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Assesses current classroom use of technology and proposes a strategy for incorporating technology in America's schools.Edition/Copyright: 96
In 1983 there was about one computer for each 125 students in the nation's public schools. By 1995, there was a computer for each nine students. In 1994, the nation's schools spent about $3 billion on computer- and network-based technology. Additional funds were spent for other kinds of equipment such as video players, facsimile machines, and telephone lines as well as for technology-related training. Nationally, new federal legislation has emphasized the importance of educational technology and leaders have called for actions to ensure the access of all schools to the national information infrastructure. Many states and local school systems have appropriated or reallocated funds, or issued bonds to finance acquisition and installation of technology in schools. As has been the case in other parts of American society, major changes associated with the growth of information technology are clearly under way in our schools.
At the same time, much of America is in the midst of significant efforts to reform and improve the performance of its education system. The president and the governors, in a historic agreement, established broad national education goals in 1989. National political, business, and community leaders have called for higher standards and educational practices that enable virtually all students to meet these standards. Because of the significant growth in the importance of being competitive in the international economy, educational outcomes relating to the capacity to effectively work, continue to learn, and be effective citizens are receiving greater attention. States and communities, to varying degrees, are pursuing these goals.
Technology can play a key role in this reform. Numerous examples exist where computer- and network-based technology has been used to tailor learning experiences more sharply to learner needs and abilities.
provide students with access to resources and expertise outside the school, both enriching their learning and extending the time devoted to learning
support more authentic assessment of a student's progress
assist schools in managing and guiding the learning activities of their students.
Moreover, as Louis Gerstner, CEO of IBM, has said, ''[information technology] is the force that revolutionizes business, streamlines government and enables instant communications and the exchange of information among people and institutions around the world.'' If technology becomes widely infused in a school, it seems probable that it can play analogous roles in education. Technology can be the ''revolutionary force'' that instigates and supports reform by teachers and administrators at the school level.
The authors of this report believe the continuing growth in the presence of technology in schools presents an important opportunity to a nation seeking improved performance from its schools. The report seeks to identify principles that should guide the actions of public officials, educators, and others concerned with using technology to improve the performance of schools and school systems. Prepared as a result of participation by RAND's Critical Technologies Institute (CTI) in federal efforts to plan a research agenda and develop a national educational technology plan, it is based upon a series of workshops, interviews, and literature reviews. The report considers three major questions:
What do we know about the use and effectiveness of computer- and network-based technology in elementary and secondary education?
What major strategies should the nation consider as it seeks to make effective use of technology in its schools?
What are the most important roles for the federal government to play?
While we present a variety of important findings and recommendations, perhaps the most important is that the nation seek to build its strategies on lessons from its early experiences. The significant levels of investment made in recent years mean that some schools have already acquired and put substantial amounts of technology into effective use. A key role for federal, state, and local officials is to tap the experiences of these ''pioneer'' schools for lessons that can increase the probability that continued investments in educational technology will be well used.
CURRENT USE AND EFFECTIVENESS OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
The growth in use of technology by schools is strong; schools are adding equipment and developing connections to the national information infrastructure at a high rate. The expanded penetration of computers in schools, noted in the opening sentences, is projected to continue. Despite this rapid growth, surveys suggest that the average school still makes limited use of computers and substantial numbers of schools have very limited access to technology of any kind. Instances of deep, schoolwide use, espoused by advocates of technology-supported instruction, are comparatively rare. Rather, use of technology to significantly affect classroom practice tends to be limited to small groups of teachers who are excited by the potential that they feel technology has to motivate their students or to access new resources. As has been the case with past attempts to introduce technologies such as radio, film, and television into schools, computers and telecommunications remain marginal contributors in most settings.
A small number of ''pioneer'' schools with ubiquitous technology show the potential for restructuring provided by educational technology. In these schools, students, teachers, and administrators report taking new roles. Technology has been used to manage complex, standards-related instructional processes in ways that have previously been achieved by only the most skilled teachers. It facilitates communications among teachers so they can collaborate more effectively. In some of these schools, technology is also used to support communications among schools, students, and parents, fostering an improved partnership among these actors, and greater accountability and public support.
Research and practice suggest that, appropriately implemented, computer- and network-based technology can contribute significantly to improved educational outcomes. Most of this experience is in small trials in one or a few settings, but research has aggregated these experiences into a significant body of literature that illuminates the potential of technology in a variety of settings.
Research on ''reinventing'' whole schools through ubiquitous use of technology is not common. In part, this reflects the rarity of such schools--schools that may provide computers for each child and extensive networking that encourages collaboration and communication. The research that exists is promising but not conclusive. The schools represented at our CTI workshops were producing results valued by their community, but they clearly were exceptional schools. It remains to be seen whether similar results can be sustained as increasing numbers of schools acquire similar levels of technology.
According to surveys carried out several years ago, the availability of technology in schools serving poor, minority, and special-needs populations does not appear to lag substantially behind the averages of schools taken as a whole. Past federal, state, and local funding and policies appear to have mitigated extreme differences in the average availability of computers among special populations. In particular, federal compensatory education programs have supported the acquisition of substantial technology for schools serving disadvantaged populations, particularly at the elementary school level.
In contrast, the disparities in home possession and use of computers are substantial among families with differing incomes, parental education, and ethnicity. To the degree that technology comes to be used to extend the amount of time spent in learning activities outside the schools, these disparities will have considerable consequences for the achievements of students from different family backgrounds. If the disparities persist, access to technology is likely to become one more element in the array factors that cause a student's educational attainment to be highly correlated with the socioeconomic status of his or her family.
The costs of ubiquitous use of technology are modest in the context of overall budgets for public elementary education, but actually moving to such use would require significant and potentially painful restructuring of school budgets. We investigated the costs of a small number of schools making extensive use of technology. The estimated annual costs related to technology use in those schools ranged from about $180 to $450 per student. In 1994-95 the current expenditure per student in average daily attendance was $5,623. If $300 were viewed as a target level of funding per student for technology-related costs, about 5.3 percent of the current budgets of schools would need to be allocated to technology. On its face, this seems a level that should be attainable.
However, we estimate actual expenditures per student in 1994-95 to be $70, or one-quarter of the $300 figure. The bulk of school budgets is devoted to personnel costs; in most districts funding for materials and supplies is very restricted and provides little opportunity for further reallocation to technology. To support levels of expenditure equal to $300 per pupil will require reallocations of funds that have proven very difficult to achieve in public schools and/or increments in funding that taxpayers in most jurisdictions have been reluctant to provide.
Such reallocation will be possible only if the public and the educational community come to feel that technology is essential to meeting their objectives for student learning. Information about and demonstration of the importance of technology are critical to continued growth in technology's use. In our view, developing and disseminating such information constitutes a core role for the federal government.
Other challenges need to be met if effective, widespread use of technology is to be achieved. Two seem particularly important: equipping teachers to effectively exploit technology for the benefit of their students and assuring a plentiful supply of high-quality content software.
Both the observations of experts at our workshops and the results from past research strongly suggest that teachers must acquire new skills needed to operate in technology-rich environments. Current professional development policies do not encourage teachers to acquire such skills. Similarly, few programs preparing people to enter the teaching profession were viewed as dealing effectively with technology. If the nation fails to aggressively address this problem, the significant investments in technology itself are likely to have marginal impacts on the overall conduct of schooling.
Educational software provides a somewhat different challenge since it is developed and sold in commercial markets. Widely available software tools such as text processors, spreadsheets, and network browsers play key roles in schools with ubiquitous technology, but they are largely developed in response to broader commercial markets. This is not the case for content software, which provides important and structured sources of information and/or opportunities for practice. Such software, keyed to the content standards of states and local districts, is important for realizing the full potential of computers.
The market for educational materials, as traditionally structured, offers limited incentives for entrepreneurial development of content software. The market is fragmented and governed by a variety of materials adoption practices. Even if a high proportion of schools acquires a product, the volume of sales is small. This is particularly true with the more specialized subject areas characteristic of much of secondary education.
However, this situation may be changing. New alliances among publishers and a spectrum of software developers, the rapid growth in the national information infrastructure coupled with its potential for changing the manner in which software is distributed, and the emergence of new entrepreneurs all promise significant changes in the manner in which schools acquire and use instructional materials and content software.
