Skip over navigation
Visit the NCREL Home Page

Critical Issue: Promoting Technology Use in Schools

This Critical Issue was developed by Jan Gahala, M.A., technical specialist in NCREL's Communications department.

Pathways Home

ISSUE: Although there has been a strong push to get educational technology into the hands of teachers and students, many obstacles to implementation still exist. Equipment may not be placed in easily accessible locations. Hardware and software often pose problems for teachers in the classroom, and just-in-time technical support may be unavailable. Teachers may lack the time and the motivation to learn technology skills. Professional development activities may not provide ongoing, hands-on training for teachers or practical strategies for implementing technology into lesson plans. Initial technology funding may not be sustained and thus not capable of providing upgrades, maintenance, and ongoing professional development. Fortunately, these obstacles can be addressed and overcome. This Critical Issue provides practical information for promoting technology use in schools.

Overview | Goals | Action Options | Pitfalls | Different Viewpoints | Cases | Contacts | References

OVERVIEW: The push to provide technology in schools has been successful in recent years. According to Goldman, Cole, and Syer (1999), most schools have computer labs and many have computers in every classroom. More than 90 percent of all schools are connected to the Internet, and more than 33 percent of teachers have Internet access in their classrooms. Yet teachers readily admit that they are not making as much use of technology as they could. According to an Education Week survey, nearly 30 percent of teachers said their students use computers only one hour per week; nearly 40 percent said their students do not use computers in the classroom at all (Trotter, 1999). Although technology is more prevalent in the schools, several factors affect whether and how it is used. Those factors include placement of computers for equitable access, technical support, effective goals for technology use, new roles for teachers, time for ongoing professional development, appropriate coaching of teachers at different skill levels, teacher incentives for use, availability of educational software, and sustained funding for technology.

Placing Computers for Equitable Acess

Access to technology is an important issue for teachers and students. Although schools may have computers available, one factor that determines their use is where those computers are located. If computers are connected to the Internet but are not in a convenient location, the availability to students and teachers will be limited. To make the best use of limited connections and equipment, schools can explore various strategies for allocating computers.

The standard computer lab is commonly used in schools. If the use of the computer lab is carefully scheduled, it will provide high equipment utilization; on the other hand, keeping the computers in one place may be a barrier to using them on a continual but intermittent basis as a part of the curriculum.

Some schools prefer to place computers in the regular classroom. These computers often are distributed through incremental roll-out. In incremental roll-out, technology is given to a limited number of classrooms at first and then expanded to an additional classroom each year. Sometimes the computers are distributed on a grade-by-grade basis with primary grades first and upper grades later receiving the most up-to-date equipment. This approach requires continual, yearly funding.

Another practical strategy is to have computers available through mobile computer labs. In this strategy, the computers are placed on small carts or desks with wheels so they can be moved to the area of need. Even though some educators believe that computers should be equally distributed throughout the school so all teachers have equal access, mobile computer labs offer a workable approach. Teachers may find that they do not need access at the same time and would rather pool their resources to give each of them a critical mass of computers at varying times. For elementary teachers, a critical mass to support meaningful technology integration might be six to eight computers; for secondary teachers, a critical mass might be 10 to15 computers (McKenzie, 1999). The mobile computer lab allows teachers to have enough computers for projects when they need them and the classroom space when they do not.

In some schools, however, each classroom may be allocated only one computer. Teachers in such situations learn how to survive in a one-computer classroom. One strategy is to set up different workstations for students to use when working on a project. Access to a computer with an Internet connection or CD-ROM capabilities may be one workstation, and other resources can be available at other workstations. Students can rotate from one workstation to the next. Another strategy is for students who are using the computer to gather material; they can print out the material and read it at a later time instead of trying to read it online. Other options include allowing students to use the computer during free time or when they finish their class work. A valuable tool for a one-computer classroom is a projector or large monitor that teachers can use to make the computer screen more visible to students; the teacher can use the computer or have students take turns using it, and the increased visibility enables the rest of the class to see their efforts.

