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Technology Counts 2007: A Digital Decade


A decade has passed since the inaugural edition of Technology Counts was first published. Ten years on, the task of making sense of the fast-changing educational technology landscape remains as complicated as ever.

Anecdotal evidence and research suggest that teachers' integration of digital tools into instruction is still sporadic. Gaps in access to computers at school have lessened for disadvantaged students, but still exist at home. And some experts say the research into innovative ways of using technology is insufficient.

The editors of Technology Counts 2007 invite you to offer your thoughts on changes in educational technology over these past ten years. Are schools on the right track? Has technology changed learning for better or worse? What do you think?


This is a narrow application of the term technology, but since you asked - when graduating seniors complain that they can't divide -7 by 2 on a pre-calculus exam without a calculator, and the majority of students are better at programming their calculators than they are at thinking critically about the results, I have to say that this is one technology that is better left out of the classroom.

Today, public schools average one computer for every 3.8 students, an increase from roughly one machine for every 5.7 students in 1999, according to the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. The fact of the matter is that teachers more likely incoporate technology into their teaching (in this case, computers) if their school provides an interactive computer based curriculum. Teachers are less likely to use technology if they have to design the lessons themselves, due to lack of time. Some teachers get discourage to use technology with their students due to insufficient amount of LCD projectors available at their schools, after spending their time to design technology based lessons.

I, like a lot of experienced teachers, find it ironic that the push for more and more technology has not appreciably made any significant positive changes in test scores, has frustrated those teachers who do not have the time in their already over-taxed schedules to learn the technical aspects of the equipment to utilize it as intended. They have only a 'crash course' on the basics and are then expected to work miracles! The technology has taken the place of learning basic skills and students becoming competent in reading and math to do simple exercises requiring those basic thinking skills. The child is having 'fun with the games' but cannot logically explain how to work a simple math problem. We are producing a generation of technical savvy idiots who have not the skills to perform necessary tasks as making change, counting time, measuring in standard and metric units, basic multiplication/division essentials, basic geometric figures, finding area and perimeter, and on and on. (This all reminds me of the use of hand-held calculators in math classes...what happened to the brains?)If I sound synical, I am.

One-to-One laptops for our students is the ideal situation, but without digital textbook content and full hardware maintenance the system is not whole. Textbook publishers must be "forced" to provide the textbook content "current and new" in digital format, until then the future of enhancing the education of our children is moot!
“We have to prepare kids for a new world economically, a global economy and a more competitive workplace, and they need the best curriculum available," (Newburyport Superintendent Kevin Lyons).

Academic Consulting has devised a Digital Textbook Delivery System that will provide content directly onto student laptop hard drives and allow publishers the ability to update content. This delivery system will be performed in the schools by means of server proprietary software and a patented unique textbook reader. The server provided to each school for the delivery system can also be used as a storage device to backup student files and for Emergency Notification as required. All students will now have the ability to access curriculum during school classroom hours and for work at home, whether or not they have access to the Internet.

I am speaking as a first grade teacher with 24 years experience. I have written several technology grants and I've been implementing technology integration into my classroom for the last 12 years. The use of laptop carts with each child using a laptop has made an incredible impact on my sudents' reading and writing abilities. I have used interactive whiteboards for the last 5 years, a Smartboard and now a Promethean board, and I see the results of this technology every day in the classroom. Students are motivated and excited to learn using interactive web sites, writing software such as Kidpix, Kidspiration, Word by inserting clip art, making movies with Intel Microscope and creating Power Points. First graders are writing at least 10 sentences for their stories and they are adding backgrounds, music and recording their stories as they write. They are saving their stories to their files and playing them back as slide shows and movies. My students are enjoying writing because they love publishing with cool technology.
Great writers produce great readers. Students enjoy researching topics using the internet and watching videos using www.unitedstreaming.com. I have to say that technology has had a positive impact on the students in my classroom.

Congratulations! I believe the previous 5 reply's encapsulate and summerize the "digital dilemma" nearly in it's entirety. Also I wholeheartedly agree with Cheryl, have sympathy for Sonny Nguyen, empathy for James Gray (although I might provide a few contrasting possibilities for some of the finer points of his experience) and support a great deal of what Harvey J. Somach outlined (However, even Bill Gates still reduces to paper anything longer then 3 pages).

However, the PRIZE in my mind goes to Fran Mauney whom has captured the "true essence" of a 21st Century Digital Learning Environment. YOU are to be commended for your insight, imagination, innovation and personal courage! YOUR Students are indeed fortunate in ways as you know are still yet unimagined (jobs of the future).

