work closely with students.
Technology is loosening professors' control of the curriculum. Faculty and academic administrators once wielded nearly absolute power over the academic programs their institutions offered. However, technology has now made it possible–and commercially viable–for publishers, software companies, and other providers to design and distribute a wide variety of courseware and instructional modules. This alternative to "in-house" production of courses and academic programs is appealing for financial as well as educational reasons. Spreading the development costs of technology-enhanced educational products permits the integration of sophisticated instructional strategies, such as gaming and simulations, into educational programs. On the other hand, moving the design of educational programs further from those who know an institution's students best causes many educators some concern. Technological advances usually lead to trade-offs. In this case, the benefit of being able to integrate high-tech elements into courses is counterbalanced by the reduction in local control of the curriculum.
Rethinking the Concept of College
Since higher education institutions first emerged, they have been physical places where people gather together to learn. Although higher education institutions have grown and become more complex over time, their basic essence has remained constant. Technology now calls into question the very idea of a college or university. Some accredited institutions of higher education, such as Jones International University, now exist entirely in cyberspace with no campus, classrooms, or athletic teams to tie together the academic community. The traditional campus-based institutions that have served the United States so well are being challenged in the early twenty-first century by a host of nontraditional competitors that offer education at a distance. Many of these entrepreneurial institutions are aided by an assortment of technologies, including computers, satellites, and electronic streaming video. Technology has vastly expanded the demand for education over the course of a lifetime. It has also released education from the confines of the conventional classroom. It has even removed the restrictions imposed by the clock by enabling people who have access to Internet technology to convene for the purpose of shared learning.
The multipurpose American university was so successful because it brought together the array of facilities, experts, students, and funding needed to educate the masses and expand the boundaries of knowledge in service to humanity. The university assembled the critical mass of talent and resources necessary to meet the knowledge needs of a dynamic society. Although this formula worked throughout the twentieth century, technology is challenging this comfortable arrangement. It has enabled many other organizations, such as corporate colleges and for-profit firms, to provide educational services such as degree programs, professional certificate programs, and a host of outreach services that were once monopolized by the higher education community.
The result of this "unbundling" of higher education roles remains in doubt. Technology has led to a vast expansion of the postsecondary education market, and it is calling into question conventional views of what a higher education institution is or should be. However, no one knows precisely what a college or university (physical or virtual) will look like once the other side of the technology revolution is reached. In the past, when higher education adopted technological innovations, the educational system became more open, more complex, and more dynamic. If the past history of higher education can serve as a guide to its future, the technologies now working their way into the system will lead to a more diverse and responsive educational enterprise. How that enterprise resembles the system that functioned throughout the 1900s remains to be seen.
Special Challenges of Technology
In spite of its nearly irresistible appeal, technology presents higher education with difficult challenges. Systematic planning of technological enhancements to educational programs is difficult when technology changes so quickly and unpredictably. Academic planners are continually playing catch-up to implement new technology applications that appear more quickly than a careful planning process can anticipate. Similarly, paying for new technologies with exciting educational applications remains troublesome for institutions with more needs than resources. Authors who wrestle with the funding issues raised by technology argue that new budgeting strategies are necessary to keep institutions from lurching from one technology-funding crisis to the next. Institutions must view technology as a routine expense, not an exceptional special expenditure.
Training faculty and staff members to utilize technology effectively remains a challenge that many colleges and universities have not resolved satisfactorily. It seems clear that building a physical technological infrastructure is not enough. It is also necessary to build a human resource infrastructure for technology to fulfill its promise to higher education.
Finally, adequate evaluation of technology's contribution to higher education remains a challenge. For example, in Teaching with Technology, Wake Forest University vice president David Brown concludes that "the case for computers [in collegiate education] rests on scant amounts of hard evidence"(p. 5). Much of the immense investment in technology that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s was to a large extent an act of faith. Brown argues that the logic in favor of using technology in higher education is compelling, however. He believes that "more choice leads to more learning" (p. 4), and that technology greatly enhances the "box of tools" a professor can employ to reach diverse students. According to Brown, most of the evidence that supports using computers in education is indirect. In his view, research demonstrates that repetition, dialog (question and answer, point and counterpoint), collaborative learning, and visualization and animation (using pictures to support learning) enhance learning. Because computers and other technologies can support these proven educational strategies, Brown concludes that the weight of logic comes down firmly on the side of technology use in colleges and universities. Although Brown makes a strong case for technology, more empirical evidence is needed to justify higher education's massive investment in computers, high-tech classrooms, distancelearning programs, and other technology-based initiatives.