Some schools have chosen to start with their Internet connection in the school library. This location necessitates that the library-media specialist is aware of educational sites to supplement students' classroom activities. The library-media specialist also needs to work with teachers and the technology specialist to determine the best use of the equipment. In situations where software also is a limited commodity, the school library may house and catalog the software, as is done with other educational materials. This situation makes the software available to all teachers and allows teachers flexibility in assigning work to students.

Whatever decisions are made on allocation of equipment, it is imperative that all staff members are included in the decision making and that long-term plans are made for acquisition and upgrading of materials. Such collaborative decision making and planning helps ensure staff buy-in, equity of access, and effective use of technology in teaching and learning.

Providing Technical Support

Without continuous technical support, technology integration in the classroom will never be satisfactorily achieved (Bailey & Pownell, 1998). Most teachers have heard horror stories about equipment failure, software complexity, data loss, embarrassments, and frustration. They don't want to be left hanging with 30 students wondering why nothing is working the way it is supposed to be. When teachers are trying to use technology in their classrooms and they encounter difficulties, they need immediate help and support. "Helping technology users while they are actively engaged with technology at their work location is probably the most meaningful, essential and appreciative support that can be provided," advises Brody (1995, p. 137).

Timing is everything, particularly when it comes to technology. "Real learning takes place (or stops) when actually trying the new skills," states McKenzie (1998). "The best way to win widespread use of new technologies is to provide just-in-time support, assistance, and encouragement when needed. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Now!"

Infrastructure repair or upgrades must be responsive and well timed. Frequent occurrences of a server being down, printers jammed, or insufficient computer memory will not only disrupt instructional and administrative activities but also may undermine the entire technology program. According to Technology and Education Reform, a U.S. Department of Education report by Singh and Means (1994), "If technical problems arise frequently and teachers have to wait hours, days, or weeks to get them resolved, they will abandon their efforts to incorporate technology."

Perhaps the best situation is having a technical specialist in the building whose role is to provide technical support on a full-time basis. "Hiring an on-site technology coordinator is the single most effective action a school administration can take when embarking on technology integration," contends Clifford (1998). He describes a technology coordinator as a "fearless soul who can find the answers to hundreds of questions, clear paper jams, install software, cajole the faculty into trying new ideas, team-teach, and wait on 'hold' with vendors for countless minutes." Other responsibilities could include designing ongoing staff development, planning hardware and software purchases, and determining when outside technology experts must be called in.

Determining Effective Goals for Technology Use

Technology is not transformative on its own. Evidence indicates that when used effectively, "technology applications can support higher-order thinking by engaging students in authentic, complex tasks within collaborative learning contexts" (Means, Blando, Olson, Middleton, Morocco, Remz, & Zorfass, 1993). Instead of focusing on isolated, skills-based uses of technology, schools should promote the use of various technologies for sophisticated problem-solving and information-retrieving purposes (Means & Olson, 1995).

In other words, new technology can be an appropriate vehicle for promoting meaningful, engaged learning. It allows students to work on authentic, meaningful, and challenging problems, similar to tasks performed by professionals in various disciplines; to interact with data in ways that allow student-directed learning; to build knowledge collaboratively; and to interact with professionals in the field. Technologies also can be used to promote the development of higher-order thinking skills and allow opportunities for teachers to act as facilitators or guides and often as a co-learner with the students.

In the classroom, teachers can develop a myriad of technology-supported engaged learning projects that enable students to solve real-world problems, retrieve information from online resources, and connect with experts. Such projects can be adapted for all grade levels. For example, a teacher can share an author's Web site with young children to help them understand how writers make their stories interesting and fun to read. Middle-school students can use e-mail and teleconferencing to connect with experts to solve science problems. High-school students can develop a mock technology company and use the Internet, scanners, and presentation software to plan and deliver speeches to stockholders.

