Technology & Learning, September 2001

Here are five trends to watch, as schools move ahead with the technology they have installed to this point:

1. Open-source software movement gains momentum. Schools are increasingly interested in obtaining open-source software for administrative and classroom uses, especially word processing and spreadsheets. Linux is leading the way as a free alternative to Microsoft and Apple operating-system software that must be licensed at costs that often are prohibitive for school districts.

2. Web now covered by federal accessibility rules. Because Congress recently extended government requirements for providing access for the disabled to computer purchases and web sites, school administrators should be aware that their web sites most likely will be expected to meet the statute in the future. Under the provisions of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, federal web sites must work with text-to-speech software (to assist the blind) and photocopiers must be accessible to wheelchair users.

3. Ed-tech still too focused on “how.” Professional development courses at conferences and seminars still seem to be oriented toward showing educators how to use computers, design web pages, etc., rather than illustrating why these efforts will improve student learning.

4. Truants will be tracked online. Soon, school administrators may have information about student attendance and academic performance downloaded to handheld computers. The greater availability of these data may improve administrators’ ability to respond to matters of concern.

5. More dangerous computer viruses arise. Many schools’ computer networks were disabled by computer viruses this past summer, and even far more sophisticated and troublesome viruses are likely to arise in the future.