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The Computer Enters the Classroom

reviewed by Howard Budin - 1999

coverTitle: The Computer Enters the Classroom
Author(s): Presidentís Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology
Publisher: John Wiley, New York
ISBN: , Pages: , Year:
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In the early 1980s, when microcomputers began to enter American schools, there were so few of them that they were usually placed - at least at the elementary school level - in teachers' classrooms. A school might have a total of four or five Apple IIe's, possibly bought by the Parents' Association, and the teachers to whom they were given were not so sure whether they liked them or what to do with them. A couple of years later, when the school made a substantial investment in computers, the tendency became to group them in what schools called computer "labs." The original set was most likely also removed from the classrooms, even though the teachers in many cases had by now fallen in love with them. At this point, school principals were inclined to cite equity considerations: how would it look for one classroom benefit from a computer while its next-door neighbor did not?

The computer lab was a solution to a problem: how could schools most easily deal with an innovation about which school personnel had little knowledge and a lot of anxiety? The solution to this problem (as to others that have faced schools) was to isolate microcomputers in their own spaces, with their own teaching personnel, and their own curriculum (Budin and Taylor, 1996). The solution was an administrative one that had little connection to educational considerations.

Indeed, the biggest question about the labs seemed to be what software to use that would justify their existence. Drill and practice software in the form oflanguage and math games had little or no relation to what went on in the classroom and there was little (and confusing) evidence of its efficacy in increasing learning or achievement. Teaching programming to children (largely with the programming language LOGO) was a craze for a couple of years before schools dropped it, but in adapting it to traditional school practice, its intended use as a tool for discovery learning was transformed into another occasion for following instructions. And a large percentage of lab time was taken up in the teaching of "computer literacy;" that is, teaching about the computer itself rather than trying to relate it to the rest of the curriculum In many ways, the microcomputer seemed to be, as several educators have termed it, a solution in search of a problem. Isolating it in labs succeeded in reducing teachers' anxiety about how to use it, and in fact removed the necessity of educating teachers about it at all, since for the most part they dropped off their students at the lab door and didn't even know what went on in the lab.

Already by the end of the decade, the solution began to wear thin. For one thing, administrators had an increasingly hard time squeezing separate class periods for computer instruction into an already crowded schedule. For another, many educators began to question the separation of computer curriculum from the rest of the curriculum, and to demand that computers be "integrated" into existing curriculum. And in somewhat the same vein, outsiders began asking, What happened to the promised computer revolution? Instead of computers being a vehicle for higher-order thinking using databases and simulations, for communication and research, they were being used to teach about themselves, and this was a waste of school time (Tucker, 1986).

The blame for this development was distributed in several directions. The software was no good yet, the experts told us, and wasn't up to fulfilling the promises. Others pointed to the lack of adequate funding for hardware and software. More often, though, people identified teachers' fears of and lack of knowledge about computers as the biggest obstacle to success. This last criticism, as pervasive as it was through the end of the 1980s, as true as it might have been, left unanswered the question of why, with computers outside of their teaching responsibilities, teachers should know anything about them.

Until recently, schools have gotten their priorities backwards in terms of successful computer integration into school life. Thought and funding have been first to the machinery, next to the software, and third and fourth (in which order is not so clear) to staff development and planning for technology use. Logically, it seems that the question of the purposes of the technology should be most important, but this question implies a certain level of knowledge about technology that school personnel have traditionally lacked. Instead, as we have found over and over again, the chief and often only concern of administrators centered on what kind of hardware and software to buy. Exactly what this software would accomplish, or how to know it was accomplishing it, seemed too often to be ancillary to the discussion.

Finally, in the last couple of years, we have moved on to a new phase in which microcomputers are entering regular classrooms in substantial numbers. Propelled by the accumulating weight of criticism of computer labs, and fueled by the continuing purchase and mounting number of computers, schools are increasingly placing anywhere from one to five computers in each teacher's classroom.