ELEMENTS OF A NATIONAL STRATEGY TO EXPAND THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION
Why should the nation develop elements of a national strategy concerning educational technology? After all, large investments are being made in such technology, and equipment, software, and practice are evolving rapidly. In our view, the reason for seeking a strategy lies in the nation's past experiences with attempts to capitalize on technology or to promote one or another reform in education. All too frequently, these efforts foundered because implementation was flawed, communities and teachers were not adequately involved, or inadequate resources were devoted to the task. Some attention to these lessons will help the nation increase the probability that investments in technology will yield improved outcomes in terms of student learning.
A full strategy, engaging all relevant interests, is surely too ambitious. However, we propose several strategic principles to guide the nation as it moves to introduce additional information technology into its schools. As additional experience is accumulated, more explicit principles can be developed. The proposed principles are simple and straightforward--intended to shape an ongoing activity rather than spur new activities.
The introduction of educational technology into schools should occur as a component of a broader effort of school reform to improve the learning of all children. Such reforms include developing and implementing high standards for all students, creating assessment systems that effectively measure the attainment of such standards, restructuring the roles of teachers, and adopting instructional practices that increase students' motivation and time to learn. In the absence of a persistent and intensive effort to maintain a focus on improving student learning, the promise of technology will be lost. In the absence of changes in the incentives governing the behavior of schools and teachers, it is unlikely that student learning will improve. Technology without reform is likely to have little value; widespread reform without technology is probably impossible.
Over time, the costs of educational technology should be built into school budgets as a normal component of recurring costs. Major responsibility for financing and implementing technology clearly lies with state and local school authorities. These authorities are likely to incorporate technology as a recurring cost only as technology demonstrates its value in schools and districts that are early adopters.
Public authorities at all levels should work with the private sector to see that all schools have access to the national information infrastructure at reasonable costs.
All levels of government should monitor the access to technology that exists for traditionally disadvantaged populations and be prepared to do what is possible to ensure equality of access. If, as we expect, learning expands beyond the walls of the school and the length of the school day, the inequalities in access to computers and telecommunications outside the school will become an important additional barrier to achieving the traditional national goal of providing equality of educational opportunity to all children.
All levels of government should seek to learn and use the lessons from schools and school districts that pioneer in the creation of technology-rich learning environments. The early adopters of technology can help smooth the way for those who follow.
The federal government's role should involve leadership, dissemination of information on effective practice, fostering the development of organizations capable of assisting schools to make effective use of technology, and funding of research and development.
THE FEDERAL ROLE IN FOSTERING EFFECTIVE USE OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
While the major burdens for acquiring and using educational technology lie with schools, school systems, and states, there are important and traditional roles the federal government should play. These encompass four major classes of activities.
Continuing advocacy and leadership for school reform, emphasizing the potential that technology has for improving student performance.
Creating and disseminating high-quality information concerning the effective deployment and use of education technology.
Fostering the development of assistance organizations that will help schools and school systems successfully implement effective, technology-enabled schools.
Sustaining a vigorous and relevant program of research and development related to educational technology.
Leadership and Advocacy
Even in these times of political turbulence and change, most Americans look to leaders of the federal government for guidance. Thus the federal government can bring together state and local leaders, executives of private firms, community leaders, or representatives of key interests to discuss common issues or to map collaborative efforts.
Leadership can also be provided by identifying and recognizing outstanding performance. One of the most powerful national programs affecting the private sector has been the Baldridge Awards for quality management. These awards have inspired many companies to undertake extensive efforts to improve the quality of performance of their entire organization. Various programs to recognize effective schools have had similar, if less well publicized, effects. There is every reason to believe that effectively publicized programs that
appropriately recognize technology-enabled schools, effective educational software, or specific classes of educational technology applications can provide strong guidance and incentives to schools, school systems, and the private sector.
Creating and Disseminating Better Information for Reformers Concerning Technology
A traditional federal government function has been to survey activities across districts and states to understand what is working and what pitfalls and barriers exist. In the area of educational technology, the Department of Education might gather data and assess and disseminate information on
effective strategies for financing educational technology at the state and district levels
exemplary program and schoolwide implementations of technology as a means of restructuring schooling
effective applications of technology to the training and professional development of teachers
the progress in connecting schools and classrooms to the national information infrastructure
the access of various special populations of students to technology.
Some of these are tasks for the National Center for Education Statistics; others should be carried out by the Office of Education Research and Improvement (OERI). Many examples of effective practice would presumably be found in the pioneer schools and districts that are emerging. Special attention should be devoted to them. The Department of Education should coordinate these efforts, perhaps through the Office of Educational Technology or the Planning and Evaluation Service.
Fostering the Development of More Effective Assistance Organizations
It is important to distinguish between the dissemination of information discussed in the previous subsection and the provision of assistance to schools, teachers, and school systems. RAND's experience in evaluating school reform programs persuades us that there is an important function of organized assistance for the transformation of schools generally and for the development of schools with technology-enabled learning environments in particular. This assistance should be concrete, timely, and sustained. It should be provided on terms that the recipients find helpful, rather than on terms convenient to the provider.
The Department of Education should identify the qualities of effective assistance and inventory the potential sources of assistance related to technology. Working in conjunction with other department offices, particularly OERI, it should guide the department's support of assistance organizations so as to further the effective school use of educational technology.
The medium is part of the message. The Department of Education should actively seek opportunities to model and exploit the use of technology as a tool for providing assistance.
Support for Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D)
RD&D support is traditionally one of the least controversial of federal roles. In areas where private firms cannot expect to capture the full benefit of their investment, R&D tends to be underfunded. Where states and localities have only limited RD&D management expertise, the federal government is the obvious source of support for R&D activities. This is true for education.
There is little need for additional R&D on hardware or software products that have substantial application outside of education. The suppliers of such software and hardware products have every incentive to make R&D investments themselves. However, there are some needs, specifically related to education, for which school demand does not currently seem adequate to justify private investment or for which the short time horizons of public officials do not lead to state and local investment.
Areas of research and development that have particular benefits include the following:
Development of improved models for training teachers (and other staff) as well as better methods for promoting their professional development after graduation. Interactive network and CD-ROM applications could provide more timely and relevant sources of information and assistance than can be provided with current institutional arrangements.
Research and demonstration of ways in which to promote equal access to educational technology by all citizens.
Initial development of content software serving important educational needs, particularly in middle and secondary schools where market incentives appear inadequate to generate a sufficient supply.
Development of new assessment methods and instruments appropriate to the new learning outcomes sought by society and encouraged by the use of educational technology.
Development of advanced software tools that ease the creation of applications or the use of networks.
Continued work on learning and cognitive science.
Demonstration and assessment of effective technology-enabled learning processes.
We believe effectively planned and well-run demonstrations can produce high-quality information concerning the potential of technology for the improvement of learning. Demonstration projects also provide a means for the federal government to share some of the risks associated with new ventures. Solicitations associated with such programs provide the opportunity to stimulate the development of effective new technology applications. Support for demonstrations, if properly structured, can also help develop new sources of assistance to schools and teachers. The Technology Challenge Grant Program, sponsored by the Department of Education, has been put in place to help promote these objectives.
The federal actions proposed here are comparatively modest but of considerable importance. We expect them to provide guidance to the rapid development and deployment of educational technology that is now taking place. The key common quality of all the activities is that they provide information that will help educators, business people, parents, and policymakers contribute more effectively to this deployment.
The nation's most important educational goal must be to produce learners adequately prepared for life and work in the 21st century. Faced by uncertain demands, we should ensure that our youth master basic language and mathematics skills (perhaps in the context of studying subjects like history and science). But it is important that they also learn how to gather information and collaborate with others in the use of that information in solving problems and making informed judgments on public and private concerns. The nation must develop schools that can enable our youth to meet these goals. Properly employed, educational technology will make a major contribution to those schools and their students.
Many people have contributed to our efforts. Linda Roberts, head of the Office of Technology at the U.S. Department of Education and Ed Fitzsimmons of the Office of Science and Technology Policy provided continuing advice and encouragement in their roles as sponsors of our work. Jonathan Hoyt and Gwen Solomon (Office of Educational Technology), Dexter Fletcher (Institute for Defense Analysis), and Gary Bridgewater (Office of Science and Technology Policy) provided encouragement and support throughout.
