The Big Picture
Many veteran teachers are eyeing technology movement now gathering momentum in schools with a certain amount of skepticism. They remember the 1980s when computers were supposed to revolutionize instruction and instead mostly became glorified typewriters or electronic workbooks. Worse, computers sometimes just gathered dust on shelves as they quickly became obsolete.
Times are different now, of course.
Computers are smaller, more affordable and much more powerful. The machines can open doors to whole new worlds of information and experiences.
How can schools make this technology available to all students while avoiding the pitfalls of the 1980s?
Some states are addressing the issue with comprehensive plans that attempt to provide guidelines to local schools about what to purchase, help educators learn how to use and maintain equipment and ensure equal access for all students. North Carolina is one of these states. Its overall goal is for all students in all schools to be able to independently use technology.
North Carolina plans its own information highway that will link Departments of Public Instruction, Correction and Justice; community colleges, universities and medical centers; area health centers and the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina. Some departments already are networked. Depending on the amount of money that the state Legislature appropriates, anywhere from 25 to 100 more agencies and schools are expected to come online this fall.
Before that happens, the state has to organize all the players. It already has a good foundation, as students have been using computers and engaging in distance learning since the early 1980s. Teachers are assured, however, that the plan for the 1990s and beyond will focus not simply on the number of computers in schools but on a comprehensive system of technology-based work stations.
THE VISION THING
The 1994 technology plan of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction represents the thinking of a diverse group of North Carolinians. Some of the participants included the Department of Public Instruction's technology task force, the Governor's Advisory Council on Telecommunications, state technology planning committees and the North Carolina Science and Math Alliance. Local school districts developed technology plans that helped shape the statewide objectives.
The plan is expected to consolidate the previous work of technology-schooling advocates and to indicate the commitment of the Department of Public Instruction to provide a necessary framework for schools.
Schools set their own priorities and may choose to fund initiatives other than those involving technology, although most want to put money toward the purchase of needed equipment and materials.
Schools that want to be considered as a connection site for the information highway must submit technology plans that show how they will support one or more of these state objectives:
* change definitions and perceptions of schools and schooling;
* provide more opportunities for students to master advanced skills, practice effective communication and work individually and collaboratively on real-world tasks;
* change teacher roles and activities;
* change administrators' roles so they can better manage resources and communication and provide stronger school-community leadership; and
* improve assessment methods.
Technology plans are a good start toward resolving the problems caused by the willy-nilly purchase of equipment. Someone in each school must assume responsibility as "technology plan coordinator" and name a team to help out. In the plan, schools must state their vision and what they hope to achieve, including short-and long-term goals and objectives. They must determine overall equipment needs, evaluate the abilities of students and staff to use hardware and software and decide whether the facility needs physical modifications to be ready for new equipment. …