Before technology can be used effectively for engaged learning, however, the school needs to ensure that the technology supports the educational goals for students. The school's initial task is to develop a clear set of goals, expectations, and criteria for student learning based on national and state educational standards, a profile of the student population, and community concerns. Then the school can determine the types of technology that will support efforts to meet those goals. In other words, the learning goals should drive the technology use.

Rather than using technology for technology's sake, the school can develop a vision of how technology can improve teaching and learning. For example, word processing and e-mail promote communication skills; modeling software promotes the understanding of science and math concepts; database and spreadsheet programs promote organizational skills; CD-ROMs and the Internet promote inquiry skills.

Various tools help schools determine their proficiency in using technology for engaged learning. The Learning With Technology Profile Tool can be used to compare current instructional practices with a set of indicators for engaged learning and high-performance technology. Another tool for measuring the quality of technology use is the National Educational Technology Standards developed by the International Society for Technology in Education. Two sections of this document, Technology Foundation Standards for All Students and Profiles for Technology-Literate Students, can serve as guidelines for planning technology-based activities in various grade levels.

Accepting New Roles for Teachers in the Classroom

Technology integration brings changes to teachers' instructional roles in the classroom. The teacher's roles in a technology-infused classroom often shift to that of a facilitator or coach rather than a lecturer (Henriquez & Riconscente, 1998). Technology use also tends to foster collaboration among students (Tinzmann, 1998). Scheffler and Logan (1999) document these and other changes in the dynamics of the classroom.

As students become more self-directed, teachers who are not accustomed to acting as facilitators or coaches may not understand how technology can be used as part of activities that are not teacher-directed. This situation may be an excellent opportunity for the teacher not only to learn from the student but also to model being an information seeker, lifelong learner, and risk taker. Kozma and Schank (1998) note, "Teachers must become comfortable letting students move into domains of knowledge where they themselves lack expertise, and they must be able to model their own learning process when they encounter phenomena they do not understand or questions they cannot answer" (p. 22).

Providing Time for Ongoing Professional Development

Learning the new roles and ways of teaching that go hand-in-hand with technology integration requires that teachers have opportunities to participate in an extended process of professional development. Teachers need time to acquire technology skills and develop new teaching strategies for integrating technology into the classroom. Except for occasional inservice programs, teachers often have no time built into the school day for their own professional development.

Professional development time is especially important when teachers are learning new technology skills, notes Renyi (1996):

"This time for learning is especially important as schools incorporate information and multimedia technologies into the classroom. When a school proposes to install these technologies, each teacher must become adept at their use, identify appropriate hardware and software for his or her subject matter and students, and sit down to work on the computer. Learning to use new technologies well is accomplished best when teachers have time available to learn in a variety of ways. Teachers need large blocks of time to gain initial familiarity with new hardware or software, learning and practicing for sustained periods. Time to observe an experienced user model an application in his or her classroom, time to design a new hypermedia stack, or time for group reflection on a recently tried application--all recommended approaches to professional development--should be made available every day." (p. 12)

When professional development activities are conducted after school, teachers may not have the energy necessary for engaging in learning. Burgos (1998) notes, "The research on staff development tells us that it's least effective when it's done at the end of the school day." Some researchers suggest that the ideal time for teachers to participate in professional development activities is during the summer, when students are not a consideration and teachers do not have as many demands on their time. But teachers are more likely to apply new instructional strategies if they receive feedback and support while trying the new strategies in their classrooms.

Some researchers advocate embedding professional development time into the school day and school year to maximize its impact. Strategies for professional development time include freed-up time, restructured or rescheduled time, common time, better-used time, purchased time, and volunteer time.

Coaching Teachers at Different Skill Levels

A school may be home to educators with a wide variety of skill levels in technology: computer gurus anxious to put the capabilities of the newest hardware and software to use; moderate technocrats, who implement basic computerized tasks; and the technologically limited. The problem faced by administrators and professional development staff of such a school is providing adequate training to bring all teachers to an adequate level of technical expertise so learning goals can be met.