We owe a large debt of thanks to the individuals who took the time to participate in our workshops; their names are listed in the appendix. A number of them took the time to follow up their participation with notes and additional input. In addition, many people in government and industry took the time to talk with us; we appreciate their contributions of insights and data. Within RAND, Brent Keltner, David McArthur, Douglas Merrill, Sue Purnell, and Randy Ross made important contributions through their writing and advice. Karl Sun was responsible for the research on school district investment reported in Chapter Four. Nancy Rizor competently handled the logistics of the workshops. Jim Harvey regularly provided valuable advice and counsel as well as writing grace. Finally, Wally Baer (RAND) and Larry Frase (Educational Testing Service) provided cogent and useful comments on an earlier draft of this report.
Obviously, errors in fact and judgment are solely the responsibility of the authors.
THE USE AND EFFECTIVENESS OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY TODAY
This chapter broadly describes the current use of technology to improve school effectiveness and student learning. We begin by summarizing current capacity and usage data for the nation's schools. Then, drawing on the experience of selected technology-rich schools, we suggest a vision of what widespread use of technology in schools might look like. Finally, we summarize evidence related to effectiveness. This chapter provides the backdrop for considering the costs and challenges for achieving more effective and widespread use of technology, the subjects of Chapters Three and Four.
CURRENT SCHOOL AND STUDENT USE OF TECHNOLOGY
This subsection draws heavily on a few surveys that have sought to characterize the penetration and use of computer and communication technologies in schools. The picture that emerges is one of a fairly rapid increase in school capacity, but it is also clear that average student use is still very limited.
Existing Penetration of Technology in Schools
Technology is penetrating the nation's schools. One of the simplest measures is computer ''density.'' Figure 2.1 shows that density, measured by the number of students per computer, has fallen rather dramatically in the past 12 years. This growth has been promoted by declines in the costs of computing power, improvements in the quality of productivity software, and the belief of increasing numbers of parents that a capability to use technology constitutes another basic skill that schools should provide their students.
SOURCE: Quality Education Data, Inc. (QED), 1994.
Figure 2.1--Decline in Number of Students Per Computer
in Public K-12 Schools, 1983-84 to 1995-96
These data suggest that schools across the country are making significant progress in acquiring technological capacity. However, this simple representation hides important features of and differences among districts and schools. For example, the rapid introduction of computers in the mid and late 1980s suggests that many school computers are relatively old. At the beginning of school year 1993-94, nearly half of the computers in schools were early model Apple computers. Many of the Apple Macintosh and IBM clones lack hard drives and the capability to use the Internet and the new multimedia technology that is rapidly becoming available. These computers may provide reasonable platforms for learning keyboard skills or for using older drill-and-practice software, but they are unable to run most more recently developed software.
The penetration of computers varies by the size and grade level of schools. Table 2.1 provides data for 1993-94. In general, small schools are better equipped than large schools, while secondary schools are better equipped than elementary schools.
Number of Students Per Computer,
by School Size and Level, 1993-94
Grade Level 1-299 300-749 750+ Total
Elementary 12 16 20 16
Middle/Jr. High 10 12 14 13
Senior High 7 10 12 11
All Schools 10 14 15 14
NOTE: Adapted from QED, 1994, p. 15.
Confounding these average differences in computer density is the reality that there are early adopters and enthusiasts of any innovation, so that some (pioneer) schools can be expected to have much higher densities of computers and, very likely, to use them in different ways. The Quality Education Data (QED) census provides some hints of this phenomenon in data shown in Table 2.2.
Variations in the Penetration of Computers Among Schools, Fall 1994
Average No. of
Students Per Students Students per
Computer Schools (millions) Computer
Fewer than 5 3,433 (4%) 1.2 (3%) 3.9
Between 5 and 12.4 36,256 (44%) 18.1 (41%) 8.9
Between 12.5 ans 23 35,355 (43%) 20.1 (46%) 16.5
More than 23 7,703 (9%) 4.4 (10%) 28.5
NOTE: QED, 1994. Adapted from table in undated paper by Jeanne Hayes and Dennis L.
Bybee, ''Toward Defining the `Greatest Need for Educational Technology.''' The
paper was prepared to support congressional testimony in March 1995.
These data suggest that in the fall of 1994, only 3 percent of the nation's K-12 students were in schools that had at least one computer for every five students, a density that those advocating the benefits of technology-intensive schools judge barely adequate. A simple calculation is revealing. With perfect maintenance and scheduling, one computer for every five students would provide 30 minutes a day of computer time per student in a five-hour school day. Many are concerned that this distribution of computer penetration in schools is highly correlated with the resources available in a district or with the characteristics of the students that are served by a school. Is the number of students per computer higher in poor schools or in schools serving one or another special population? The answer appears to be yes to both, but not by much. Using data from the International Education Association's (IEA) survey of schools in 1992, Becker notes
Compared to the differences in computer access between students in small and large schools, the disparities among regions, types of communities, and schools attended by different ethnic and socio-
economic groups are relatively small.
He finds students in cities with populations over 200,000, and Hispanic students somewhat disadvantaged. His analysis of the QED data for the same time period shows that the average black student attended a school with 4 percent fewer computers per student (a lower density) than that of the average white student. Hispanic students fared worse; on the average they were in schools with 13 percent fewer computers per student than whites.
Becker notes an interesting finding that reveals the indirect importance of federal policies in influencing technology in the schools. For the 1992 school year, which the IEA study surveyed, elementary schools with more than a quarter of their students eligible for Chapter I funding tended to have more computers per capita than elementary schools in general. QED data were consistent with this finding, indicating that elementary schools with 50 percent or more Chapter I eligible students had 29 percent more computers per capita than the average elementary school. This helps explain statements by industry representatives attending the CTI software workshops that Chapter I schools play a major role in their marketing strategy.
In summary, these data show a continuing penetration of computers in the nation's schools but considerable variation among schools and districts. The combination of steady acquisition and accumulation of equipment by schools in a period of rapid technological change suggests that much of the school computer inventory is technologically obsolete although it may retain considerable educational usefulness. Overall, while the rate of penetration for schools serving minority and poverty populations is somewhat lower than average, the difference appears not to be extreme.
Use of Computers by Students
Data on capacity level do not necessarily provide much insight into how or how much the equipment is used. The IEA study does contain information provided by technology coordinators, teachers, and students about the nature and amount of computer use. The information is sketchy and sometimes contradictory but provides a few hints concerning student use in 1992. Table 2.3 is taken from Becker's analysis of data from computer coordinators concerning the percentage of student computer time devoted to various subjects.
Estimated Percentage of Student Computer Time
Devoted to Different Subjects by School Level, 1992
Subject Elementary Middle High School
Word processing 12.5 15.6 15.0
Key boarding 15.0 14.1 12.5
Database, spreadsheets, tools 3.7 8.8 10.9
Computer programming 2.9 6.9 7.1
Subtotal: Computer education 34.1 45.4 45.5
Mathematics 18.3 11.0 7.7
English 16.6 10.5 7.4
Science 8.0 6.6 6.2
Social studies 8.4 5.6 4.1
Foreign languages 0.5 1.4 2.7
Fine arts 1.9 2.1 3.0
Subtotal: Academic subjects 53.7 37.2 31.2
Business education 2.2 3.1 11.0
Industrial arts 0.5 3.7 6.4
Subtotal: Vocational subjects 2.7 6.8 17.3
Recreation and other
Recreational use 8.8 9.5 6.0
Other 0.7 1.1 0.3
Subtotal: Recreation and other 9.5 10.6 6.3
SOURCE: Analysis of computer coordinator data from the 1992 IEA computers in education
study (Table 4.1 in Becker, 1994).
These data suggest that, at least in high school, the use of computers is substantially in support of acquiring skills for work and further education. About 63 percent of student computer time is devoted to computer education and vocational subjects; only 31 percent to the support of academic subjects. Not surprisingly, in elementary school, academic subjects account for a larger proportion of use.
One further issue about the nature of existing computer use deserves brief comment. Advocates for the increased student use of computer technology emphasize the potential for advancing the development of the student's ''higher-order'' thinking skills. Becker tried to distinguish activities like writing, analysis, and synthesis, which he believes are associated with developing such higher-order skills, from more routine skill- or fact-oriented learning. Using student data from the IEA survey, he develops statistics shown in Table 2.4.