On the surface a hopeful sign, this movement reveals underlying problems bequeathed by the past. All of a sudden, it seems, teachers are faced with the task of doing something worthwhile with their new machinery, and realizing that they lack expertise in operating the hardware and software. Another aspect of the problem for which teachers are unprepared is how to integrate software into everyday curriculum. Other issues, seemingly less important but in the everyday reality of classrooms crucial, concern where to put the computers, what kind of furniture to put them on, how to schedule students to use these limited resources, and what to do with the rest of the class. In sum, the migration of microcomputers into classrooms, while quite possibly a good idea in itself, is in danger of being handled by schools in an all-too-familiar style, as a top-down mandate which ignores the preparation required to make it work.

One element that has influenced schools to make this change is a perception that, finally, we have software applications attractive enough to entice all teachers to make good use of computers. A corollary is, of course, that until now the software has been inadequate. Now, however, the advent of multimedia capabilities and, even more, of the Internet and the World Wide Web have led us (as a society) to believe that computers will finally take their place as valuable educational tools. The pervasive media attention paid to the Web, and advocacy for it from high government officials, have led many to believe that this is finally the "breakthrough" application that will allow technology to take its rightful place as a key tool of educational reform.

It is worthwhile, though, to reflect on the brief history of microcomputers and to realize that, at every point, technology enthusiasts have tried to convince us of essentially the same thing -- that the most current species of software application would prove to be one that succeeded where others had failed. Larry Cuban has postulated that new technologies go through a series of stages in schools. Utopian expectations at first lead to massive funding, but disappointment with results then leads to "teacher-bashing" - blaming teachers for being afraid, unwilling, or just unable to use the technology. The level of use then sinks to minimal levels (Cuban, 1986). Cuban dealt mainly with film, radio, and television, but I would argue that through the 1980s, microcomputers went through a series of similar mini-phases, as cadres of enthusiasts told us that programming, simulations, database creation, and other applications were the best educational use of computers. Expectations for each quickly led to disappointment, and just as quickly to a fixation of some new application as the answer.

The past is not a blueprint for the future, and it may be that multimedia and telecommunications really are the applications that schools have been waiting for. However, if history is any kind of guide, we should be wary of such claims in and of themselves. It is true that these new applications have captured the imagination of the media and the public, and that lavish amounts are being spent to wire schools and connect them to the Internet. At the moment, we seem to be in the midst of a national consensus that this use of technology should be heavily funded. But what will happen, one or two years down the line, if the "results" of this funding -- in terms of test scores, students' writing, or other measures -- fail to live up to the publics' expectations (as nebulous as these may be)? In these circumstances, a backlash against continued massive spending would seem likely (McClintock, 1997). What are we doing to avoid such a backlash? Again, if history is a guide, so far we are not doing nearly enough. Our efforts have been largely concentrated on the mechanics and the financing of and connections, while issues such as curriculum, teacher preparation, and research have gotten minor attention.

Fortunately, the confluence of circumstances presents us with an opportunity, and a challenge, to rethink our approach to integrating new technology into schools. The very act of putting computers into classrooms, while the short-term effect may be to produce high levels of anxiety among teachers, at the same time makes it imperative that we reconceptualize virtually every area of computer use: students' and teachers' roles in using computers; how technology fits into curriculum; what teachers should know about computers and how they will learn about them; and how we should their use. In the past, much of the literature about educational computing was written from the point of view of the technological expert. In this kind of writing, schools typically exhorted to adopt different uses of computers because the experts validated their worth. This kind of "top-down" writing may have appealed to those already familiar with and enthusiastic about computers, but for the most part it was ignored by people in schools. Written by experts, it was good on the possibilities of computer software, but it was not written for teachers, and it typically ignored the contexts and the reality of school life and culture.

Recently, however, a new type of literature has begun to emerge that proceeds from the premise that computers are to be used by teachers, in classrooms. This literature assumes, first of all, that teachers must be fully prepared to use the machines. Further, it assumes that understanding how this technology fits into the world of the classroom is as important as understanding the technology's possibilities. Finally, and perhaps most important of all, it takes a definite stand on the best use of technology for supporting learning. Whereas older literature tended to shy away from issues of educational philosophy, implying that technology could support almost any kind of pedagogical orientation, this new literature asserts that the best use of technology is to transform education from a traditional, didactic paradigm to a student- and inquiry-centered, or constructivist, paradigm.

