Academic journal article Australian and International Journal of Rural Education

Rural Schools and Technology: Connecting for Innovation

Academic journal article Australian and International Journal of Rural Education

Rural Schools and Technology: Connecting for Innovation

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Placed within the context of rural teaching and learning and the use of new technologies, this paper presents a comparative study of three technological approaches to the presentation of curriculum in schools. Supported by three different research projects in one Canadian province, it highlights three areas of e-learning: the use of video conferencing to deliver curriculum to children in five rural schools (Barter, 2004), web-based distance education implemented by the Ministry of Education to deliver academic courses to students in rural and remote areas (Barter, 2011), and a lap top computer-based project with a class of intermediate students (Barter, Murphy, Hardy, Norman & Pack, 2004). Including a literature review, the paper provides a brief background of each project, outlines the results, and then discusses the impact such projects can have on education. Two projects (video conferencing and Ministry of Education delivered distance education) are described and then discussed through the responses of practicing teachers, while the third (lap tops for learning) is explored through the reflections of participating teachers as well as those from consenting junior high students.

Accepting that the three projects represent a largely localized instance of curriculum research, they are used as a 'stepping off point' that serves to highlight the challenges and successes in implementing curriculum through multiple forms of technology that can be expanded to a wider audience. The paper does not delve into the effects of different technology applications. Rather, it focuses on the effects of implementation in general. The intent is to present the successes and challenges of the three projects as examples that may help educators to identify and define theoretical aspects of technology leadership and lead to further understandings about how users may experience its implementation and use. The three projects and an extant literature indicate that innovations involving technology are process driven. They bring opportunity as well as challenges that stretch the limits of teaching and learning. As a result, the effective use of distance education, in any form, requires consistent, extensive support for both students and teachers.

INTRODUCTION

There is an interesting video by SMARTEduEMEA that traces the advancement of technology over time (www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFwWWsz_X9s). The video begins with cave drawings from 30,000 B.C.E. and moves on to Pythagoras Academy, 510 B.C.E.; paper made in China, 105; manuscript transcripts, 1382; Gutenberg printing press, 1450; and so on up to the audiovisual age of the first half of the 20th century, to the information age of the latter half of that century and finally to the computer age of the 21st century. The video demonstrates Ursula Franklin's (1990) point in a CBC Massey Lecture Series on the world of technology that, "Technology has built the house in which we all live" (p. 35). According to Franklin, people's lives are framed within a technological story and there is "hardly any human activity that does not occur" within it. It has changed our reality of time, personal and social space, and place. It has enfolded businesses, schools, governments, and others in a technological web. It includes "activities as well as a body of knowledge, structures as well as the act of structuring" (p. 14). Franklin (1990) reminds us that North America has one of the most extensive technological infrastructures in the world, an infrastructure that is re-shaping the educational landscape for both teachers and students, especially those in rural regions. Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, is certainly one example of a rural province that has demonstrated its leadership in virtual learning (Clover & Harris, 2005; Barbour, 2007; Barter, 2011).

LITERATURE REVIEW

There is a growing expectation that the education system should be equipping students for life in what has been termed the knowledge society. …

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