Much continued success on your Digital Discovery Voyage of the 21st Century.

Fair Winds

When we talk about technology in education, today we are no longer just discussing the best way to use PowerPoint for a classroom discussion or how to convince students to type their papers and conduct online research. Today the issue of integrating technology into education has taken a much more serious turn. It is no longer just our students’ test scores that are at stake if we do not get ahead of their expertise in the connected world of Web 2.0. Now our students’ safety and social well-being is at stake. As educators we must not only become proficient at integrating technology into our classrooms, we must also become educated about the social networking and other online communities our students are frequenting outside our classrooms. We must then convince local school boards that, instead of shutting down access to these sites that we fear, we have a duty to un-block access at school so that we can get out there to guide and protect our students.

Would any of us let our daughter take a picture of herself with wet tendrils of her hair dangling provocatively across her innocent face made up with smoky black eye shadow, then allow her to submit it to the world’s most circulated newspaper with a caption below welcoming anyone who reads it to stop by her address any hour of the day or night? She’s already doing that electronically with her MySpace profile. Would we allow our nephew to go to a neighbor’s party of more than 100,000 guests who were all supposed to be teenagers but who included any number of flirtatious 35-year-old women, 50-year-old male executives oddly with nothing better to do than hang out with teenagers, and a 28-year-old ex-con gang recruiter? That’s who could be playing tag with him on Tagged.com. Would we allow a 14-year-old to bring home unlimited numbers of DVDs featuring porn or solicitations to buy and sell sex? Go out to any of the social networking sites and that’s exactly what is available up until members report the inappropriate content and the overworked site administrators get around to taking them down. School districts across the globe are scrambling to keep up with blocking the newest social networking sites that pop up online seemingly overnight so as to safeguard our children while at school. Why then, like any other educator who cares about the well-being of our children, would I advocate un-blocking these potentially dangerous sites? Simply put, because when we block our portals, we close our eyes and leave millions of our kids out there alone, vulnerable, and unprotected. We have a duty to un-block access to social networking sites and get in there to help them understand this new connectedness, make informed choices, and lead the transformation toward a greater good.
Imagine if all we did was to not allow students to drink alcohol on campus and we assumed that we’d done enough to keep them safe. Of course, we’ve learned that we need to get out in front and teach them about the physical, emotional, and societal impact of alcohol abuse. We also show them graphic movies about gruesome possibilities of drinking and driving. We form on-campus Students Against Drunk Driving groups as alternatives to the peer pressure and ready availability of alcohol. Likewise, we don’t just create strongly worded rules and consequences for having, using, and selling drugs on campus and sit back believing that we’ve done all that we can to stem drug use among teens. We organize drug awareness programs, teach them about the biology of addiction, and role-play how to handle situations when peers pressure them to join in. There are federal dollars, state grants, and private funds available for all schools to make sure we do everything we can to help our students understand risks, make good choices, and pick up the pieces if they find themselves in trouble with drugs, alcohol, sex, gangs, harassment, and crime. So why, then, are we not doing more when it comes to the newest life-threatening danger, the dozens of teen and adult online social networks, that our tech-savvy young people whisper about, spend hours on, and don’t ever intend to stop using?

For educators, technology skills are no longer a simple matter of knowing how to pull in interesting videos or images for in-class presentations. Now, at nano-speeds, becoming technologically competent is a matter of competing against compelling negative influences to ensure our children’s safety, well-being, and futures. We’ve got to get out there into cyber space and start showing our young people how to define the nature of this new social interaction instead of letting those who would exploit them for their own agendas determine how the power of the internet will be used. We need to start podcasting (see www.epnweb.org/index.php?view_mode=what) lessons and lectures and literature to those MP3 players they’ve got plugged into their ears every moment they can get away with it. We could start text messaging (see http://ferl.becta.org.uk/display.cfm?printable=1&resID=2762) homework reminders to their cell phones we know they are checking every five minutes whether they are allowed to or not. We ought to allow instant messaging on our classroom computers to encourage absent students to sign in and participate in class from home or from their cell phones. Instant messengers can be left open by teachers on their home computers so students can see that homework help (see www.techlearning.com/db_area/archives/TL/2002/11/inservice.php) is also available each night when they log in to chat with their friends and whoever else is out there. Yahoo groups (see http://dir.groups.yahoo.com/dir/Schools___Education/K-12) or class MySpaces can be included out in our students’ cyber neighborhoods where we can post class materials, questions and answers, help with assignments, and reminders that there’s more for them to do online than just surf and chat. Class MySpaces can be used to invite students from around the world to meet with our students and participate in productive projects instead of just strangers who comment on their personal spaces about the latest CD or party or worse. Parents, teachers from other disciplines, and experts out in the “real world” can join in class blogs created by students or teachers to show them that interaction online can be about legitimate subjects any time and anywhere. As limitless as are the possibilities for negative encounters out in Web 2.0 (see www.shambles.net/pages/learning/ict/web2edu/) so too are the opportunities for connecting with the world, ideas, information, and creativity in positive ways if only we will un-block our own imaginations and our school portals and get into the game our students play at every day.

