Magazine article MultiMedia Schools

Knowing What IT's Worth

Magazine article MultiMedia Schools

Knowing What IT's Worth

Article excerpt

I'm on my way to a Town Hall meeting where techno-skeptics and techno-true believers will "debate" the merits of Information Technology, and the prospect makes me queasy. This isn't because I'm worried about who will win, but because deep down I know that in the absence of fact, all we can rely upon is opinion. Without reliable data, public debate pivots on passion and pundits. Critics of education technology unfairly single out technology as having "unproven value in terms of contributing to student achievement," when the reality is that in education we rarely assesstechnology or otherwise-what is working for the children we serve. Yet, this condition need not persist. This issue of MULTIMEDIA SCHOOLS shows us how people are meeting the challenge from a variety of approaches, providing us with practical ways in which we may improve our own daily practices through assessment.

One lesson that 20 years of "introducing" Information Technology into schools has taught us is that vision is paramount. The landscape is littered with wasted investments of time, talent, and cash, where districts skipped the part about "understanding why they needed technology" to meet their educational goals. Clearly, charting a course is important, but once underway there is nothing more crucial than knowing whether your movements are bringing you closer to or farther from your goal, and this requires the continual gathering and analyzing of performance data.

Where to Begin

One of the most elegantly simple yet transforming suggestions comes from Heide Hayes Jacobs, an internationally acclaimed education pioneer. Her book Mapping the Big Picture: Integrating Curriculum & Assessment K-12, outlines a strategy that has succeeded in districts from small to large, rural to suburban to urban. "Curriculum mapping is a procedure for collecting data about the actual curriculum in a school district using the school calendar as an organizer.... The fundamental purpose of mapping is communication.... Mapping is not presented as what ought to happen, but what is happening during the course of a school year."

The roles and implications for school library/media specialists, technology teachers, and classroom teachers are profoundly different in schools that use Curriculum Mapping. At the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, school director Mary Ann Holt reports, "Curriculum mapping gave us an opportunity to reflect on what was being taught, the way we were teaching, and where our problems were. An integrated map is posted outside each classroom for visitors, parents and interested parties to view. We consider these maps works in progress and expect them to change and grow as we change and grow." She notes, "Teachers began to plan with our media specialist, as a result of mapping.... This also provided teachers with another collaborative colleague. The classroom teacher and the media specialist were both able to see the picture of the entire school and to naturally work library research skills into the curriculum." Mary Alice Anderson's "Evolution of a Teacher" in her Media Center column reinforces this synergy

I recommend Jacob's book (available from ASCD-I got mine from Amazon.com, provingAndy Carvin's point about a Digital Revolution!) for its insightful suggestions and detailed appendices of actual maps and resources.

Know Thyself, Know Your Setting

You have an opportunity to assess your readiness through Tom March's "Ten Stages of Working the Web" for Education, as you place yourself on the spectrum he describes. …

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