The recent "Report to the President on the Use of Technology to Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States" sets the tone. Written by the Panel on Educational Technology of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, this is the first government publication that I know of to advocate use of technology with a constructivist educational paradigm: students construct their own knowledge and skills; higher-order thinking and problem-solving are emphasized; skills are integrated into real-world tasks; depth versus coverage are promoted; and information is made available when needed for accomplishing educational tasks. While admitting that the effectiveness of constructivism is largely unproven and in need of research, the authors consistently recommend it. Linking technology to a constructivist orientation means using software tools to manipulate symbols and data to problems. It means providing environments for facilitating group interaction. It means simulating devices, systems, environments, and events. It means accessing information in new forms and communicating worldwide. All of these types of activity, the authors maintain, are possible without technology, but technology both facilitates and enhances their possibilities.

The authors also are quite clear about the inadequacy of past efforts to educate teachers about technology. Too little, they say, has been spent on such efforts, in proportion to funds hardware and software, and instruction has too frequently focused on narrow technical concerns rather than on curriculum and teaching issues. In contrast, "what teachers actually need is in-depth, sustained assistance as they work to integrate computer use into the curriculum and confront the tension between traditional methods of instruction and new pedagogic methods that make extensive use of technology." (p. 49)

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this Report is the panel's awareness that we are just beginning "to ascend what is likely to be a relatively steep learning curve" in terms of the effects of technology on education (p. 64). Although computer technology has been in American schools for more than twenty , there are several reasons why we simply can't conclude much about its effectiveness in increasing learning. For one thing, the technology changes so rapidly that we barely have time to adjust to one level of computing before we are faced with the next. For another, the changing context of computer use -- from lab to classroom -- substantially changes the conditions of learning with and from the computer. Third, and largely due to these two factors, past research largely failed to address the question of learning effects. As many researchers have pointed out, we may not even be sure of the best ways research these new technologies (see Salomon and Gardner, 1986)

The authors of the Report are fully aware of all these factors, and they are especially strong in emphasizing the need for a wide-ranging and fully funded program of research, recommending "that the federal government dramatically increase its investment in research aimed at discovering what actually works, not only with respect to the application of educational technology, but in the field of elementary and secondary education in general" (p. 83). Arguing that educational research of all types has been historically underfunded, they call for investing annually in research at the rate of 0.5 percent of all spending on and secondary education, which would have come to about $1.5 billion in 1997 (p. 130). Their wide-ranging program (which they recommend be planned and overseen by a panel of distinguished experts appointed by the President) includes research on constructivist learning and other pedagogical approaches, formative research aimed at developing new products and approaches to using technology, and large-scale empirical studies to determine effectiveness of various approaches.

For its emphasis on placing technology in a constructivist context, on integrating technology seamlessly into school curriculum, and on giving special attention to teacher education and research, this Report should be required reading for teachers, administrators, and teacher educators. It also contains valuable sections of costs of technology and realistic budgeting, and on ensuring universal and equitable access to technology.

The Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow project worked for over a decade with a set of classrooms around the country. Apple supplied these classes with computers in the classroom for every student and teacher (plus computers to take home), staff development and specialist services. They also kept detailed records, and from these has come "Teaching with Technology: Creating Student-Centered Classrooms." The heart of this book is a sequence of five stages through which it says ACOT teachers progressed in their journey from traditional or didactic teaching to a constructivist pedagogy in which teachers act as facilitators. The importance of the book is that it claims to show that the introduction of the computer technology was responsible for this shift.

