The Connected Learning Community: Using Technology for Education

By Gates, Bill | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), March 1996 | Go to article overview

The Connected Learning Community: Using Technology for Education


Gates, Bill, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


The most important use of information technology today is to improve education, and we have a tremendous opportunity to enhance the ways we think and learn by taking advantage of the computer as a learning tool. Microsoft envisions using technology to create a "Connected Learning Community" in which all students have access to the world's information through personal computers, and students, educators, parents and the extended community are connected to each other.

* Coming Together

There are three ways "The Connected Learning Community" will come together: networked school districts where all the students are connected; connections between homes and schools; and connections reaching out to the entire world -- to schools, other institutions, libraries, companies, museums -- everyone accessible on the Internet.

Creating "The Connected Learning Community" will require schools to connect to all the constituent groups that can help in the education process. "Connected" students then can browse to learn, use bulletin boards to see what people are talking about, create their own learning path. It will eliminate distance and let people go wherever they want, with the control and flexibility to exercise their curiosity and discover the world.

Even with all this global knowledge available, computers will never become substitutes for great teachers. In fact, using computers in the learning process is effective only when teachers are involved. Computers only can be relied on to impart some of the knowledge -- we need teachers' expertise to integrate technology into daily lessons, to become facilitators and coaches, which will enable them to spend more time one-on-one with students.

So, teachers will actually be a bigger influence in "The Connected Learning Community." And in today's teaching environment, with information available globally, they'll be able to share their best practices with other teachers, and have the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of other people's outstanding work.

Remember, too, that "The Connected Learning Community" involves parents and caregivers as well. Some really exciting model schools already have Internet connections that allow parents to dial in and learn about school activities, check homework assignments, chat with teachers and much more.

Parents must be comfortable with computers and committed partners in their children's education.

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