Proportion of Student Activities That
Are Higher Order or Skill Development
Percentage of Student Activities
Type of Use Grade 5 Grade 8 Grade 11
Predominately higher order 4 10 14
Mixed skills and higher order 17 29 27
Predominately skill use 54 26 18
Little computer use 17 21 23
No use at all 9 14 20
SOURCE: Becker, 1994, Table 4.5.
At the elementary level, where many schools use computers for drill and practice, skills development predominates. At high schools, however, activities that mix skill development with the fostering of higher-order skills are more prominent.
The actual amount of time a student uses a computer is not easily estimated. Using data provided by technology coordinators, Becker makes a rough estimate that use might average 1.7 hours per student per week at elementary schools, 2.0 hours at middle schools, and 3.0 hours at high schools. However, he quickly goes on to note that data from student reports of their frequency of use suggest that ''few students obtain the `two hours per week' experience with computers that is the average per-student time estimated from the computer coordinator data.'' In a later calculation, Becker suggests that the average use may be as little as a third of these estimates. Becker suggests that these student data provide a strong indication of the relatively infrequent use of computers in secondary school academic subjects.
Most middle-school and high-school students report having used computers only once or twice during most of the school year (about 30 weeks). If we ignore truly occasional uses of computers and concentrate on those classes for which students used school computers on at least 10 occasions (i.e. once every 3 weeks), more than one-third of secondary school students reported using computers in a computer class, but only one student out of 11 reported having used school computers for an English class, one out of 15, for a math class, and only one out of 40, for a social studies or science class. Twice as many students even reported using computers for a business education class as for a social studies class even though only 30% of the students had a business class at all. When we consider that word processing is a major--probably the major activity--in secondary school computer education classes as well as in business education classes, it seems clear that school is still primarily a place to learn how to use word processing rather than a place to do word processing in order to achieve other academic goals. This is likely to even be more true of other applications such as spreadsheets and database programs, which have even been less integrated into subject-matter instructional practices than word processing.
The picture painted by Becker for average student computer use in school in 1992 does not suggest that computers played a prominent role in their learning. He does note that the strongest predictor of student computer time is computer density, and that the trend toward higher density makes it more likely that student use will be directed to higher-order intellectual activities. Thus, as the school computer inventory continues to rise and as more schools achieve densities comparable with those of schools currently in the top 10 percent or so, the amount and quality of student use would be expected to increase and improve.
Penetration of Telecommunication Networks
Comparatively few data exist on the school use of local or wide area networks. The explosive growth of Internet usage and the growth of other proprietary services such as America Online, Prodigy, and CompuServe hold considerable potential for education and educators. Wide area networks (WANs) can provide teachers and students with access to data and other resources far greater than what would typically be available locally. They provide the opportunity for students and teachers to collaborate widely with students and teachers at other schools, and to query experts and remote databases. They allow students to participate in scientific activities as they unfold (e.g., a NASA space experiment), which makes the learning experience more vivid and relevant. Indeed, a short ''cruise'' on either the Internet or one of the on-line services will quickly reveal numerous examples of these applications.
To discover the extent to which schools can currently access such networks, the U.S. Departments of Education and Commerce commissioned a study to gather data from a representative sample of schools in the fall of 1994. The analysis indicated that
While 75 percent of public schools have access to some kind of computer network, only 49 percent have access to a wide area network--35 percent of public schools have access to the Internet and 14 percent have access to other wide area networks (e.g. CompuServe, America Online, Prodigy).
Access to WANs varies by schooling level, too. Nearly half of the nation's secondary schools (49 percent) had access to the Internet, but only 30 percent of elementary schools. Mostly, the connections appear to be to a single point in the school, such as the media center or an administrative office. The data suggest that only 3 percent of school instructional space (i.e., classrooms, labs, and media centers) are directly connected to a WAN. For those who believe access to WANs should be seamlessly available to all students while learning, this figure is discouragingly low.
If access to WANs is to be widespread in the school building, local area networks (LANs) must exist. In recent years, the growth of such networks has been rapid. According to QED, 1994, 5 percent of public schools used LANs for instruction in 1991-92. Two years later, the number had more than doubled to 23 percent. Again the figures differ for high schools and elementary schools; 42 percent of high schools used LANs for instruction while only 17 percent of elementary schools did. The growth in the number of school LANs appears to mirror the increase in computer density and prefigures the increase in access to WANs.
EXPERIENCE OF A HANDFUL OF TECHNOLOGY-RICH SCHOOLS
The average picture that we have just painted does not represent the leading edge in either school technology capacity or application. To improve our understanding of the educational potential of school technology, we turned to a handful of technology-rich schools where technology is not a marginal addition--curriculum and instruction have been changed, and the school day is reorganized to make effective use of technology.
To acquire this information, we convened a two-day workshop, inviting participation by representatives of five schools, which consultations with experts across the country confirmed were outstanding examples of the use of technology to support the school's educational mission. These schools are listed and briefly described in Table 2.5.
School Population Computers/ Notable Features Cited Outcomes
Blackstock Jr 65% Hispanic, 1:2 ''Smart'' classrooms Improved test
High School, 76% Chapter I designed by faculty scores; increased
Port Hueneme, CA given year leave; student learning
emphasis on facility abilities,
design; Incremental comprehension,
implementation over 8 motivation,
years attitude; strong
student, parent and
Christopher 91% Hispanic, 1:3 Emphasis on 111- and Rising test scores
Columbus Middle 79% free 148-minute time blocks on state tests,
School, Union lunch program and whole-language improved student
City, NJ philosophy, computers attendance, reduced
in homes Chapter I
East Bakersfield 60% Hispanic, 1:8 Emphasis on preparation Improved student
High School, very for work; CAD/CAM,[b] retention; improved
Bakersfield, CA LEP[a] business systems; disk job placement
population portfolios retained by
Northbrook Large 1:2 Newly renovated school; Test scores up
Middle School, Hispanic 90-minute time blocks; sharply (attributed
Houston, TX lopulation, individualized to whole school
low SES[c] instruction; design)
Taylorsville Suburban with 1:4 Major emphasis on Increased student
Elem School, largely white instructional interest and
Taylorsville, IN middle-class management system enthusiasm for
population incorporating learning; some
standards, curriculum, improvement in test
student plans and scores; program
student work only two years old.
a Limited English proficiency
b Computer-assisted design/computer-assisted manufacturing
c Scocioeconomic status
We consciously sought schools that served a variety of populations, revealed by the data in column 2 of Table 2.5. We aimed for geographic diversity and for representation among the different levels of K-12 education. To learn about technology and technology-related resources used, we surveyed each school independently for this information. At the workshop, each representative presented evidence on school effectiveness and student learning. The following vignettes describe each school's technology program.
Blackstock Junior High School, Port Hueneme, California
With annual per-student expenditures in 1994 of $4,060 for some 960 students, many eligible for Chapter I support, this 36-classroom school caters to a largely minority population of mostly Hispanic descent, with smaller numbers of Chinese and Vietnamese students. Twenty-two percent of the student body are characterized as having limited English-language skills. Keltner and Ross, 1996, describe the school as follows:
Blackstock's model of educational technology delivery centers on creating what are called ''smart classrooms.'' There are at present eight smart classrooms, including two for instruction in 7th grade science, one for instruction in 8th grade science, two for literature and history, one for ESL instruction, one for instruction in business education, and one called the Tech Lab 2000. Each has been conceived and designed to support a technologically intensive educational delivery.
The Tech Lab 2000 is perhaps most appropriately described as the futuristic equivalent of a wood or metal shop. Designed to make students familiar with the technology present in the modern workplace, the Tech Lab is outfitted with Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software, a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) flexible manufacturing system, pneumatic equipment, and a satellite dish. All of the other smart classrooms have between 25-30 computers on a local area network (LAN). Each is also equipped with a sophisticated file server and a SOTA switch to give the teacher maximum control over classroom dynamics. Students can all be working on the same project, e.g., a software program or an interactive video presentation, or there can be a variety of things going on in the classroom at the same time.
There is also plenty of technology outside of the classrooms. In each of the schools' other classrooms, there are banks of ten computers and two printers. Teachers in the non-smart classrooms do not have the same sophisticated management system to control technology delivery, but are able to use many of the basic and important software applications, from word processing to interactive programs, in their instruction. They can also draw on the school's connection to the Internet to create a more technologically rich environment.