ACOT claims that when it began its project it had no preconceived ideas or bias about what instruction and learning would look like in its classes. The aim, it says, was solely to support teachers with technology. But over the years project leaders began to see that the technology was pushing teachers toward constructivist teaching. As they accumulated records, in the form of observations, teacher logs, and students' work, they formulated five stages of integrating technology into teaching:

The Entry stage describes a period in which teachers are not yet comfortable with computers and typically don't use it. At this stage they still use traditional methods in their teaching. When technology is made available to them, these teachers are often frustrated with the management and discipline issues that come up.
When teachers begin to use the technology, it is to support traditional teaching methods. This behavior characterizes the Adoption phase, in which students continue to receive teacher-centered lessons. Occasionally, students will use the computers for drill-and-practice activities. Teachers in this stage have typically mastered initial management issues associated with a changed educational environment, but have not made significant modifications to their teaching style.
In the Adaptation stage, productivity emerges as a major issue. Teachers discover that they can use technology to speed up the coverage of the curriculum. This leaves more time for higher-order thinking. Students use computers to produce more sophisticated writing. Teachers find that they have to alter some of their instructional methods to provide better feedback and evaluation of student work.
The Appropriation stage occurs when teachers understand technology well enough to use it as a tool to develop new methods of instruction. Teachers take advantage of the computer's communications and collaboration features. As a result more cooperative learning and sharing occurs in the classroom. Students become more actively involved in their own learning.
The final stage in this model is not reached by all teachers. The Invention level characterizes teachers who use technology to develop new learning environments. These teachers have worked through their feelings and ideas about the nature of instruction, and are ready and willing to implement fundamental changes in teaching and learning.

This bare summary cannot describe the stages fully. The power of this study lies in its rich data which give the reader a good picture of what it means to work through issues of management, delivery of instruction, and the nature of learning with technology. In the first stage, for instance, we hear teachers agonizing over the problems technology brings with it - space allocation, students leaving their seats, the time required to do anything with computers. Later, we get a good sense of the practical details of how technology might necessarily change one's teaching. A traditional teacher, for example, who engages on a project involving the production of written materials suddenly finds herself confronting the issue of how to manage the printing. Students volunteer to stand by the printer and monitor the process, and indeed it becomes clear that this will be necessary, even though normally the teacher would have all the students in their . Thus can begin the path toward rethinking the way the classroom works.

What is controversial about this thesis, of course, is its claim that technology causes a move toward constructivist teaching. The "Report to the President" advocated such a change, but most who agree will typically limit themselves to describing how technology can enhance such a change. It should be noted, however, that a couple of factors tend to limit the universality of ACOT's claims. First is the amount of technology available. Most of us struggle with how manage in one-, two-, or possibly three-computer classrooms. ACOT classrooms had one for each child. Under such circumstances, one might think, it would be difficult for technology not to change one's teaching substantially. Second, despite the authors' claims of observer and support staff neutrality toward of instruction, we cannot be sure that all the extra people supplied by ACOT did not in some way help move the teachers toward constructivism. In any case, it is difficult to assess what effect such personnel riches might have had.

Notwithstanding these unusual conditions, the book is extremely valuable for giving us a vision of how the integration of technology might work. The richness of the qualitative data has been rarely equaled in studies of classroom technology, and it rewards the reader with many insights into what teachers might typically go through. And the promulgation of this stage model in itself is a valuable contribution, which ought to make us all think closely about how, when, and if these stages might actually occur. We might find, for instance, that - contrary to the ACOT experience with its wealth of technology - in ordinary schools teachers need preparation, encouragement, or other factors to progress through such stages.

In any case, this work provides much grounds for optimism. Even Larry Cuban, who has often expressed doubt about technology's possible benefits to education, states in his Foreword, "No skeptic, after reading this book, can ignore the solid evidence that the authors provide of deep, lasting changes in teaching practices…that occurred over time in the classrooms they described."

The two books described so far are noteworthy for placing the computer in the context of the individual classroom, thereby setting the stage for a discussion of how this technology might relate to real school curriculum. Another recent work, "Technology and the Future of Schooling," broadens this context considerably. As do other Yearbooks of the National Society for the Study of Education, this work seeks to provide a comprehensive background for understanding a particular aspect of education. has been characterized by its attempt to downplay the societal and Technology as an American enterprise historical contexts into which it fits, as though technology acts autonomously in supplying new inventions and benefits to the public. This misconception makes work like the NSSE Yearbook particularly necessary. Editor Stephen T. Kerr has assembled essays by prominent figures in such diverse areas as history, communication theory, school financing, cognitive science, research, and school practice. This combination offers a well-rounded background that is lacking in other works that concentrate only on the computer in the school.

