As a new school year begins, the time may have come to reconsider how large a role technology can play in changing education, writes Steve Lohr in an essay in the New York Times. There are promising examples, both in the United States and abroad, and they share some characteristics. The ratio of computers to pupils is one to one. Technology isn’t off in a computer lab. Computing is an integral tool in all disciplines, always at the ready. Web-based education software has matured in the last few years, so that students, teachers and families can be linked through networks. Until recently, computing in the classroom amounted to students doing internet searches, sending eMail and mastering word processing, presentation programs, and spreadsheets. That’s useful stuff, to be sure, but not something that alters how schools work. The new web education networks, however, can open the door to broader changes. Parents become more engaged, because they can monitor their children’s attendance, punctuality, homework, and performance and can get tips for helping them at home. Teachers can share methods, lesson plans, and online curriculum materials. In the classroom, the emphasis can shift to project-based learning–a real break with the textbook-and-lecture model of education.
The project-based approach, some educators say, encourages active learning and produces better performance in class and on standardized tests…

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