Staff development efforts for teachers in the smart classrooms have centered on giving individual instructors large amounts of paid time-off to familiarize themselves with technology and to organize a technology-based curriculum. Of the eight teachers in the smart classrooms, four took a year off and one took two years off to prepare themselves. The other three teachers were given three weeks during the summer to prepare. In the latter cases, the teachers were setting up a second smart class in a subject area where one already existed. The presence of a teacher with technological and curricular know-how made it easier for the new teacher to get up and running more quickly. Ongoing staff development for all teachers, those in smart and non-smart classrooms alike, is supported by four paid days of technology training per year and a considerable amount of informal networking.
Up to the present, Blackstock has not had a technology coordinator to support staff development efforts, relying instead on paid leave time and informal networking. To keep the technology program running smoothly, there is a teacher who has devoted about a quarter of his time to technology-related problem-solving and to computer repairs. Starting next year this teacher will move into the position of full-time technology coordinator.
Christopher Columbus Middle School, Union City, New Jersey
Christopher Columbus (CC) is a small 7th and 8th grade school of 310 students in Union City, NJ. Reflecting the school district's student population, the largest number of CC's students are Hispanic. Many do not speak English at home, are enrolled in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program, and are eligible for free or reduced cost lunch in school. The school's program was developed with the guidance of a districtwide effort to reform curriculum and instruction. A ''whole language philosophy of education,'' a project-based rather than textbook-based approach to curriculum and instruction, and a reorganization of the school day into a smaller number of larger time blocks are the basis for CC's technology implementation. It has had particular assistance from the local telephone company, which has viewed it as an important test site for a program to enhance communications with the home. Keltner and Ross describe it as follows:
Technology has been used to create a ''research-based'' curriculum. The school's curriculum integrates traditional subject areas, but has as its main focus an emphasis on teaching students `how to learn.'' Students are encouraged to become active learners through the use of structured research activities and group project work. To facilitate the transition to a student-centered learning environment, instructional delivery at the school has been reorganized. Rather than the traditional 50-minute period, classes meet for between one-and-one-half hours and two hours. The longer class periods allow students to delve deeper into their course work and give teachers more time to act as educational facilitators.
Each of the school's twelve classrooms is outfitted with five computers (a mix of Macs and PCs), a printer, and a video presentation station (VCR, laserdisk player and presentation monitors). There are 30 additional Macintosh computers with CD-ROM capabilities in the school's central computer lab. To allow students to experiment with multimedia production, the computer lab is also outfitted with camcorders, a video projector, and a computer video editing unit. The school has two LANs, one for Macs, the other for PCs. The PCs are linked to the Internet to allow remote resources to be integrated into classroom instruction.
To get CC's technology program up and running, each of the school's 15 teachers were given six days training in each of the first two years of implementation. After the two-year start-up period, staff development continued at a lower level of intensity, with each teacher receiving an average of three days of paid on-going training per year. To keep the school's technology program running smoothly, there is a full-time technology coordinator on-site. The technology coordinator is responsible for conducting student computer classes, supporting teachers, and making technology repairs.
East Bakersfield High School, Bakersfield, California
East Bakersfield High School emphasizes a technology-rich, school-to-work transition program in a school serving 2,400 students, with a majority Latino population and an educational philosophy that education equals experience. The following is from Keltner and Ross, 1996:
The school's chief administrator aims to have students understand early that their high school education shapes their job prospects, and that their present educational experience is a way of building job-relevant skills. Exposure to business and career-oriented themes begins immediately in the ninth grade and continues throughout their high school education, and includes resume writing, portfolio building and project activities oriented towards the local business community.
The school's curriculum is organized around five career ''tracks''. The career tracks are not targeted at specific ability levels, nor do they consist of a core set of classes that each pupil must complete. Rather, they are designed to allow students to develop technical and applied skills related to broad industry groups. One career track is oriented around course work in science, technology, engineering and manufacturing (STEM). Included in this curriculum is everything from a freshman class in the principles of technology to advance placement physics for seniors. Students in this career track can make use of the Hands on Science & Technology (HOST) Center to use technology in the design and fabrication of exhibits. A second career track prepares students for employment in health-care. The school's health careers academy has 200 professional partners throughout the Bakersfield area, which offer students internships during the school year and the summer break. A third career track is Communications and Graphics and Arts. Courses in this track include forensics, writing and a yearbook class.
Another career track is known as human and government services, designed to prepare students for careers in teaching, law and public administration. Particular attention is given to developing strong skills in both written and oral communication. The remaining career track is oriented towards developing business and entrepreneurial skills. Students can participate in a one-semester class called EB enterprises, in which they carry out projects in a high-tech office environment for teachers, school administrators or community businesses. Project work includes developing inventory programs, generating descriptions of courses and scholarships, and doing graphics for signs and brochures. Students alternate as office managers in order to learn how to manage tasks and coworkers.
Technology-based instruction is integrated smoothly into course work from beginning to end. As freshmen, students take a nine-week course in keyboarding and basic computer literacy. Writing assignments in the freshman English and history core courses are organized to ensure that all students moving into their sophomore year are proficient in the use of word processing programs. As seniors, students have to complete a technology-based project as a graduation requirement. Projects involve the use of computers, graphics software or video equipment.
General instruction between the first and final years is heavily technology-based. Math classes integrate an interactive math program. English, history and social studies teachers have access to writing labs as well as a large number of video towers equipped with CD-ROM, videodisk players and VCRs. The school building is in the process of being rewired to accommodate network technology. Next year, many of the classrooms will have Internet connectivity.
Administrators at E. Bakersfield use a variety of measures to support technology-related staff development. There is a limited amount of funding available for paid, formal technology training--the school's staff development budget allocates an average of one paid day per teacher per year. Much of this budget goes to training new teachers. New teachers without any prior training in computer technology are expected to spend several days during the summer break in training to achieve basic fluency. New teachers with more experience are typically requested to train on their own time. To support informal development efforts, the school has a teacher lab equipped with nine computers and a laser printer. Many of the computers have CD-ROM capabilities. To keep the technology component of the school running smoothly, the school also has a half-time technology coordinator, a full-time repair specialist and a budget for hiring network specialists on an as needed basis.
Northbrook Middle School, Houston, Texas
Northbrook Middle School is a new school that was created in an old building. It serves a 6th through 8th grade population of under 800 students drawn largely from families of Hispanic migrant workers. The school had an initial six million dollars for startup, of which one and a half million was devoted to technology. Keltner and Ross provide the following description:
The school administrators understand their main mission to be the preparation of their students as life-long learners for the world of work. The school's curriculum, while centered on traditional academic subjects, places heavy emphasis on students acquiring critical thinking and problem solving skills. Teachers are expected to assist students in learning how to find and analyze information. To support this student-centered learning environment, the school is organized into four educational clusters. Teachers and students in each cluster work together to support one another in continually expanding their ability to gather information and solve problems. Technology is viewed as a primary vehicle to help students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. Technology permits instruction to be tailored to individual student needs.
Northbrook's technology program is centered primarily on the use of computers. With over 400 computers in place in the school's six technology labs and 48 classrooms, Northbrook has a student to computer ratio of just under 2:1. Each of the school's classrooms is outfitted with between five and six computers. All of the computers have built-in CD-ROM capabilities in order to expand the range of software products available for student use. Access to network resources are used to support student information searches. Computers in the classrooms, in the computer labs, and in the library are networked together in a school-wide LAN with Internet connectivity. Teachers also make use of multimedia presentation equipment. Each of the classrooms is outfitted with a videodisk player, a scanner and some multimedia editing equipment.
To support the technology program, Northbrook has relied primarily on on-site staff development. Each of the school's 48 teachers received two weeks of technology-related staff development in the summer prior to the school start-up. On an ongoing basis, teachers participate on the average of three to four days of paid training each year. Additional personnel to support the technology program include a full-time technology assistant and a part-time district technology coordinator. These two individuals are responsible for conducting in-house training and keeping the technology running smoothly.
Taylorsville Elementary School, Taylorsville, Indiana
The Taylorsville Elementary School serves a little over 600 suburban students in pre-K through 6th grade. The students are predominately from largely lower middle-class, white families. Keltner and Ross provide the following description:
Taylorsville is one of several schools in Indiana working with the Modern Red School House (MRSH) educational design team--a New American School Development Corp. (NASDC) activity--to bring information technology into its educational delivery. The school's technology plan, its hardware layout, and its staff development effort reflect the essentials of the MRSH design. The most important role for technology in the school's educational design is to support a commitment to self-paced individualized learning.
