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integrating ethical use of technology into the K-12 curriculum
Integrating Technology in the Classroom
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 aims to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged and struggling students and their peers. The message is that every child can learn, and that schools are accountable for a child's progress.
At the federal level, there is to be more money for at-risk children in low-income communities. The government will invest in teacher training and innovative education practices that improve student performance.
While this new law defines a destination, it is up to the states and school districts to define the paths for getting there. Best practice begins with ensuring that all the components for successful integration of technology are in place. The primary ethical concerns of access, attitude, training, and support must be addressed before moving on to the more popular topic of integrating instructional technology into the classroom.
Access occurs when school systems plan for and provide enough equipment for all students. Without modern working computers and software, project-based learning is impossible (Linn, 1997).
Attitudes of all the parties involved (students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community) have to be addressed. If necessary, some "attitude adjustment" may be required through education and dissemination of information by those attempting to make technology a daily part of the education experience.
Training for teachers has often been approached in a haphazard manner, but any serious attempt to introduce technology into schools must focus on adequate training for those who will be leading the students in this endeavor. How foolish to simply expect educators to pick up a mouse as easily as they pick up a pencil when they have had no assistance.
The last factor, support, is also often overlooked. Without technical support for equipment and user problems, teachers may not use the technology because of fear or simply because sometimes nothing works correctly. The classroom with an assortment of computers that frustrate the teacher and students is no more contributing to change than a classroom with no technology.
Once the vital components are in place, the focus for identifying successful technology integration can move to the planning of activities that take place in the classroom. The first thing to consider, of course, is how the technology fits into the local, state, and national standards. Different districts have approached this in varying ways. In the state of Georgia, for example, state technology standards for students have been written into the state Quality Core Curriculum right alongside the standards for all other subjects (Georgia Learning Connections, 2001). Whatever the method used to identify the skills needed, it is most often left to the teachers to create meaningful technology lessons. If access, training, and support all exist, the teacher can successfully introduce technology into the classroom. However, simply sitting students at computers to do repetitive activities is not appropriate. Harold Wenglinsky (1998) in his study of fourth and eighth grade math students concluded that significant learning gains are shown "if computers are used to perform tasks applying higher order concepts." Studies by Henry Becker, reported by Salpeter (1998) concurred and stated that students should use the computer for sophisticated writing and complex reasoning activities.
Digital Design: An Example
Successful innovation does not come cheap. But schools and communities can leverage their funding and expertise by teaming with private industry.
Program developers at the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in Washington State wanted to develop their students' professional technology skills. What they had in mind was a project-based, state-of-the-art program that engaged students in real-world learning. But OSPI didn't have the resources or broad expertise to build it all on their own.
Many states face this challenge. They understand the problem but can't afford the solution. A public/private partnership can be an innovative and practical answer.
To develop Digital Design, a four-semester sequence in professional web design fundamentals, the OSPI collaborated with Macromedia. The Digital Design course sequence, which serves as a model for CTE curriculum in other states, is currently being offered in urban, suburban, and rural high schools throughout Washington State.
During the 18-month collaboration, Macromedia developed a project-based curriculum guide for the course, trained 45 pilot teachers to use the curriculum and web-authoring software, and made revisions based on feedback from teachers.
Digital Design aligns with various standards, including: International Society for Technology and Education's (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards, Students National Workforce Center for Emerging Technologies IT Skills' Standards, and the Washington State Essential Academic Learning Requirements specific to writing, reading, communications, and art.
The first course, Digital Design: Foundations of Web Design, is a 180-hour sequence that introduces students to professional Web design and authoring tools. Students use Macromedia software, including Dreamweaver MX, Fireworks MX, and Flash MX, as they plan, design, build, and redesign Web sites.
The course focuses on developing critical work skills: project management, design, technical, and research and communication.
Project management includes:
Collaborating with classmates to create an acceptable use policy
Defining and prioritizing tasks
Creating a storyboard to visualize and organize the work
Conducting review workshops with peers and clients
Research and communication includes:
Ethical Internet use
Researching audience needs
Communicating ideas clearly to the design team and to the client
Learning to validate information
Students develop skills in a spiral as each new project develops new skills on previous foundation proficiencies. Projects all follow the professional web design process, from project planning to evaluation. Student work evolves in two directions: from personal tasks to work for clients, and from working alone to working on a team. Student teams apply their growing design and technical expertise to develop increasingly more sophisticated websites that meet client specifications.
Meaningful Technology Integration
The point, or course, is to improve student learning in meaningful ways. If technology is used as drill and practice, reward time, or to teach the same old lessons instead of emphasizing higher order thinking skills, the effort may not be effective. There are two ways to think about classroom use of technology - as a set of tools that make what is already done faster and better; or as something with the potential to radically change the classroom (Pea, 1985). It can be a question of quality vs. quantity.
Many teachers who sincerely want to integrate technology are simply "amplifying" what they already do. Activities such as retrieving text and images from a disk or the Internet, using technology help in the gathering of simple facts, using drill or practice activities, or even publishing by using software are all examples of typical use of technology in the classroom. None of these activities is exactly harmful, but they do not fit into the definition of best practices if our intent is to change the pedagogy of the classroom (Girod & Cavanaugh, 2001).
To further examine this lack of depth in instructional technology, we can consider the way in which most educators use the Internet. Students often spend time looking for facts, as if they were engaged in Trivial Pursuit ™ projects, when a shift in assignments could result in deep thinking and problem solving. Asking students to go online to find definitions is a start, but asking them to find out the "why" about a subject begins the move toward best practices. By designing web quests - Internet scavenger hunts - and involving students in actual web building activities, teachers will begin to see real learning and active engagement.
Technology projects that require creativity or collaboration fit more closely with the goal of increasing student learning. Consider the case of Karen as reported in TechLearning in an article by teacher Kent Mollberg (1999). Despite crippling handicaps due to a rare disease, Karen authored a book about herself that reached out to others around the world. She accomplished this through a technology assignment. Or examine the results of true collaborative learning in the story by Murphy (1999) in the same publication. A class writing a town history and communicating with others illustrates what happens when teacher move beyond application and amplification and into infusion.
When using software, students must be involved in simulations such as "Emergency" by the Tom Snyder Company. In this type of activity, students play roles and act as a team of doctors to save a patient in a hospital emergency situation. They must collaborate, share information, and solve math problems in order to diagnose the problem and decide on a system of treatment. At the same time, the students must describe how they came to their conclusions without using numbers, fulfilling the requirement of "writing across the curriculum" that is so popular in schools today. This type of activity is obviously superior to the practice of completing game after game of math skills. Combining even basic software with activities such as chemistry labs, and requiring students to record their findings, graph their results, enter information into a database, and share with others conducting similar experiments illustrate best practices and need to be expanded into…[continue]
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