Because teachers learn at different rates and have individual needs when mastering new skills, technology training should be flexible yet cover a comprehensive set of skills. Before professional development is designed, each teachers' current level of technology skills should be determined by using appropriate instruments, such as the Educational Technology Foundations for All Teachers developed as part of the National Educational Technology Standards. These standards can be used to determine the skill level of individual teachers and their needs for professional development. Self-assessment directly related to the technology learning goals set by the school also is appropriate and effective.

After the teachers' skill levels are identified, administrators, teachers, and the technology specialist can brainstorm to determine what support and resources teachers need to advance to the next stage. Teachers can develop personal plans for professional development that include goals for using technology. These professional development plans can be competency driven, identifying specific areas where technology can be used effectively; they can specify outcomes to be achieved using technology, such as implementing specific projects with students; and they can list software applications that should be mastered by specific dates. "By putting individual goals in writing, these plans formalize teachers' commitment to using technology in the classroom," states Tenbusch (1998).

Individual tutoring, peer coaching, collaboration, networking, and mentoring have been used successfully over extended periods to help teachers at all levels of technology implementation develop technology applications that promote engaged learning (Ike, 1997; McKenzie, 1994; Miller, 1998; Norton & Gonzales, 1998; Poole & Moran, 1998; Saye, 1998; Tenbusch, 1998; Yocam, 1996). Teachers at the novice stage who need to develop basic computer skills will require more individual attention and should be given ample time to practice their skills. If learning by doing is important for students, it is crucial for teachers (David, 1996). As teachers begin to regard technology as a tool to accomplish instructional goals, they will learn best when engaged in meaningful projects that relate to their own classrooms. Appropriate individualized support from peers as well as experts encourages teachers to experiment with new strategies for technology use. Teachers should have the option to participate in the type of workshops, seminars, and online professional communities that will help them use technology effectively. Time for independent study, experimentation, and curriculum development also is important.

Teacher technology training that builds upon each teacher's background and experiences is clearly not easy to implement, and it requires two things in short supply in most school districts: time and money. To adequately meet the learning needs of all students, however, every teacher--not just the resident computer guru--must be able to go beyond basic computer functions to use technology as a springboard to engaged learning in every classroom.

Offering Incentives for Teachers to Use Technology

Offering incentives is an important aspect of a technology professional development program. Incentives help ensure that teachers who face escalating demands on their limited time receive the training they need to prepare their students for the technological workplace of the future.

Financial incentives are a time-tested method of encouraging teachers to devote their time to professional development. School systems can provide compensation for professional development in technology on weekends or during summers (Corcoran, 1995; Monahan, 1996; Speck, 1996). Along with planned professional development, school districts can provide financial support for a menu of approved conferences, workshops, and other professional development activities; teachers can make choices to participate in those activities that most correspond to the specific skills they wish to learn (Tenbusch, 1998; Monahan, 1996). Teachers who master a skill, then present it to colleagues in the building and support those colleagues in learning the skill can be compensated at another level (Poole & Moran, 1998). Alternatively, a percentage of teachers' base pay (5 percent, for example) can be made contingent upon participation in technological professional development (Speck, 1996). Mini-grants can be used to reward teachers who develop innovative uses for classroom technology (Singh & Means, 1994).

A less obvious way that school districts can support professional development activities financially is by providing the time that teachers need to engage in them. Strategies such as paid release time for planning, independent practice without fear of embarrassment, and collaboration are fruitful avenues for encouraging professional development in technology. Moreover, this approach implements research that shows such independent activities are key elements in developing higher-level technology proficiency (Corcoran, 1995; David, 1996; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1996; Tenbusch, 1998). This approach may be difficult to take, however, because the public perception (and sometimes the perception within schools as well) is that teachers are not "working" unless they are in the classroom with students. Conveying the value of teachers' professional development, as difficult as that may be, is important for finding the resources for paid release time (Corcoran, 1995; Hawkins, 1999).

