Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Integrating Technology into the Classroom: Lessons from the Project CHILD Experience

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Integrating Technology into the Classroom: Lessons from the Project CHILD Experience

Article excerpt

Project CHILD, a synthesis of best practices, creates a restructured environment that not only accommodates but embraces technology. Teachers need such realistic yet visionary models and coherent supporting materials, Ms. Butzin avers, if they are to bring about change.

For many children traditional American schooling is painful and difficult. Their world outside the classroom is awash in electronic media, while inside the classroom they often find only chalk and paper. Deprived of engaging stimuli, many children quickly lose interest in schooling.

In the past decade, many of the calls for the reform and restructuring of public education have featured technology as a centerpiece. Yet the effective use of technology remains an elusive goal for most teachers. Lack of a sufficient quantity of classroom equipment, lack of training for teachers, and the inherent difficulty of retrofitting technology to the existing structures of education combine to keep computers confined to the back of most classrooms, expensive distractions at best. For most children school continues as it has for generations.

Yet most elementary schools have increasingly sought to bring technology into the educational mix. Virtually every elementary school has some computers.(1) In addition, integrated learning systems (ILSs) have made serious inroads into the schools, with recent sales estimated to be in the billions of dollars.(2) Moreover, many schools are beginning to move both their personal computers and their ILS workstations out of the labs and into the regular classrooms, where children can have daily access to them. The problem is that merely putting computers into the classroom does not mean that they will be used effectively. Until the underlying structural patterns and practices of the traditional elementary school have changed, technology can never achieve its full potential.

A SNAPSHOT OF PROJECT CHILD

In Florida we have undertaken a comprehensive research and development project to explore a new approach to the use of technology in the classroom. It is called Project CHILD (Computers Helping Instruction and Learning Development). Twenty-five schools are currently taking part in this five-year effort, and the results have been very positive. Achievement test scores are up, student attitudes and levels of involvement are high, and teachers and principals champion the program. Indeed, Project CHILD has recently been validated by the Program Effectiveness Panel of the National Diffusion Network.

Project CHILD is a computer-integrated instructional program for grades K-5. It provides a systematic approach for integrating technology into the elementary classroom. Project CHILD is not a software program itself; rather, it is a comprehensive system for effectively using existing hardware and software.

In Project CHILD, classrooms become learning resource rooms for three hours of each day, focused on one of three subject areas: reading, language arts, or math. Children in Project CHILD move from classroom to classroom, working at a variety of learning stations. A typical classroom has a computer station with three to six computers, a teacher station for small-group instruction, stations for hands-on activities, and stations for textbook-based and written work. A wide array of computer software has been correlated with thematic units for each subject area.

The structure of die schools taking part in Project CHILD has also been changed to encourage continuous progress. Altogether, six classrooms make up a Project CHILD unit. Students work with the same team of teachers for three years, either in the primary cluster (K-2) or in the intermediate cluster (3-5). Every teacher is a Project CHILD specialist, trained to use technology and hands-on techniques in his or her designated specialty.

Project CHILD materials - a teacher's manual, learning activities guides, and station activities resource books - enable teachers to manage die enhanced classroom environment effectively and to plan enriching learning activities around a common theme. …

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