Kerr opens the volume with an admirable essay that forces us to think of educational technology in terms of bigger questions: What do we expect from technology? What are school computers good for? How should they be used? If we expect teachers to use technology intelligently, they must be aware of the long history of (mostly unrealistic) expectations we have held about technology in this country. Some of this used to covered in what was called in the 1980s "computer literacy" but which has since dropped out of favor. What Kerr is trying to remedy is our decontextualizing of technology that we find in assumptions that technology is inherently good, value-free and worse, as he puts it, the assumption that "if technology makes it possible to do something, then that thing should be done" (p. 1). The bulk of the essay outlines a variety of positions: what we have thought about technology, the possibilities we see for technology in schools, and the constraints on technology -- those things technology might prevent us from doing. Perhaps the strongest part of this essay, though, is its concluding "Toward a Person-Centered Vision for Technology in Education." Here Kerr reminds us that our educational vision should be focused firmly on human, rather than technical, considerations. We should thus always place human values over "economic or socially expedient ends" for education, should make educational ends the criterion for selecting and using software, and we should not let computers be used as a "quick fix" for educational problems. Finally, Kerr urges us to address the issues that new technologies bring up about using information within systems -- can we ensure that electronic information is used openly and democratically rather than as an enhancement to bureaucratic functioning? (p. 25)

Other essays in this work also provide essential contexts. Howard Segal, who has written extensively about technology in our nation's past, summarizes our historical attitudes and expectations, especially as we have expected technology to create American versions of utopia. Kerr and Kathleen Westbrook analyze how we have thought about funding school technology in the past and present, what models we have developed for this purpose, and how we might need to our thinking for the future. Gavriel Salomon and David Perkins explain clearly a set of key ideas from cognitive research as they apply to learning with technology. Nira Hativa and Alan Lesgold show in detail how research into the use of computer software with students does not always show them learning what we expect them to, and thus how doing research about learning with technology is more complex that we usually assume. In an essay translated by the Editor, V.V. Rubtsov and A.A. Margolis, two Russian psychologists, present a Russian perspective on how and why computers should be used in learning environments, drawing heavily on the work of Vygotsky. John Newsom, a district technology coordinator, gives us a rich case study of his district's experience with computers, showing the personal and political dynamics of change.

Perhaps the most unexpected contribution of this volume is the piece by Joshua Meyerowitz on the work of Marshall McLuhan and "medium theory," part of which has been developed by Meyerowitz himself. For those who remember, McLuhan's theories gained a brief popularity in the 1960's, and since then have been widely dismissed by scholars and forgotten by the public. But, Meyerowitz argues, much of what McLuhan claimed has become accepted, and the kinds of restructuring McLuhan called for no longer seem unusual. Meyerowitz's essay explicates the way media help shape society, in particular how they structure the roles we play in everyday life.

Altogether the essays in this NSSE Yearbook combine to give us a much more rounded idea of what it means to use technology in schools. They do this by grounding this one phenomenon - the classroom computer - in several essential contexts of thought and practice. In my view, the work as a whole delivers one message: there is no such thing as the technology by itself. Technology is not a neutral force in our lives, and to be understood it must be situated in social, psychological, political, historical, economic, and practical contexts. This work succeeds admirably in doing this.

Another Apple-funded project, considerably different from the ACOT classrooms, is the subject of "Computers in the Classroom." Author Andrea Gooden was the manager of the Apple Education Grants program, which for years gave computer equipment to schools through a national competition that emphasized good ideas about how to use the computers in a school's curriculum. Here Gooden presents vignettes of six successful schools, chosen for their diversity. Schools in Newark, New York City, Philadelphia rural Louisiana, agricultural California, and an Indian Reservation in South Dakota exhibit a large variety of cultures, problems, and needs.