Another less obvious method of financial support for professional development is providing classroom-embedded mentoring, tutoring, or follow-up activities. This approach is among the most effective methods of technology training--and it completely bypasses the problem of asking teachers for additional time outside of the regular school day (Corcoran, 1995). Incentives that require financial support are certainly expensive. But, as Tenbusch (1998) argues, "If school districts don't do a better job of allocating resources for professional development--instead of putting all the budget into technology acquisition--schools will be left with the tools but not the talent to prepare youngsters for a technological world" (p. 2).

Job security can be as powerful an incentive as money. Incentives related to job security can include adding technological competence to the teacher evaluation instrument, requiring teachers to earn a specified number of technology-related inservice credits to ensure continued employment (Tenbusch, 1998) or requiring technology inservice training for recertification (Corcoran, 1995).

A wide array of less traditional incentives also can be used. Teachers can earn credit for hours spent in technology professional development; they then can use that credit to acquire classroom technology, to receive loans of hardware and software for use at home, or to negotiate discounts on personal equipment. Teachers can earn a free Internet account for their personal use after completing an Internet workshop (Tenbusch, 1998). Schools can provide teachers with laptop computers with the provision that they reach certain basic technology goals within a specified time frame, such as a semester or school year (Parr, 1999). Similar incentives can be developed to support a wide range of specific goals.

Choosing Appropriate Software

One barrier to technology integration is the difficulty many teachers face in finding and using appropriate software for instruction (Glenn, 1997). Teachers at novice or apprenticeship stages of technology integration may need guidance in locating multimedia software and Internet sites to support the school's learning goals, either because they are unfamiliar with these media or because they feel overwhelmed by the profusion of software on the market and sites on the Internet. Lack of time and experience to make good decisions about what particular products or sites have the potential of fostering learning goals can make technology integration a frightening prospect. Glenn (1997) succinctly summarizes the challenge: "Problems exist with finding and using appropriate software or courseware for instruction. The number of high-quality curriculum materials has increased, and there is a wider variety; however, creating innovative learning opportunities for all students remains a fundamental challenge and elusive for far too many teachers."

Whenever possible, software-selection activities should involve teams of teachers. Teachers working together can plan curricular projects, develop and apply criteria for selecting software or Internet sites, engage in action research to evaluate the use of specific software or Internet sites, and reflect upon how their teaching is changing through technology integration. Teaming can facilitate technology integration, especially when teacher teams reflect on their degree of success. "When teachers engage with others in ongoing reflection about what they learned about the instructional use of technology, they are more likely to critically evaluate their own pedagogical practice and redesign their instruction," notes Brand (1998). Such peer interaction ranks high among teachers as an effective option for technology staff development.

Teachers who have sucessfully used a technology-enhanced activity should be encouraged to model the activity for their peers; they can emphasize how the specific piece of software helped achieve the goals and objectives of the curriculum. Modeling can be used when teachers visit each other's classrooms, at staff meetings, and at professional development workshops. It enables teachers to observe expert performance and broadens their awareness of what is possible. Modeling can provide emotional support as well. Browne and Ritchie (1991) state, "Teachers exposed to trainers who model the progressive nature of knowledge in educational technology often have their fears alleviated and are provided with the confidence to pursue the use of technology in their classrooms" (p. 30).

Obtaining and Sustaining Funding

Technology implementation is not simply putting computers in every classroom or linking every classroom to the Internet. It also means obtaining sustained funding for ongoing professional development, technical support, equipment upgrades, and regular maintenance. Funding should be addressed at the beginning stages of technology planning. Consideration should be given not only to initial costs but also to a means of providing a varied and constant source of revenue that will continue into the future.

Funding for technology should not be treated as an add-on but as an individual line item in the school budget. According to Anderson (1996), "A technology plan needs to address the amount of money that will be required to implement and maintain whatever the plan proposes; how matching money, if necessary, will be sought; how leveraged money might be needed in the future; how finances will be managed; what the contingency plans might be if additional funding is secured or if a shortfall occurs; and how funds will be allocated to pay for the planned obsolescence."