Taylorsville's curriculum emphasizes core subjects, aiming for high levels of proficiency in language arts, math, science, history and geography. Despite this emphasis on standardization in content, educational delivery focuses on students proceeding through course work at their own pace. Instructional strategies promote multi-age, multi-year groupings and stress team-based project work. The opportunities for regrouping teams during project work allow individual students to develop their skills in different areas at an appropriate speed. By virtue of their role in integrating instruction across subjects and grades, teachers play a key role in facilitating the transition to a self-paced student environment.
The school's technology plan provides students with plentiful access to networked computers. Taylorsville has one computer lab equipped with 25 Apple computers. Each of the school's 25 classrooms has a cluster of four student computers, one teacher computer, and a printer. Some of the classroom computers have internal CD-ROM drives to increase the range of software applications accessible to students. A school-wide LAN connects classroom computers to the computer lab and to administrative offices. At present, students can access the Internet from two computers in the library media center. Plans provide for Internet connectivity to each classroom. Investing in the hardware and other infrastructure required to give each classroom Internet connectivity is an outcome of the school's commitment to supporting student project activity. The same principal has led also to outfitting the library with eight IBM clones that use sophisticated software to facilitate information and reference searches.
To support its vision of a self-motivated, self-directed student population, the school invests in a fairly high level of staff development. In Taylorsville's educational paradigm, teachers serve as facilitators for student learning. Teacher fluency and comfort in using information technology determines the success of the model. In the first two years of implementation, staff received six full days of technology training per year. Thereafter, two days a year have been devoted specifically to ongoing training in technology. A full-time technology coordinator assists teachers with their technology-related problem solving. The full-time technology coordinator has the assistance of three part-time aides.
Qualities Shared by Five Technology-Rich Schools
These five schools obviously have different objectives, serve different populations, and use technology in quite different ways. But they share common practices important for public policy development. We note the following:
Each of the schools is ''learner-centered,'' placing emphasis on the individual treatment of students according to their needs and capabilities. Perhaps the most explicit attention to this issue is found at the Taylorsville school where a computer-based instructional management system is used to support the development and use of individual student instructional strategies. Northbrook emphasizes clusters of students and teachers who stay together for several years so that they can know one another well. East Bakersfield has students develop individual portfolios that help them understand what they know and need to know to find productive roles after graduation.
Each of the schools seemed to utilize and emphasize curriculum frameworks to ensure that the goals for student outcomes were clearly understood. The Christopher Columbus school program was put in place after an effort of several years to develop a curriculum framework and strategy by the Union City district. Taylorsville used standards developed by the Modern Red School House design team at the Hudson Institute to guide its educational offerings. Blackstock used the California frameworks that were in existence before the school reform started. In the view of the authors, the workshop was notable for the emphasis each of the school leaders placed on the learning that was to take place as opposed to focusing on the features of the technology that existed.
Each of the schools had a density of computers that far exceeds that which is common in schools today. In fact, in all cases but one, the density exceeded the average density of the top 4 percent of schools, which is 3.9 students per computer (Table 2.2). The ubiquitous access to computers in most of these schools makes many of their programmatic features possible.
All the schools had restructured their programs substantially. Class periods were lengthened and interdisciplinary programs introduced to retain necessary subject coverage. Project-based learning received considerable attention, but several of the schools also made use of more traditional drill and practice programs. Blackstock and Northbrook had substantially modified their buildings to facilitate and exploit the use of technology.
Each of the school programs appeared to be the product of a fairly concentrated development effort. The character of the school had not simply evolved over time as more and more equipment arrived. Instead, explicit, focused development efforts were undertaken. Some were whole school developments, as was the case with Taylorsville, Northbrook, and Christopher Columbus. Alternatively, some had initially focused on one facet of a larger vision, as appears to have been the case in Blackstock and East Bakersfield.
Each school's development was pushed forward by an initial increment of external funding. The sources were varied. The California schools received funds from a state technology program. The Christopher Columbus school had Chapter I and private sector funds. The Taylorsville school received funding from New American Schools Development Corporation. Northbrook got initial startup funds from its district and has sustained its development with additional grants and Chapter I funds. Thus the creation of a radically changed school (whether or not it is technology rich) requires an initial investment that defrays the exceptional costs of startup--both training and the technology itself.
Relations among adults in the schools appeared changed. While this issue was not addressed by all the school leaders, several noted that there was considerably more consultation among teachers about the curriculum and about the progress of individual students. At Blackstock, the lead teachers in the smart classrooms appear to have adopted roles of assisting other staff with issues related to technology, curriculum, and instruction.
School outcomes were described in rich ways. While it appears that all the schools showed some or major improvement against traditional accountability measures, many other indicators were used. Increased student and parent engagement, better job placement success, strong support from students and parents, and improved attendance were all cited.
And not least, the annual per-student technology and technology-related cost for these pioneer technology-rich schools ranges between under three and over five times the average $70-$80 per student for all U.S. schools.
These schools are probably representative of the best practices across the nation. The whole school has been involved, not just one or two teachers. The instructional program has been changed to exploit technology. As hinted in Table 2.5, each of these schools is reported to have improved the learning of substantial portions of its students. Whether these schools are representative of high tech schools of the future is an open question, however. Technology is changing rapidly, and educators are still in the comparatively early stages of exploring ways in which learning can be enhanced by the application of technology.
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
These technology-rich schools use technology in many different ways, which suggest the difficulty one has in making broad, inclusive, research-based statements concerning the effectiveness of educational technology. In them, technology is used, among other things, to tutor students, to support collaboration among students and teachers, to acquire educational resources from remote locations, to aid teachers in the assessment of student progress and the management of instruction, and to help students to write and compute. In some cases, technology is just one of a number of strategies for achieving an educational purpose--for example, teaching and learning introductory algebra. In others, it may be the only way to achieve some goal--distance learning to provide foreign language instruction to small, remote schools.
In trying to assess what is known concerning the effectiveness of technology, we held a workshop that engaged both researchers who have studied the effectiveness of technology applications in education and practitioners who have been associated with the development of schools making heavy use of technology. We discussed what is known about the effects, costs, and implementation in technology-intensive schools and programs. We also examined several recent reviews of the literature on the effectiveness of various technology applications. On the basis of the workshop and the reviews, we draw the following broad conclusions:
Numerous studies of a wide variety of specific applications of technology show improvements in student performance, student motivation, teacher satisfaction, and other important educational outcomes.
There are examples of technology-rich schools that report significant improvements in student motivation, academic outcomes, and other outcomes such as problem-solving or collaboration.
Traditional ways of assessing the effectiveness of educational programs are generally deficient for assessing the contribution of technology.
Good implementation is crucial to the successful application of technology in education.
We treat each of these points briefly.
Evidence on the Effectiveness of Educational Programs Making Extensive Use of Technology
The history of computers in education can be traced to sometime in the mid-1960s, with its start under the name ''computer-assisted instruction'' (CAI). The initial efforts to develop and deploy CAI reflected the mid-60s improvements in computer technology, emerging scientific hypotheses about learning largely based on the ideas associated with B. F. Skinner, and federally funded research and development (R&D) and operating subsidies aimed at improving the achievement of slow learners.
By now, CAI applications have been ported across several generations of computer technology, including large time-shared systems, smaller minicomputer systems, and the currently popular file-server technology. Interactive drill-and-practice software is a major school application of computers today, and the dominant application in elementary school education. This interactive modality is also widely used in military training and adult education. Because of the long history of these applications, there is a large body of evaluative data on the effectiveness of these applications.
One participant in the workshop, James Kulik, has spent more than a decade analyzing studies of the use of computers for instruction. He has summarized that work in a recent article which begins,
What do evaluation studies say about computer-based instruction? It is not easy to give a simple answer to the question. The term computer-based instruction has been applied to too many different programs, and the term evaluation has been used in too many different ways.