The book uses a holistic approach to present each school; description, history, interviews with teachers and students combine to give us a rich context. Although the schools are very different from one another, there are similarities between them. Most obviously, of course, each received Apple Macintoshes and use them heavily. More interesting, however, is the way they use them. What this book emphasizes, more than anything else, is the need for a vision in which to place technology, a vision which focuses first on a rich curriculum and second on how the technology fits into it. The elementary school in Louisiana, for example, uses the computers to initiate a project to collect local culture and stories and make HyperCard stacks with them. The California high school attaches the computers firmly to a panoply of occupational programs - design, agriculture, writing - and raises the number of its college-bound students. South Dakota students created books and presentations that explored their culture and history.

Having a good idea, though, was only one part of these schools' success with computers.

They also had at least one teacher - and an administrator - who were enthusiastic about the possibilities, and these were able to excite other teachers, so that the project spread throughout the schools. Many teachers found themselves rejuvenated, as it were, by learning the technology and what it could contribute.

Another element that contributed to success was a tool-based approach. All of the schools used the computer as a tool - for writing, designing, creating products, calculated and measuring - rather than as a means to drill students. This approach connected computers to real and interesting experiences for students, and provided an environment in which all kinds of learning (including drill and practice) could thrive. In several of the schools, especially in the high schools, computers were based in lab settings rather than classrooms. But this turns out not to be nearly as important a determinant of success as the connection of the technology to real curriculum projects and the tight involvement of teachers. The argument against labs in other schools is that the lab has been an arrangement which separates computers from classroom curriculum; these schools integrated technology regardless of where it was located.

As the author points out, Apple's intention in this project was to "focus our attention on a holistic approach to solving important social, cultural, pedagogical, and economic problems" in our schools (p. 155). In doing so, Apple, to its credit, realized that what works for one school may be very different from what works for others; the entire school context must be considered in planning for technology - and everything else. It is not exactly that computers solved these problems. Local history and culture, for instance, can clearly be collected without this technology. Rather, as the book plainly shows, computers add new and valuable tools on the one hand, and on the other an excitement on the part of students and teachers that can easily serve as a catalyst for change and improvement. This book serves as a wonderful set of success stories that may well inspire other schools - not to imitate its examples, but to look for their own solutions.

The title of the final book, "Technology in the Classroom," accurately describes its intent. Some collections of articles seem diffuse, often lacking an identifiable point, but editor Tom King has selected these eleven offerings to promote one particular point of view: the computer belongs in the classroom, and that teachers should be maximally involved with using them and planning for their use. In general, this is the view of all the other books reviewed here, but this volume is unique in its practitioner-based approach. These articles are written for and by classroom teachers, and reflect real classroom conditions. The editor, a former public school administrator and technology director in Minnesota, was involved with the "lighthouse" Saturn School of Tomorrow in St, named after the successful site-based management practices of General Motor's Saturn automobile plant. Textbook-free and technology-rich, the Saturn School received much publicity for its innovative approaches to curriculum integration and the variety of ways it used computers in the life of the school. Articles in the book describe this school and other exemplary projects around the country, as well as arguments about the impact of technology on schools and society. Articles on the "infosphere," the "knowledge society, virtual reality and multiple intelligences provide a sound context for arguments about why and how computers should be employed in classrooms.

There are too many articles here to summarize each, but one may exemplify the kind of instructional focus the volume advocates. Dawn Morden, a teacher in Altoona, Pennsylvania, a telecommunications-based "extended real-life simulation" of journeying around the world. Through the use of telecommunications, students chart a voyage, plan itineraries and expenses, communicate and get information about different cultures. But telecommunications is not the whole of experience. Students first read literature like Walt Whitman's "Song of the Open Road," plan farewell parties for themselves, and keep journals of their travels. They also use other computer simulations like Oregon Trail to help them get ideas for their own simulations. Thus the technology meshes with rest of the curriculum to provide authentic and fascinating problem-solving experiences. As the author explains, the project - called Crossroads of the World - "because I, like many other teachers, saw a problem and wanted to give my students more reliable, enjoyable experiences in learning." It is this emphasis on good curriculum first, and then on how technology can help accomplish it, that distinguishes this and the other examples in this book.

