Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Final Blog- Using Technology in "Real" Classrooms

Nicole Darko
May 6, 2009
ENGL 518
Dr. Tryon

Using Technology in “Real” Classrooms

After completing this course I have a greater appreciation for the potential uses of technology in the classroom. I learned about using popular tools like Twitter, Facebook and blogging to enhance my classroom instruction. However, the reality of using these technologies leaves me less than enthusiastic about the sweeping phenomenon of incorporating technology in the classroom. The reality of most schools is that they don’t have enough computers or software to adequately incorporate technology in their schools. These lack of resources make most of the “technological revolution” unavailable nor unobtainable to the majority of students. This paper will explore the implications of a technological disparity among American students and how they can be rectified.
We all agree that incorporating technology is necessary and can create greater opportunities for learning. According to Colburn, in order for students to meet business, industry, and government expectations, they must be able, more than ever before, to reason, solve problems, apply their understanding, and write and speak well (National Education Goals Panel). Students should be able to “handle new situations and meet new intellectual challenges” (Salomon, 1993, p. 128). Additionally, researchers have stated that effective use of instructional technologies leads to positive outcomes for both students and teachers (Cradler, 1994; Office of Technology Assessment [OTA], 1995; PCAST, 1997). Technology has been advocated as a tool that supports constructivist approaches to instruction (Cradler; Honey & Moeller, 1990, online abstract; Means, 1994). Research on the benefits of using instructional technology has shown that frequently it is accompanied by a shift from a traditional direct instructional style to one that is more student centered. Current standards and recent reports support the promotion of generative learning and the use of constructivist approaches in K-12 classrooms (OTA; PCAST). Despite this consensus, there is an overwhelming number of students who never become partakers of increased outcomes as a result of technology.
According to the FCC Chairman Reed Hundt while giving a speech at the Technology and Learning Conference /National School Board Association in Dallas, Texas on October 24, 1996 he said,
“If we don't give schools and teachers all the tools and support they need, we risk making technology just another tantalizing apple of education -- always just out of reach for many schools. If, for example, we adopt a policy that just gave every school the exact same amount of money, for half the schools it would probably be more than they need and for the other half it wouldn't be enough. We need to have a policy that recognizes the disparities between schools and helps to bridge the gap. Schools on tight budgets can't strike a good deal on phone connections if they can't get monetary help on putting wiring into the classrooms. They can't learn with the Internet if they get a discount on a phone line but still have to pay high rates for usage. Indeed, it would be a cruel and all too usual punishment for our children if we said -- "Those of you whose parents or communities have deep pockets can get it; the rest of you, tough luck." This speech was given over ten years ago and every assertion holds true today. While greater uses of technology in the classroom have been heralded by many not much has been done to ensure that all students have the same access to these uses.
Research has been conducted by Somger, Lee & Kam, 2002 and quoted by Ashburn which states,“While many teachers across the nation struggle to incorporate technology into their classroom activities in meaningful ways, teachers in low-income, resource-poor urban classrooms often face particularly daunting challenges. These challenges include inadequate space, materials and equipment.”
How do we bridge the gap among the technological savvy and the novice technology users? According to the U.S. Department of Education "integrating technology into existing curricula means making technological tools, including computers, multimedia, the Internet, and digital input and output devices, integral to learning. It does not mean learning to use a given technology only for a particular task or function. For example, learning to use a word processor or to search the Internet are not examples of technology integration if the expected outcome are expertise with word processing or understanding of a search strategy. Learning how and why to use a word processor to better communicate ideas or to search the Internet for information related to curricular goals and activities enhances the curriculum and teaches literacies that students will need to know and be able to use." The study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education goes on to say that “while great strides have been made over the years in access to the Internet, a digital divide still occurs in the way technology is often used with low-income students. Providing universal access so that everyone can have access to the Internet regardless of income level or job status is only one part of the solution. Students must improve technology literacy so that they can participate intelligently and thoughtfully in the technical world around them. It is critical that students not only be given access, but training to better understand the Internet and its value, because the more likely they will be to make the effort to learn how to use it. The disparity in available computer hardware between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is striking.”
The solution to lessening the technological gap as proposed by Paige, 2003 is “providing every student with a laptop that can be taken home will have a tremendous impact upon those who are shut out from the world of technology, but only if we implement it fairly.” Maisie MacAdoo has summarized the importance of equity extending beyond boxes and wires. “The issue of equity now centers not on quality of equipment but on the quality of use. The computers are there, yes, but what is the real extent of access? What kind of software is available? How much computer training are teachers getting? And are schools able to raise not just students’ level of tech-nical proficiency, but also their level of inquiry, as advanced use of technology demands?” Finally, the article Bridge the Digital Divide states as its guiding principle, “all students must have access to appropriate tools and to challenging curriculum in order to bridge the digital divide by moving beyond basics and towards 21st century skills.”
As an educator I am hopeful that all students will be provided the opportunity to learn, use and become proficient at using technology to enhance their learning. While I'm hopeful I am also very aware that as long as money informs school, local, state and federal decisions their will always be a disparity among the haves and have-nots.

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