He goes on to describe a research approach, called meta-analysis, which has allowed him and others to aggregate research findings of many studies of computer-based instruction. He summarizes these findings as follows:
At least a dozen meta-analyses involving over 500 individual studies have been carried out to answer questions about the effectiveness of computer-based instruction. The analyses were conducted independently by research teams at eight different research centers. The research teams focused on different uses of the computer with different populations, and they also differed in the methods they used to find studies and analyze study results. Nonetheless, each of the analyses yielded the conclusion that programs of computer-based instruction have a positive record in the evaluation literature.
Kulik draws the following conclusions from his work.
Students usually learn more in classes in which they receive computer-based instruction. . . .
Students learn their lessons in less time with computer-based instruction. . . .
Students also like their classes more when they receive computer help in them. . . .
Students develop more positive attitudes toward computers when they receive help from them in school. . . .
Computers do not, however, have positive effects in every area in which they were studied. The average effect of computer-based instruction in 34 studies of attitude toward subject matter was near zero. . . .
Reporting approximately the same range of effect sizes from studies of military training as Kulik does for education, J. D. Fletcher emphasizes the importance (measured by cost-effectiveness) for military training of performance outcomes (as opposed to knowledge acquisition outcomes) and the training time necessary to reach a required level of task performance. In brief, studies of computer-based instruction in military training repeatedly show gains of about one-third in training time.
Fletcher introduced an additional set of calculations, based on meta analyses, that shed light on the potential ''cost-effectiveness'' of using computer-based instruction. He compared the costs of additional tutoring, reduced class size, increased instruction time or computer-based instruction required to obtain comparable gains in outcomes. Computer-based instruction was substantially less expensive than all other approaches to obtaining these gains except tutoring by peers.
The computer-based instructional programs that provide the base for the studies reviewed by Kulik and Fletcher were largely developed and implemented before 1990. They tended to emphasize drill and practice. In recent years, the continued decline in the costs of computing power, the growth of both local area and wide area networking, and the development of increasingly sophisticated computer software has led to the rapid proliferation of applications that move beyond drill and practice.
This proliferation reflects at least two major influences. The first is the explosive growth in importance of information technology in the workplace and the perception that the skills required to succeed in future workplaces will be quite different from those that motivated the development of much of the curriculum that currently dominates schools. The second is a growing body of research in the cognitive sciences that suggests that students learn and better retain what they learn when engaged in ''authentic'' learning tasks. In school practice, this often takes the form of an individual or a small group of students carrying out real world projects using computer and network software tools and databases. In addition to improved subject matter learning, students develop their skills in cooperation, communication, and problem identification with this approach.
For these applications of technology, the research data are less extensive and not as well organized. The applications of technology are so varied and fluid that they defy attempts at aggregation. Moreover, the evaluation techniques that are appropriate to these newer uses are less standardized. Still, an accumulation of many individual studies show positive effects of specific programs on student and/or teacher attitudes and performance.
At least one R&D program has focused directly on the effects of providing ubiquitous access to technology at the classroom level. Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) focused on the changed instructional practices and the learning by children when teachers and students are provided ''access to technology whenever they need it.'' For example, in its initial years, before the advent of laptops, each student and teacher was given two computers, one for home and one for school.
In a report on 10 years of ACOT research, the ACOT project says:
Over time, independent researchers found that students in ACOT classrooms not only continued to perform well on standardized tests but were also developing a variety of competencies not usually measured. ACOT students did the following
Explored and represented information dynamically and in many forms.
Became socially aware and more confident.
Communicated effectively about complex processes.
Used technology routinely and appropriately.
Became independent learners and self-starters.
Knew their areas of expertise and shared that expertise spontaneously.
Worked well collaboratively.
Developed a positive orientation to the future.
Thus, at the program, project, and classroom level, there is solid evidence that instructional activities making intensive use of technology can lead to significant improvements in student achievements. As is the case with any educational program, the success in replications of a technology-based application depends upon the quality of the implementation.
Individual programs are different from whole schools, however, and whole schools constitute a major focus for this report. What sort of evidence do we have concerning the effectiveness of technology-rich schools?
Evidence Concerning the Performance of Technology-Rich Schools
Policymakers, considering significant investments in technology for schools to improve learning generally, would like assurances that such investments will in fact provide this improved learning. It is difficult to provide such assurances if one wants to use traditional evaluation designs.
For example, to try to obtain such evidence, we could imagine conducting an experiment. From a large group of schools that are interested in implementing a technology-rich program, a randomly selected subgroup of schools is provided with resources to be used to purchase and use new technology throughout the school. Another subgroup of schools is chosen to serve as a control group. If, at the end of some period of time during which their programmatic changes were implemented, the technology-rich schools, as a group, were performing significantly better, we would be justified in saying that the use of technology had a positive effect on schooling outcomes.
The evidence we can cite is far less persuasive than would be the results of this imaginary experiment. Schools that have become technology rich have not been randomly chosen. Instead they have been led by individuals or groups who usually had a gift for attracting funds to support technology and for promoting widespread use of the technology in their schools. These schools' performance is not normally compared with other control schools but with their own earlier performance or with district averages on outcome variables. Despite the uniqueness of these schools, it is useful to examine their experiences for suggestive evidence concerning the effects and effectiveness of technology.
One source of such experience is the five technology-rich schools represented at our workshop. From these, we had reports of improved student attitude and engagement, resulting from livelier classroom content; improved student achievement, measured by norm-standardized tests; improved student retention and improved job placement of secondary school graduates; and increased student enthusiasm for learning, together with an increased student commitment to the responsibility for learning.
To achieve these results, the leadership and teaching staffs of these pioneer schools took an individual, eclectic approach, sometimes emphasizing student computer projects in the context of a well-defined curriculum framework; sometimes combining subject matter like mathematics and science education or English and social studies in a single 90- or 140-minute class that allowed increased time for computer use; sometimes employing computer-based instruction, especially for teaching basic skills; and sometimes assigning word processing or desktop publishing tasks aimed at preparing students for the world of work. What stood out, in fact, was the variety and nonuniformity of the approaches technology-rich schools followed in their effort to improve student learning. Implementation strategies were ad hoc and local.
Another group of technology-rich schools was examined in a study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education in an effort to understand how technology contributed to education reform. Means and Olson examined eight schools, five of which would be termed technology rich because they had student-computer ratios of less than 2 to 1. While Means and Olson's research did not emphasize student outcomes, the schools were asked about these outcomes. Most schools chose not to emphasize standard test scores and talked of improved student motivation, collaboration, and acquisition of skills not measured by normal tests. On balance, test scores on traditional tests were up somewhat, but there were a few cases in which they dipped. It is important to note that from the description of the programs provided by Means and Olson, it appears that traditional examinations are poorly aligned with the curriculum and pedagogy of most of these schools.
Rather than student outcomes, the Means and Olson study focused on the manner in which technology fosters educational reform, specifically, constructivist teaching. In this regard, their conclusions are less equivocal. With regard to instructional practice they found that technology supported improved instruction by
adding to students' perceptions that their work is authentic and important
increasing the complexity with which students can deal successfully
dramatically enhancing student motivation and self-esteem
making obvious the need for long blocks of [instructional] time
instigating greater collaboration, with students helping peers and sometimes their teachers
giving teachers additional impetus to take on a coaching and advisory role.
Teachers also talked of increases in their skills in technology and pedagogy and increased collaboration.
While these few examples of schools providing technology-rich learning environments are, in our view, encouraging, they are scant. In framing their policy conclusions, Means and Olson note:
We believe that the difficulty we experienced in finding schools with large numbers of classrooms incorporating technology-supported constructivist teaching and learning approaches is in itself a significant finding. The scarcity of these classrooms testifies to the magnitude of the change we are looking for and the challenges-- individual, organizational, and logistical--to making it happen.
Means and Olson selected their schools in 1993. Our experience in seeking sites to participate in our workshop in early 1995, while less extensive than that of Means and Olson, suggests that such schools remain comparatively rare. Thus, research has not yet identified a sufficient number of examples of technology-supported whole school reforms to allow us to fully gauge the contributions that educational technology can be reliably expected to make to reform objectives. One recommendation we will make is that the nation seek out the early-adopting pioneer schools for continued study and assessment to improve our knowledge of the impacts of technology-rich learning environments on students and teachers.
A Note of Caution from History
We have repeatedly used the phrase ''properly implemented'' in our discussions of the effectiveness of technology-supported instruction. This is an important caveat. While computer- and network-based technology is currently the focus of most public attention, the nation has a long history of trying to reform education through the use of technologies such as radio, motion pictures, and television. On the whole, these attempted reforms were unsuccessful although isolated instances of effective use exist.
