Education leaders are often at odds about how to incorporate technology into the curriculum. Part of this problem stems from their different visions of the direction education should take.

Here are three competing visions of education, each of which lead to different beliefs about the best way to use technology:

• Traditional. This type of a back-to-basics approach focuses on teaching students widely-accepted, standardized information. In this approach, teachers play the primary role in relaying the information to students. Supporters of a traditional approach see computers as a potential substitute provider of some of the more mundane, rote-learning activities that are necessary in the classroom. Advanced students can use pre-packaged, pre-approved software to further explore complicated subjects.

• Progressive. This educational system focuses as much on the process of seeking an answer as the answer itself. In this model, teachers show students how to seek answers by following different paths. But this model still basically assumes that the goal is for students to arrive at the “correct” answer in some form. Supporters of the progressive education approach see computers as offering students an opportunity to explore assigned subjects at their own pace. They also promote multimedia technology as a way to present information to students in different ways, so that each student can learn in the manner that is most effective for him or her.

• Transformative. This educational approach seeks to discover what subjects or issues matter most to each individual student and to encourage each student to explore these interests in depth. In this model, teachers are facilitators, rather than keepers of the “right” answer. For teachers who work in this manner, web-based inquiries such as WebQuests are ideal forums for exploration.

The truth might be that each of these methods has its place in the education system. Depending upon the learning goal, one style of teaching might be more appropriate and meaningful than another. And the same can be said for computers use. Perhaps the best piece of advice is to make sure the way computers are being used complements the specific style of learning being used.

abstracted from “Technology Across the Curriculum”
MultiMedia Schools, November/December 2001