An Emerging New System
Duderstadt asserts that the United States needs a new educational paradigm in order to deliver educational opportunity to a broader spectrum of humanity. The advanced technologies available at the beginning of the twenty-first century are laying the foundation of a new higher education system, better equipped to meet the needs of a complex and rapidly changing society. The outlines of this system, transformed by technology, have begun to appear. The educational system that George Connick believes will eventually result from the current technology revolution has four defining attributes. First, it is easier to access than the old campus-based system. Second, it is unconstrained by the barriers of time and space because technology can liberate education from the restrictions imposed both by the clock and geography. Third, it is student-centered because technology can increase students' learning options. Fourth, it is cost-effective because technology can reduce the labor-intensive nature of higher education and permit the reorganization necessary to make institutions more responsive and competitive.
No one knows what higher education will look like in 2025 or 2100. It is certain, however, that colleges and universities will be very different places than they were in the year 2000. Many factors will contribute to the changes that will occur as the higher education system moves into the future. There is no doubt that technology will be one of the driving forces contributing to the educational transformation that is already well underway.
See also: Distance Learning in Higher Education; Faculty Roles and Responsibilities; Media and Learning.
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Duderstadt, James J. 1999. "Can Colleges and Universities Survive in the Information Age?" In Dancing with the Devil, ed. Richard N. Katz. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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Roger G. Baldwin
EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY. Since 1990, educational technology has undergone rapid changes, with a significant impact on historical research and learning. For example, CD-ROM (compact disc-read only memory) systems and historical databases have altered the storage and use of information in classrooms. CD-ROM technology allows the compilation of immense amounts of text, illustrations, audio, and video on interactive videodiscs. The centerpiece is a laser-based device similar to a compact disc player that plays back information stored on the videodiscs, which look just like the music CDs that have been popular for years. The videodiscs themselves can record sound and store texts, still photographs, and video programs. Each disc holds as many as 108,000 distinct pictures, half an hour of film, or literally hundreds of thousands of pages of text. The content of these videodiscs, which may include an encyclopedia or audiovisual display, are displayed on a television monitor or computer screen. Users can move in almost infinite ways through menus, tables of contents, and detailed, cross-referenced indexes. CD-ROM technology has profound implications for data storage and general use as a reference tool for scholars and students.
With equally important implications for education and research, computers now provide access to complex linkages that broaden the reach for information and library resources. Indeed, between 1994 and 2000, the percentage of public schools in the United States connected to the Internet rose from 35 percent to 98 percent. On-line services, specialized databases with sophisticated search capacities, and electronic transfers (including electronic mail, or e-mail), provide new reference tools and capabilities. News and media file libraries, pictorial and documentary sources, and study statistics are now available through computer networks that again can be displayed on computer screens or television monitors, thus radically changing and enlarging research horizons.
Nevertheless, new technology such as CD-ROM and on-line services will not prove a panacea for all that ails American education. For instance, like all information systems, the quality of data input on a CD-ROM determines the quality of the disc. Critics argue that it is difficult for a CD-ROM, even if well-constructed, to act as a textbook. They maintain that the medium cannot present sequential text, study exercises, and comprehensive lesson plans in portable form (the spread of laptop computers and small personal data assistants in the early 2000s may solve the portability dilemma). Furthermore, the educational value of any new technology hinges on the ability of teachers to use it effectively. At present, many teachers still lack necessary training. Student use of the Internet also raises questions about how to prevent access to inappropriate materials. The United States Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology (OET) creates and carries out policies to counter such difficulties and, more generally, to promote the overall use of new technology in the classroom.
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Cummins, Jim, and Dennis Sayers. Brave New Schools: Challenging Cultural Illiteracy Through Global Learning Networks. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.
De Vaney, Ann, ed. Watching Channel One: The Convergence of Students, Technology, and Private Business. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.
Jones, Byrd L., and Robert W. Maloy. Schools for an Information Age: Reconstructing Foundations for Learning and Teaching. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1996.
Gilbert T.Sewall/a. e.