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Using Technology Wisely: The Keys to Success in Schools

reviewed by Marilyn J. Staffo - 2006

coverTitle: Using Technology Wisely: The Keys to Success in Schools
Author(s): Harold Wenglinsky
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 0807745839, Pages: 112, Year: 2005
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Educators looking for research-based evidence for the effective use of instructional technology will want to examine Harold Wenglinsky’s book. The author uses both qualitative and quantitative research methodology to present evidence regarding the effective use of technology. The book provides qualitative descriptions of four schools effectively utilizing technology as one tool among many students employ when taught through constructivist-based instruction. The author is more convincing when he presents quantitative information based on an analysis of data from the 1996 and 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to show a positive association between science and mathematics scores and the utilization of technology in constructivist-based instruction.  He concludes that there is a negative or lack of association between science and mathematics scores, the utilization of technology, and traditional (or what Wenglinsky refers to as didactic) instruction. Wenglinsky found that it is more difficult to make inferences regarding the effective use of technology, teaching practices, and reading results.  He concludes that there was some positive association between the utilization of word processing for meta-analytic purposes such as revising drafts and NAEP reading performance. He claims that students perform worse on the NAEP reading assessment when technology is used only for reading stories and spell checking. The appendix provides details regarding the research methodology for the analysis of the NAEP data. Wenglinsky points out that the NAEP no longer collects data that indicates teacher pedagogy, so this type of study will not be able to be conducted for new NAEP data.

In addition to providing research results regarding effective technology use, Wenglinsky provides background on the standards movement, the educational technology movement, and the improvement of teacher quality movement, which he claims are interrelated. This section gives a thorough overview of the important legislation, reports, and influences on American education from the 1990s through today’s No Child Left Behind Act. Wenglinsky also introduces readers to the debate regarding the effectiveness of instructional technology.  

Constructivist educators will find this book useful for its evidence and arguments in support of constructivism. The author’s support of constructivist-based instruction is so strong that he should have included constructivism as a part of the title of the book.  Wenglinsky’s examination of NAEP results shows that students taught by teachers who utilize instructional practices based on constructivism perform better on the NAEP. The author addresses concerns about the digital divide and constructivism. He claims that “the real digital divide is between the constructivist uses to which white, affluent, and suburban students are exposed and the didactic uses to which minority, poor, and urban students are exposed” (p. 83). He decries the current federal government’s support of traditional instruction and calls for educators and others to “step up to the plate to support constructivist technology uses in inner-city schools so that these schools can produce a twenty-first-century workforce” (p. 84).  One concern is Wenglinsky’s dismissal of the discussion about the differences between teacher-centered and student-centered teaching practices as a way to distinguish between constructivist and traditional pedagogy.

This book is recommended for researchers investigating instructional technology effectiveness or the link between constructivism and instructional technology. The format of the book and the overview sections on education movements makes this a good supplementary text for instructional technology courses.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 5, 2006, p. 945-947
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12141, Date Accessed: 5/21/2022 9:29:46 AM

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About the Author
  • Marilyn Staffo
    Stillman College
    E-mail Author
    MARILYN J. STAFFO is an Associate Professor at Stillman College, where she teaches integration of instructional technology and field experience courses in the Teacher Education Program. She also serves as Project Director for the Faculty Advancement Program in Technology. Her research interests include instructional technology decision-making, technology in teacher education programs, and effective technology use for ELL students. Dr. Staffo coordinates Stillman’s annual Best Practices: Integration of Technology into Instruction Conference and has been recognized as an Alabama Best Practices Technology Innovator.
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