Our interests in creating a presence out in cyber space is not just to guide our young charges away from dangerous or negative influences. We have much more than that to learn and to teach. We can join with them in the new genre of writing text messages and instant messages, show them how they are different in structure, content, and form from formal email and letter writing, and tap into their creativity by inspiring them to connect this new way of communicating with formal or classic modes. Just what might a text messaging poem (see http://books.guardian.co.uk/games/mobilepoems/0,9405,450649,00.html) poem look like? What kind of concise and compact story might they be inspired to create that does not exceed the maximum number of characters in a Yahoo message or a Twitter.com entry? How could they incorporate the dialogue of an audible (see http://messenger.yahoo.com/intl/audibles.php (pre-programmed audio quips) into a narrative to help bring it to life and inspire more creativity? We should also be teaching them how to incorporate that resume that every English or Business class requires them to write into their MySpace or FaceBook profiles to impress scholarship committees, college recruiters, and employers. We could show them how the videos they love to include on their spaces might help them promote their community service projects and attract financial contributors or volunteers. We could, however, just continue sitting behind blocked content warnings and let the next generation stumble in the middle of the information highway without so much as warning them to look both ways before crossing into a new digital neighborhood. Or we can get logged in, lead the dialogue and the content, and guide them in building social networks that will benefit their lives and our increasingly interconnected world. If we don’t, the headlines are full of terrifying stories of who might.

Where is the programmed instruction software? Why isn't there more of it? With computer programming being as sophisticated as it is today, developing more of these programs should be a given. Why is the program instruction software that is available so much more expensive than the junk (games) that schools buy? If properly created this software could potentially be more efficient/effective than un-degreed para-professionals. It could, if utilized appropriately, be as effective as a second teacher in the classroom. School districts wouldn't have to pay skyrocketing health care benefits to any of these programs. Nor would they have to negotiate with these programs under a collective bargaining agreement. It would allow students to work at their own pace and be on an instructional level in every subject every time they picked up their laptop. Someone must be preventing this technology from becoming more prevalent. Could it be teacher unions at the local, state, or federal levels? Are these unions paying software companies to not develop this technology or are they successfully lobbying state legislatures from allowing this technology into our schools? After all, these unions have enormous sums of money. But why would they be so vehemently opposed to such advanced technology in our schools? They want schools to be more effective and students to do better, don’t they?

The remark "For many educators, 21st-century digital literacy must hinge not on the superficial fluency with technology that many students exhibit in their off hours, but on proficiency in such skills as effectively sifting through a glut of electronic information and producing creative work that will be valued highly in the global marketplace." cuts to the core if this issue.

It is thinking skills that students require, something that schools have NEVER concerned themselves with. Once students, people, are taught how to think, they will be able to creatively deal with whatever comes their way, innovate as they need to, etc.

Let's but tech on the side and get to what really matters.

The changing face of the business world has forced the educational system to adapt to the changing needs of the workforce and not the needs of the student. Technology for all its benefits has made many of today's students too dependent on technology to produce in the market place without it. Technology is a great aid, but it will never be as great an aid as the mind's ability to create from nothing.

How can you justify publishing a state's "grade" on "technology" when all you have assessed is the number and use of computers. COMPUTERS are a very small part of TECHNOLOGY!! According to the Merriam- Webster Dictionary technology is:

1 : a. the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area: ENGINEERING
: b. a capability given by the practical application of knowledge

2 : a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge

3 : the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor

Nowhere does this definition say "computers". Why do education publications continue to ignore the bigger picture of "technology" for the mass of our students. Our country was built by inventive and innovative individuals who developed new technology that made the United States the world super power it is today. If we continue to follow this "know how to use it" mentality instead of actual understanding of the technology and it's development we will continue the downward spiral we are currently in. We must teach our students how to innovate and invent for that is truly what technology is about!!

Has any research been done to determine that digital textbooks can be as effective as printed textbooks? Any comparison studies?

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