Academic journal article Rural Educator

The Coming of Age with Technology in Rural Schools

Academic journal article Rural Educator

The Coming of Age with Technology in Rural Schools

Article excerpt

Articles in The Rural Educator from the early Eighties reflect the new interest in bringing technology to rural schools, primarily for delivery of courses to schools where they would otherwise be unavailable. Expanding the accessibility to curricula would improve the opportunities of rural students to compete with students from larger metropolitan schools for admission to colleges, for job opportunities, and for a broader education as well. Delivery of such courses was first recorded in the journal in an article in the Fall 1983 issue in which John E. Davis, the Executive Head of Field Services and Extension at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at Toronto, recounted the history of the use of correspondence courses by various parts of the world, but especially their use in Western Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Although this methodology hardly fits our definition of "technology" today, it was the forerunner of delivering information to public school students without the physical presence of the teacher and with kits developed by others than the actual classroom teacher. Of course such courses had been available at the college level as early as 1918, but this was a new innovation for public schools. The information in this article proved of such interest to readers that it was expanded and rewritten for the Spring 1985 issue of the journal.

In the article Davis wrote, "Not only are correspondence courses now being used to supplement a school's curriculum, but also to permit students to work at varying degrees of pace. The have a special applicability to rural students who, even in these days of advanced mechanization, are (at different seasons of the year) called away from schools for periods of time to become members of the farm work force.

The suggestion is not being made that correspondence courses should replace conventional classrooms and that teachers should become mere supervisors of correspondence classes. Rather, the idea is that the two might be used to complement each other.

Davis's article deals only with the in-school use of correspondence materials. "At their most ineffective level of use, such materials are provided to students who are then assigned study space somewhere in the school, most often in the library, and then are left to work more or less on their own. Experience shows, however, that only a small percentage of these students succeed [with this method]. ... On the other hand, when the students are supervised even in the sense of providing only moral support or giving assistance in understanding the questions, the percentage of successes rises dramatically (Davis and Ryan, 1980). This suggests that an important factor in the success of correspondence students is not just the availability of teacher assistance, but the regularity and immediacy of that assistance. The fact, of course, has long been recognized by proponents of computer-assisted instruction who are quick to emphasize the immediate feedback and support features of that mode of instruction."

Of course, Davis's comments could be applied to any other method of delivery of instruction, including on-line courses of today in which the instructor is not readily available for immediate feedback and encouragement. In the Spring 1985 issue of The Rural Educator Davis says, "Correspondence education in rural secondary schools is not a new concept. It has been accepted widely enough to have proven itself to be a superior alternative to inadequate and insufficient curricula. Recent developments which have the potential to enhance its attractiveness center around the use of new communications technology. Two innovations have great potential. The first of these, (which may be coupled with the use of print material), is satellite communications which gradually will make two-way television learning a practical possibility. This will be a major advance over television which delivers only program segments rather than a complete course. …

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