- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 15, 2007


Education is probably the most important element in a functioning democratic republic, one in which citizens are responsible for the maintaining of their individual freedoms balanced against the needs of society as a whole. To ensure that members of America’s communities have equal access to learning, schools must provide the same tools and information across socioeconomic groups. This is no easy feat.

Regardless of how well an education is delivered, each child will bring a different set of challenges to the table and every student will not take away the same experience. Still, a reasonable goal is to present everyone the opportunity to learn and be in a position to care for themselves and be responsible citizens.

While many people already take advantage of technological innovations, others, for myriad reasons, have not taken the steps to learn how to use these tools properly or to incorporate them into their everyday lives.

Though it is not an expectation that the average person integrate technology into their world, teachers have a responsibility to learn how to use computers and other devices so their students won’t be at a disadvantage. Not only can information be accessed and processed faster, but “intangible benefits such as high levels of satisfaction and motivation, improved self-esteem, are often noted as outcomes of technological innovation in education.” (The Costs of Educational Technology: A Framework for Assessing Change.)

On any given day, one can read about school districts trying to pass referenda to raise money for better facilities and higher pay for teachers. Discussion centers on limited supplies, inadequate working conditions or students lacking motivation. But despite the positive effects of merging technology and teaching, there are a number reasons that education veterans have poorly integrated technology into the curriculum.

Many “teachers are inclined to use technology in a manner that supports existing practices rather than to inform or transform their teaching,” (Stephen Rose, Journal of Technology and Teacher Education; 2007; 15, 2) More than ever, we need to rethink how we view education. Teachers must step outside their comfort zone and embrace the possibilities presented only by technology enabled education.

A paradigm shift is needed in education. According to “Visions 2020: Transforming Education and Training Through Advanced Technologies”:

c Next generation learning systems will allow learners to access live and recorded lectures from multiple sources.

c Performance-based assignments will allow learners and small groups to demonstrate expertise in tasks where they are strongly motivated to succeed.

c Sets of powerful tools will be developed allowing instructional designers to go from concept to operational systems quickly. They will also permit continuous upgrades and improvements as problems are discovered and new concepts are proposed and tested.

c The roles bundled in the job of today’s teachers are likely to be “unbundled” (lecturer, tutor, counselor, subject-matter expert, administrator, disciplinarian, record keeper, evaluator, curriculum designer) with many tasks performed by experts or specialized automated systems.

c Demonstrations of expert teaching will be readily available over the high-speed Internet, and let teachers see how other teachers have approached a subject and facilitate dialogues with their colleagues.

In the near future, “Teachers and students might be thousands of miles apart, yet … [f]acilitated by unobtrusive picture and sound display devices, the infrastructure will give them a strong sense of presence, as if they are actually in the room together.”

Graduate education programs should be using technology to teach degree candidates models of learning and assessment to measure the progress of students. Today’s classroom teachers should be prepared to interact with content material and perform inquiry-driven collaborative investigations.

All teachers should learn how to use technology in their teaching and learning, and be taught evidence-based methodologies to become more effective teachers — and to provide our nations’ students access to the knowledge and skills needed to take advantage of the most current technological innovations during the learning process. The alternative is to leave many children behind.


President of The Basics Project, (www.Basicsproject.org).

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