Will Technology Really Change Education?: From Blackboard to Web
reviewed by Terence Ahern - 2001
Title: Will Technology Really Change Education?: From Blackboard to Web
Author(s): Todd W. Kent and Robert McNergney
Publisher: Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks
ISBN: 9780803966567, Pages: 80, Year: 1998
Search for book at Amazon.com
Teachers are caught on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand parents and school administrators, given all of the media hype, believe that technology will improve the way teachers teach and students learn. Consequently, public officials are demanding that they integrate computer and related technologies into the classroom. On the other hand, there is a vocal and growing dissent that questions the efficacy of computers and their related technology in the classroom. The dissenters question the ability of technology to deliver the quality and affordable instruction that has been promised. For example on a recent ABC Nightline entitled "The $50 Billion Gamble: Will computers improve public school education" it was established that in a school that had dramatically improved student performance, the 20 million dollars worth of technology had little to do with the school's improvement. Rather it was an old fashioned commitment to hiring, developing and providing necessary resources for teachers that was the source of the student success. The reality is that technology is here to stay. What teachers need is a balanced and thoughtful guide. A guide that will help them negotiate between the hyperbole on both sides of the issue so that they can effectively and appropriately integrate technology to effect a real and lasting change in the classroom.
Kent and McNergney have written a useful book entitled Will Technology really Change Education: From Blackboard to Web that attempts to guide teachers in how to effectively integrate and use technology in the classroom. This is a concise, but very timely and effective book that is useful for both inservice and preservice teachers. The book is written in five chapters and uses provocative questions to situate the debate in such a way as to make the text accessible to practitioners.
The authors ask four salient questions in Chapter 1: What do we know about the use of technology in education?; How does the current push for computer technologies compare with the histories of previous technologies in educational reform?; How can we use the knowledge of teaching to guide our use of technology?; and What role might technology play in the future of teacher education?
Chapter 2 gives us a very quick overview of technology use from two major perspectives: the use of technology in the school use and the use of technology in teacher education programs. According to Kent and McNergney there "is abundant anecdotal evidence of the successful use of technology in the classroom" (p. 6). Consequently, there is ample room for more systematic research. The second part of this chapter outlines the use of technology in teacher preparation programs. It seems rather obvious that the more teacher educators model the use of technology the more we will see technology integration once the new teachers enter the classroom.
One area that I would have liked to see discussed is the lack of congruency between the available resources that are sometimes present in teacher preparation programs and what is available in the schools. More often than not these are not in phase, either the college has better equipment than what is available in the local school or the reverse is true where the local school has superior hardware and software than what is available at the college. Consequently, a teacher is either not prepared or is not equipped to correctly integrate technology into the classroom. More often than not they tend to avoid the attempt. This might be the reason why teachers often indicate that they want more training on integrating technology in their instruction. One solution is to concentrate on the effective design of technology integration and not simply to concentrate on the technology.
Kent and McNergney in Chapter 4 address this issue by answering the question of "How can we use the knowledge of teaching to guide our use of technology". I found that this was the most provocative chapter of the book because it attempts to ground the integration of technology into the models of teaching. Technology becomes much more accessible by putting it into terms that teachers can use and can more easily incorporate into the design and delivery of instruction. Kent and McNergney write "Educators need to concentrate instead on learning how to use technology in context, or matching combinations of hardware and software to the needs and abilities of learners and to the objectives of instruction...Bruce Joyce and Marsha Weil (1973) made this claim years ago". (p. 35).
By using the models of teaching, teachers can adapt the technology to what learners need. Teachers are not required to be expert in particular software but can learn what they need to know in order to match the technology to the task. Further they are freed to incorporate whatever technology works for the particular task even it is not the latest version. As Kent and McNergney point out "teachers and teacher educators are not ignorant of what works in teaching. They are most likely to survive and prosper in this technological age when they listen to a set of values deeply rooted in professional knowledge of teaching, of learning and of the content to be mastered." (p. 39).
All in all this is a tremendous little book that helps to situate the integration of technology into the larger context of teaching. The focus of the book is well grounded. It will help teachers, both inservice and preservice, to better incorporate technology into their teaching by framing the issue in terms that they can use.
Koppel, T. (1998, September, 30). The $50 Billion Gamble: Will computers improve public school education. Nightline: ABC News