Meeting this challenge of developing funding strategies for education technology can be made easier by developing a five-year plan to ensure that each step in the plan builds on the previous one. The expenditure for technology emphasizes that schools should examine the match between the components of the plan (such as training and equipment purchase) and the monies available. Three different types of funding must be considered: the initial investment to install the technology, the annual operating costs of the technology, and the money to keep the system modern and updated (Pelavin Research Institute, 1997). Professional development for staff cannot be overlooked as part of the annual cost. Care also must be taken to ensure that funds are available to provide the educational staff with support so they are comfortable using the technology and integrating it into the existing curriculum.

Several different sources of funding can be identified to ensure an ongoing flow of money for technology. Funds also can be allocated from the existing operating budget. For example, the funding for textbooks could be reconsidered. Textbooks often account for about 50 percent of schools' expenditures on instructional material; some of these funds could be directed to multimedia courseware and online materials to supplement traditional textbook purchases. Another area to consider is the funding designated for instructional support or supervisors. Some of these personnel could be redeployed to address teacher training and support needs.

An investigation of services available at the local, state, regional, and national levels also may help cut funding costs. Technology plans often do not make the best use of limited financial resources; they typically budget staff time rather than using existing regional or district services, such as intermediate service districts (Cradler, 1996). Partnerships with local colleges or universities also can be beneficial by providing professional development opportunities for educators. Levying special taxes is another approach, although some communities may be reluctant to provide monetary support for this effort. Community members often are not aware of technology use in the schools or what is involved in the implementation and integration of technology into the curriculum. A number of strategies can be used to educate and inform community members and businesses to gain their support. These strategies may include speaking to the school board and parent groups, developing partnerships with businesses and organizations in the community, and developing a model school as a showcase for what can be achieved.

Even if these efforts do not result in the passing of referendums, other benefits can be realized. Businesses may become more involved both financially and professionally. According to the National School Boards Association (n.d.), organizing a forum of community business leaders who are knowledgeable of the skills that students will need for future employment is another way to enlist the aid of business. When business leaders understand how the school is trying to prepare students for the work force and the role technology could play, they may wish to fund technology to ensure they have a pool of future workers with necessary skills (National School Boards Association, n.d.). Besides providing tax support and donations of funds, businesses may provide support in the form of volunteers to help with technology professional development.

In addition, money for technology can be obtained from private grants, businesses, and federal and state governments. Securing funds for technology in the schools is an ongoing process. Schools need to determine essential components of their technology plan and provide a permanent source of funding for those components. Additional components can be added as funding allows.

Schools can ensure the effective use of educational technology in the classroom by addressing all these factors: placement of computers for equitable access, technical support, effective goals for technology use, new roles for teachers, time for ongoing professional development, appropriate coaching of teachers at different skill levels, teacher incentives for use, availability of educational software, and sustained funding for technology. Through such efforts, schools can help students realize their learning goals through the use of technology and also enable students to gain important skills for their future education and careers.


ACTION OPTIONS: Administrators, the technology coordinator, teachers, and parents and community members can take the following steps to promote technology use in the school.


Technology Coordinator:


Parents and Community Members:

IMPLEMENTATION PITFALLS: In many schools, technology is not easily accessible by teachers. Computers may be located in labs instead of in each teacher's classroom, and Internet connections may be limited to certain designated computers. To promote teachers' use of technology, school administrators should ensure that adequate numbers of computers with Internet connections are available to teachers and that access times are not limited. Teachers need ample opportunities to practice with the technology and gain confidence in its use.

If technology funding is limited, the school may not have enough money to purchase an adequate number of computers. In addition, administrators may make decisions on placing these computers without consulting the teachers. Any effort to solve the problem of computer access should be addressed by the educational staff as a whole. Although strategic placement of equipment is one way to address the problem of limited computers, teachers must agree that this placement would work for them individually and is the best solution for the school.