This new genre of educational technology literature coheres around a set of three major themes. One involves contextualizing the use of computers in schools. America as a society has always relied heavily on technology to supply solutions to economic, political, social, and educational problems. But in the past we have assumed that a given technology will accomplish its potential automatically, simply by virtue of placing it appropriately. As historians Carey and Quirk (1970, p. 396) have noted, "At the root of the misconceptions about technology is the benign assumption that the benefits of technology are inherent in the machinery itself so that political strategies and institutional arrangements can be considered minor." By now we seem to be moving past this stage of technological naiveté, and we know that the practice of technology is itself an integral part of the technology (Pacey, 1983).

Another theme emphasizes the role of teachers in using technology, and in their active part in shaping curriculum by means of technology. This is an integral step in contextualizing educational technology. The practice of technology is now seen to involve the thoughts, the voice, and the experience of classroom teachers. In the past, the kind of staff development needed by teachers to use technology was problematic, because it was not clear how teachers would be involved with technology, or even whether they would be involved at all. In consequence, staff development tended too often to consist of routinized training in using applications, without reference to teachers' unique needs or wishes (Budin and Meier, 1998). Part of the message of the new literature is that what and how teachers learn about technology must be connected to their regular, ongoing classroom practice, and that teachers must be actively involved in every step of the process, from planning to implementation.

The third theme focuses on the character of the curriculum which should serve as the context for technology. In the past, when technology was regarded as a neutral tool (just like a pencil or a ruler), the nature of the curriculum was not as issue, because in this view one kind of curriculum is no better or worse than other. The new view begins with a vision of what curriculum and learning should be, and looks for ways to attach technology to this vision. And this is how it should be, for too often in the past the purchase and implementation of technology in schools proceeded without the benefit of any particular vision or purpose, which too often led to later dissatisfaction and charges of wasting precious funds. If technology is to succeed in schools, a clear idea of why and how we can use it is prerequisite (Budin and Taylor, 1996). The new literature brings to the surface a direct linking of technology and constructivist thought which has heretofore been only an undercurrent.

Thus the new literature brings a sense of context and purpose to educational technology. It places computers squarely in the hands of teachers and connects it to their curricula. In many cases we see teachers developing new curriculum ideas and activities, and in others we see them seeking ways to make technology serve curriculum that already works for them. As several of these works note, we are just at the beginning of this journey - we cannot yet see all the implications, all the problems, and all the solutions that will evolve when teachers really take control of technology. We have a long way to go until this happens, but this literature points the way and reflects the educational currents that may make it happen.

References: Budin, H. and E. Meier (1998). School Change Through Technology: The Role of the Facilitator. Technology and Teacher Education Annual 1998. Charlotteville, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.
Budin, H. and R.P. Taylor (1996). Decision Making for Technology. In P.S. Hlebowitsh and W.G. Wraga (Eds.), Annual Review of Research for School Leaders. New York: Scholastic.
Carey, J.W., and Quirk, J.J. (1970). The Mythos of the Electronic Revolution. The American Scholar, 39, Spring/Summer 1970, 219-241, 395-424.
Cuban, L. (1986). Teachers and Machines: The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920. New York: Teachers College Press.
McClintock, R. (1997). The American Experience: A Look Ahead at the Future of ICT in Education. Address at the Information and Communication Technology Conference, Congrescentrum De Blije Werelt, Lunteren, The Netherlands, November 8, 1997.
Pacey, A. (1983). The Culture of Technology. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Salomon, G. and H. Gardner (1986). The Computer as Educator: Lessons from Television Research. Educational Leadership, January 1986, pp. 13-19).
Tucker, M.S. (1986). Computers in the Schools: What Revolution? Journal of Communication, Fall 1986.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 100 Number 3, 1999, p. 656-669
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10352, Date Accessed: 10/16/2021 8:29:30 AM

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About the Author
  • Howard Budin
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    Howard Budin directs the Center for Technology and School Change at Teachers College, Columbia University, which works directly with schools and teachers to help them integrate technology effectively into school curriculum. He also teaches in the Program in Computing and Education at Teachers College.
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