Larry Cuban has examined the history of attempts to use technology to promote reform of schools. He concludes that most of these attempts failed to adequately address the real needs of teachers in classrooms. Instead, the efforts too often attempted to impose a technologist's or policymaker's vision of the appropriate use of the technology on schools. Teachers were provided inadequate assistance in using the technology, and the technology itself was often unreliable. As a consequence, the technology was not used by teachers or became very marginal to the schools' instructional activities.
These lessons are important and have been recognized in the schools we examined. The pioneer schools have involved teachers deeply in the development of their programs. The ACOT program makes teachers and their needs its central focus. If technology-rich learning environments are to be created in many schools, policymakers and educators will need to attend to these lessons and avoid standardized implementation of prepackaged technical solutions.
As we have seen, there are two important impediments to obtaining defensible, research-based information on the performance of most applications of technology in schools. First, most available tests do not reliably measure the outcomes that are being sought by advocates of technology-rich schools. The measures that are reported are usually from traditional, multiple choice tests. Second, technology is only a component of an instructional activity. Assessments of the impact of technology are really assessments of instructional processes enabled by technology, and the outcomes are highly dependent on the quality of the implementation of the entire instructional process.
The review that we made of evidence of the effectiveness of educational technology reaffirmed our initial impressions. By traditional evaluation standards, the most satisfying evaluation data are those generated in laboratory or controlled clinical settings using well-specified and implemented treatments and readily measured outcomes. When technology is removed from such settings and becomes more nearly a tool to be used by students and teachers than a treatment in itself, or when the outcomes sought become richer and less precisely measurable, assessment becomes much more difficult and the results less satisfying from a technical point of view.
Despite these difficulties, however, evidence and experience suggest that there are a number of technology-rich schools with effectively implemented instructional programs that provide exciting and apparently successful demonstrations of the potential that educational technology has for improving the quality of schooling and learning. The question that we now want to turn to is what are the technology-related costs of implementing technology-rich programs such as those described here.
QED, 1994, p. 21. QED's data are collected from all schools. The data are reported for the situation as of the beginning of the school year, and if responses are not received in time for the publication, older data are used. Henry Becker, who has used the database and consulted with QED, suggests that in recent years, the data may understate the numbers of computers in use during the school year by 25 percent. See p. 8 of the QED report and Becker, 1994.
Using somewhat older data, Becker estimates that in addition to the limitations of the 8-bit technology used by old Apple machines, fully 80 percent of school computers lack hard drives and a connection to local-area networks. Becker, 1994, p. 68.
Becker, 1994, p. 51.
Note that Becker has adopted the more traditional definition of density, the number of computers per student.
Chapter I was the section of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that provided supplemental funding to schools with high proportions of educationally disadvantaged students. In 1994, this act was significantly revised as the Improving America's Schools Act. The corresponding section is called Title I.
Becker, 1994, p. 32
Becker, 1994, p. 35.
Becker, 1994, p. 71.
Becker, 1994, p. 74.
National Center for Education Statistics, 1995a, p. 3.
QED, 1994, p. 77.
These are documented in Keltner and Ross, 1996.
A mathematics-smart classroom, nearly completed, will bring the total to nine.
Bell Atlantic has worked with the Christopher Columbus Middle School over the past two years to add a high-speed school-and-home computer-communications network to the school technology program. The network involves the use of high-speed telephone lines (ISDN) to connect school computers and 150 student and teacher homes to a library of CD-ROM and software titles stored centrally on six file servers at a Bell Atlantic site. This component of the CC technology program remains experimental and is not described further here.
Kulik, 1994, p. 11.
A more extensive discussion of Fletcher's data can be found in Melmed, 1995.
While performance outcomes for any nontrivial task are no doubt linked to knowledge acquisition, a current criticism of K-12 education is that knowledge acquisition often seems only weakly linked to performance in the ''real'' world.
Fletcher, Hawley, and Piele, 1990, pp. 783-806, as quoted in Melmed, 1995.
See, for example, Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991.
See, for example, Resnick, 1987a, pp. 13- 20; Resnick, 1987b; and Raizen, 1989.
See, for example, Means and Olson, 1995; Software Publishers Association, 1995; and Special Issue on Educational Technologies: Current Trends and Future Directions, 1994.
Apple Computer Inc., 1995, p. 2.
Apple Computer Inc., 1995, p. 3.
Means and Olson, 1995.
Of the other three, one had 12 students per computer and the other two had ratios of 7 and 8 to 1, respectively.
Means and Olson, 1995, pp. 38-53 and Table 9. It is worth noting that in the studies described in the previous subsection dealing with well-specified programs, many of the assessments used were chosen because they were aligned with the curriculum. However, the tests the whole school reforms are judged on are the ones specified by the state or district for accountability purposes.
Means and Olson, 1995, pp. 2-3. Drawing on the work of cognitive scientists, the authors state
This constructivists' view of learning, with its call for teaching basic skills within authentic contexts (hence more complex problems), for modeling expert thought processes, and for providing for collaboration and external supports to permit students to achieve intellectual accomplishments that they could not do on their own, provides the conceptual underpinnings for our investigation of technology's role in education reform.
Means and Olson, 1995, pp. S-2 and S-3.
Means and Olson, 1995, p. S-5.
Cuban, 1995; see also Tyack and Cuban, 1995.
''Presents useful strategies for increasing funding for computers in schools.''
''My bookshelf contains several fine government and private reports on the use of educational technology, but none has the scope and immediacy of this book from RAND's Critical Technologies Institute.''
--Educational Testing Service
''A recent report by the RAND Corporation provides strong support for using educational technology resources. The RAND group reports that much of the current impetus to bring more technology into schools is not motivated merely by a desire to necessarily improve the learning of students in academic areas. It is also motivated by the sense that information and computational technology has become so ubiquitous in our lives, that schools must develop basic skills in students so they can function in further schooling and work. Increasing the level of technology enables fundamental changes in pedagogy. In the information that students can use, and in the manner in which they use their time. These changes then result in significant improvements in their learning.''
--Michele Sokoloff--Media & Methods
RAND Publications Web Site, February, 2001
Chapter One Introduction
Educational Technology Defined
Why is Educational Technology An Important Component of Public Policy?
Research Approach and Outline of Report
Chapter Two Tthe Use and Effectiveness of Educational Technology Today
Current School and Student Use of Technology
Existing Penetration of Technology In Schools
Use of Computers By Students
Penetration of Telecommunication Networks
Experience of A Handful of Technology-Rich Schools
Blackstock Junior High School, Port Hueneme, California
Christopher Columbus Middle School, Union City, New Jersey
East Bakersfield High School, Bakersfield, California
Northbrook Middle School, Houston, Texas
Taylorsville Elementary School, Taylorsville, Indiana
Qualities Shared By Five Technology-Rich Schools
The Effectiveness of Educational Technology
Evidence on the Effectiveness of Educational Programs Making Extensive Use of Technology
Evidence Concerning the Performance of Technology-Rich Schools
A Note of Caution From History
Chapter Three The Costs of Technology-Rich Schools
Current School Technology Expenditure
Costs of Increasing the Level of Technology In Schools
Factors Affecting School-Level Costs
Chapter Four Challenges of Creating A Nation of Technology-Enabled Schools
Financing the Costs of Introducing and Using Technology In Schools
Continuing Costs of Operating Technology-Rich Schools
Opportunities for Federal and State Action
Providing Teachers With Skills Needed for Effective Technology-Rich Schools
The Nature of the Current Teaching Force
Support for Continuing Professional Development
Preservice Training for Teachers
Opportunities for Federal, State, and Local Action
Ensuring That Needed Software is Available
Market Supply and Demand for Educational Software
Opportunities for Federal, State, and Local Action
Chapter Five Summary and Conclusions
Elements of A National Strategy to Expand the Use of Technology In Education
Relate Use of Technology to Educational Reform Agenda
Build Costs of Educational Technology Into State and Local Education Budgets
Provide Access to National Information Infrastructure
Monitor the Equality of Access to Benefits of Educational Technology and Work to Improve That Equality of Access Where Possible
Capitalize on the Lessons of Pioneer Schools and Districts
The Federal Role In Fostering Effective Use of Educational Technology
Participants In Cti Workshops
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