Some schools cannot afford a full-time technology coordinator. In such cases, a part-time coordinator or a district coordinator who divides time between several schools will have to suffice. But just-in-time technical support can come from a variety of sources, including other teachers, students, and parents and community members. Teachers who are techno-savvy can provide peer coaching and assistance, particularly for novice users. Although these teachers have the practical knowledge of the classroom experience, they also have the same time constraints and cannot always be pulled from their classrooms on demand. Another source of technical support is students who are knowledgeable in computers and technology. Some schools use cadres of select students to provide staff with basic and nonthreatening technology assistance. Students "may not be especially skilled at promoting the curriculum (the teacher's role), but they can provide troubleshooting and support to get [teachers] past the many day-to-day breakdowns, bumps, and potholes," states McKenzie (1998). Other sources for support can be knowledgeable parents and community volunteers. For example, a school district in Belleview, Washington, enlists the aide of "computer moms" who volunteer in school computer labs (Gigli, 1997).

Not all teachers are motivated to use technology. Teachers may resist for many reasons, including the fear that technology threatens their role as expert, and the feeling of inadequacy resulting from lack of prior mastery of technology skills (Monahan, 1996; Saye, 1998). Also, they may value time-tested educational methods and believe that technology is just another educational fad (McKenzie, 1993; Saye, 1998). Although providing technology training programs worthy of teachers' time is important, inducing all teachers to enhance their job skills may ultimately require stronger incentives than self-motivation.

The integration of technology into the curriculum will not succeed without giving teachers ample time to practice, explore, conceptualize, and collaborate. "Many teachers hunger for the time to translate new ideas and strategies into practical classroom lessons and unit plans," states McKenzie (1998). "Invention is the time when teachers take ownership. They make the innovation real."

DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW: Much of the software introduced for classroom computers is "edutainment" software; it does not meet learning goals and may lack educational value (Healy, 1998). Teachers understandably are reluctant to embrace such software. "Mindless courseware in a lab setting" leads to tedium and mediocrity, notes McKenzie (1994); technology refusal in such cases is "rooted in common sense and wisdom."

Engaged learning through technology is best supported by changes in the structure of the school day, including longer class periods and more time for team teaching and interdisciplinary work. For example, when students are working on long-term research projects for which they are making use of online resources (such as artwork, scientific data sets, or historical documents), they may need more than a daily 30- or 40-minute period to find, explore, and synthesize these materials for their research.

An emphasis on engaged learning does not mean that schools should totally abandon technologies that support acquisition of basic skills. These technologies still have value, especially if they deliver instruction to students who are in need of extra practice. What's important is ensuring that all students also have opportunities to use technologies for in-depth learning projects so that they can participate in complex, authentic tasks within a collaborative context and develop higher-order thinking skills. Technologies that are used for engaged learning and that support a challenging curriculum result in improved teaching and learning, increased student motivation to learn, and higher levels of student achievement.



Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE)
P.O. Box 3728
Norfolk, VA 22902
(757) 623-7588; fax (703) 997-8760

Center for Children and Technology
96 Morton St., 7th Floor
New York, NY 10014
(212) 807-4200; fax (212) 633-8804

Center for Technology in Learning
SRI International
333 Ravenswood Ave.
Menlo Park, CA 93025
(650) 859-2000; fax (650) 326-5512

Computer-Using Educators (CUE)
1210 Marina Village Parkway, Suite 100
Alameda, CA 94501
(510) 814-6630; fax (510) 814-0195

Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)
1555 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 462-9600; fax (202) 462-9043

Focus on Technology
National Education Association
1202 16th St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 822-7360

Institute for the Transfer of Technology to Education (ITTE) National School Boards Association
1680 Duke St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 838-6722; fax (703) 683-7590
Contact: Cheryl S. Williams, Director of Technology Programs

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
480 Charnelton St.
Eugene, OR 97403-2626
(800) 336-5191; fax (541) 302-3778

International Technology Education Association (ITEA)
1914 Association Drive, Suite 201
Reston, VA 20191-1539
(703) 860-2100; fax (703) 860-0353

Office of Educational Technology
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20202
(800) 872-5327 or (202) 401-2000; fax (202) 401-0689


Date posted: October 2001
Copyright © North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer and copyright information.