Thin-client computers, wireless networking, staff professional development, and the teaching of keyboarding skills are among the many topics that educators are talking about on a new electronic listserv designed to help integrate technology effectively into their classrooms.

Sponsored by eSchool News as part of its “Technology Forums for School Professionals,” the Curriculum Integration and Technology discussion forum debuted April 17.

Moderated by Dale Mann, a professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and by Dianne Wilkerson, instructional technology designer and trainer for BTG Inc., the forum is intended as an electronic meeting place for school professionals. It’s a forum in which to ask questions and exchange advice with colleagues about the difficult issues surrounding technology integration.

A hot topic of conversation in May was Jay Matthews’ May 2 Washington Post story, “High-Tech Heretics.” The article, which reported critics’ assertions that “far too little is known about computers’ impact on the learning process to justify the vast sums that schools are spending on technology,” touched off a firestorm of debate.

“I think we need to make careful decisions about technology purchases, but I don’t want us to go back to the dark ages of school without technology integration,” wrote an educator, who works for a rural school district in northeast Indiana. It was his message to the forum that started the debate.

Others agreed with the gist of the Post story. “There are so few examples of ‘true’ integration of technology into the curriculum,” wrote an instructional technology administrator. “I just don’t think that we are out of the dark ages yet.”

Respondents all seemed to agree, however, that more research into effective classroom use of technology is needed—as is real, ongoing staff development and long-term support for teachers and staff.

“Would the teacher sitting on the side ‘with nothing to do’ have done the same thing if he or she knew what to do?” asked one California technology coordinator. “I don’t know. Probably a teacher who was inactive in a computer lab would be just as inactive in a classroom while the students were working on a worksheet.”

Staff development was addressed in many postings, in fact, with the goal of exchanging “best practices” in teacher training. An educator in Sioux Falls, S.D., described how her district has started a once-a-month early release program to build time for staff training into the regular school day.

“The students leave at 1 p.m. rather than the regular 2:45. The remainder of the day is inservice [training], planned at a building level to meet the needs for that building and grade levels,” she wrote.

Other participants used the forum to ask technical questions about topics such as wireless networking and thin-client solutions.

A middle school educator in Lansing, Mich., wrote, “Our school district is looking to move to thin-client computers with Citrix servers as a way to save money, reduce hardware/technical problems, and increase the number of computers in the schools.

“My question is: What are the drawbacks to this type of computer? We do a lot of multimedia projects using HyperStudio … and PowerPoint. Will this technology diminish our abilities to produce this type of project?”

One forum participant wrote back to say she’d just spoken with a representative from a Citrix-based company about this very topic, and he said there are often difficulties with graphics-intensive software because it occupies so much network bandwidth.

Another respondent agreed: “If you have extremely graphics-intensive [or] multimedia applications, they are best run locally. The thin-client approach is not an answer to all situations, but is an excellent solution for many applications.”

A third participant raised another issue to consider when implementing a Citrix-based solution.

“Almost sent this when I remembered an additional cost that we overlooked,” he wrote. “Since we work in the Novell world, we needed our technical staff to become familiar with [Windows] NT. The Citrix server runs on NT, and we needed to become conversant with the security issues and operation of NT [first].”

Membership in the Curriculum Integration and Technology discussion forum—which grew to more than 1,100 in the forum’s first six weeks—is free and includes school superintendents, technology coordinators, librarians, teachers, and other school professionals.

eSchool News launched two other listservs on April 17 as well: Safety & Security and Technology Funding. For more information, visit the link below.

Technology Forums for School Professionals

http://www.eschoolnews.com/techforums/ index.html