If we take the average cost of just one text, say a science text ($40), add 3-4 public domain novels (e.g. Huckleberry Finn at $5 ea.), and then a set of encyclopedias per classroom ($750), we find that even one small classroom of 25 students can save almost $2,000; which is now enough to purchase 4-5 computer stations at educational discount rates.
Math and Science teachers are often at the cutting edge of technology integration into the classoom, largely due to their networking and personal interests. The skills required to function at all levels in 21st century society are different than even those needed in the 1990s (Bitner, 2002). Primarily, this is due to the efffects of technology, cultural advancement and particularly how information is accessed, organized, proceeded, and distributed. In the 21st century classroom there are now far more motivating tools used to teach, reinforce, and apply what might be learned in science lessons. Students, frankly, often have inklings of certain types of technology (social networks, photo manipulation, Internet communication, etc.) before teachers. However, the manner in which technology is changing -- the half life of technology -- requires that science teachers especially keep up with trends. There are, admitedly, serious complex issues that may be overwhelming at times (firewalls, monitoring searching so it can be robust but protected, synergizing, etc.) (Erwin, 2004) but teachers have come up with ways of mitigating this situation more appropriately (See sample technological inegration plan in Appendix A). (Tiala, 2006):
Phase in the use of computers in the classroom. Develop expectations and skills slowly, but systematically.
Select high-quality software and appropriate websites that offer accurate information while still allowing students to learn to vet their own sources.
Plan lessons with content and objectives in mind. Then decide whether the use of a technological activity meets the desired goals of that lesson.
Make certain students are clear about the goals of the lessons; what they should fain, understand, and do after said lesson.
Students who are less proficient with computers should be partnered with those who are more skilled.
Focus on the lesson, not the mechanics -- boot software early, make sure all works prior to the lesson (McKee, 2005; Hamilton, 2007).
Using Technology to Improve Qualitative and Quantitative Methods - It is surprising to note that many teachers, even when tabulated at various stages of their careers, have strong opinions about certain qualitative and quantitative aspects of pedagogy, in both technical and humanity-based subjects. Most believe that integration of other core subjects will improve all sides of the equation, including allowing themselves, and other instructors, more time to focus on important activities within their core responsibilities. Despite a wide range of views, however, most agree that when implementing a constructivist approach to core subject education great care must be taken regarding the student's environment and intuition, lest there be more negative interpretations at the end of the lesson (Aguirre, 1990). The more robust the educational experience is, the better. Teachers now understand, though, that qualitative learning has its place in the science/math curriculum, as long as the scientific method is the primary focus; introduction of quantitiative research (analysis, trends, etc.) in the humanities have robust conculsions, too. The trend in integration is to establish a broad constructivist approach, but tweak based on individual student scores, abilities, grade level, and administrative maxims. Qualitative reasoning, for instance may guide a student towards a better understanding of the topic, but quantitative reasoning provides the data set necessary to cohesively prove any notion. This is part of the inquiry method which has validity in all core subjects. Qualitative reasoning is an excellent tool and needed throughout the curriculum, but when dealing with subjects that have tangible issues (math, science, etc.) quantitative data must buttress any qualitative argument. (Gardner, 1990). The modern classroom, with the availability of technology, is the perfect venue to merge these two approaches for much greater efficacy and interest in any subject.
Conclusions- The evidence is quite clear -- the increased use of technology in the modern classroom is a vital component for student success. Technological innovations:
Improve leardning and achivement in all types of schools, but particularly in urban schools where there is a high student to teacher ratio.
Across the board, ages, grades, etc., increasing technology in the classroom keeps the curriculum vital and increases student performance.
Technology helps new teachers to become highly qualified in their areas.
Study after study shows that performance on standardized assessments in reading, writing, science, and mathematics dramatically improves when technology is part of the learning process. Students in schools that push technology have at least a 5-10% lead over others (Bickford, 2005; Ringstaff and Keeley, 2002).
Learning standards in the contemporary classroom are far more robust than those of several decades ago. There is simply too much information in some subjects to master without help. Technology is a powerful tool that gives students access to vast amounts of information in ways neverbefore immaginable -- and allows students to take charge of their own learning and issues of curiosity. Students can visit almost any country in the world, see chemical reactions, travel through outer space, the sun in new ways, view physiological functions, and even see historial materials, museums, fine art, opera, and so much more -- all with the click of a button. Distance learning helps students who are ill or traveling keep up with their homework. Technology aids students who are having trouble with concepts, and allows gifted students a way to move beyond the assignment without teacher interaction. Teachers note that technological programs spawn "whole new units of inquiry" that excite students (Harouna and Keisch, 2004). Technological intervention also helps constructivisit and experiental activities. Students who participate in technologically-based programs demonstrate superior conceptional understanding and the ability to think beyond rote memorization (Effectiveness, 2000).
Finally, technology does not just make better students, it helps improve professional development and increase the teacher's tool box, too. The NCLB Act requires public teachers to meet their state's definition of "highly qualified teacher" for each core academic subject taught. Technology assists with state certifications, additional degrees, and competencies in core subjects. Just as students can find more information quickly and inexpensively, so can teachers. Technology brings teachers together as a networked community, regardless of location. Integrating technology also improves best practice skills within the classroom by offering far greater enrichment programs that can infuse sustained cognitive development over time. It also allows teachers to partner with major corporations (Intel, Microsoft) and organizations (Nova, Discovery Channel, National Geographic) to provide a more robust learning experience within their class (Martin, et.al., 2004).
All in all, the interface between educational technology and core curriculum subjects is both symbiotic and integral for the 21st century. Literacy in such advanced areas as weather and stock reports, medicine, psychology, advanced mathematics, vetting resources, literary analysis, and research have been enhanced by technology. With the half life of technology it is likely that, within the next decade, computer prices will fall so low that almost every school in the nation will be able to afford a laptop for every student (or its miniature equivalent). Technology has permeated all areas of our lives -- consider that a child entering school in 2010 will never have been without PDAs, powerful internet speeds, and the ability to multitaks using tools only dreamt about a decade ago. The more effective use of technology in the classroom, the more effective users will become part of society -- clearly a goal for all teachers and schools (Valdez, 2005).
Appendix 1 - Tactical Integration Plan-
Phase 1 -- Assess basic technology needs: computers or workstations, laptops, classroom write boards, etc. Aggregate plan based on classroom need (e.g. science classes may need priority over art classes, etc.). Work with Administration and budget. At the same time, form an Advocacy committee.
Phase 2 -- Community Advocacy Committee -- Working with local businesses and PTAs, work to find businesses or individuals who are upgrading their systems and willing to donate used equipment. Ensure that the school or district has an IT person who can wipe the drive, do a check, and get the system into working order. Consider fund-raising to provide 100% Wi Fi and Internet access costs.
Phase 3 -- Integrate teacher write boards into classes as quickly as possible. Ensure that each core subject classroom has at least 1 workstation for every 4-5 students, and then integrate a plan to decrease the student/computer ratio. Move older computers into classrooms that have less use for technology (e.g. music, art, physical education), and try to ensure that the higher grades have their own computer, or share with 1-2 students maximum.
Phase 4 -- Form Technology committee that searches out organizations who might Beta test software or products; online publishers who are interested in replacing texts with electronic books, and aggressively use the media and parent communication to ensure everyone is aware of…