Commission begins study of internet’s role in education

A task force appointed by the federal government to study how the internet can change education for the better held its first public hearing in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 2.

The initial meeting of the Congressional Web-based Education Commission set the group’s agenda and laid the groundwork for a 10-month study of the issues–and criticisms–surrounding the use of online content and learning strategies to improve K-12 and higher education.

The commission is made up of senators, congress members, educators, and business leaders, most notably Sen. Bob Kerry, D-Neb.; Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.; Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa.; Rep. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; John Gage, chief scientist at Sun Microsystems; and Sue Collins, senior vice president at …Read More

Concerned leaders should check out this school safety report

Despite heightened public attention following a surge in multiple homicides in schools, overall school crime rates are declining, according to a report prepared by the Departments of Education and Justice and released in October. In addition to the latest statistics on school crime, the second “Annual Report on School Safety (1999)” includes descriptions of activities planned by the 54 communities receiving the first Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative grants last summer; model research-based programs that address the prevention of violence and the use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; and schools recognized as doing an exemplary job of creating and maintaining safe environments.

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By The Numbers:

Back in November, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) issued the results of its latest study on “Internet Access in Public and Private Schools.” The fed’s most recent assessment of connectivity in K-12 schools suggests that early results of the eRate—the federal program designed to close the “access gap” among wealthier and poorer schools—may have been mixed.

Between 1994 and 1998, internet access in public schools increased from 35 to 89 percent of schools. The percentage of public school classrooms with internet access also increased during this period, from 3 percent in 1994 to 51 percent in 1998.

With the arrival of the federal eRate program in 1998, some interesting changes can be seen in the schools that actually make up this “connected” demographic. …Read More

Methods of Computer Use Vary Across the Country

With about 90 percent of public schools now wired for internet access, the question of whether educators can use technology in the classroom has been decided. Author Lisa Guernsey explores the more compelling question that will be asked in the future: What are we going to do with this opportunity?

Although some education researchers question whether young children really benefit from access to computers, the author finds that many educators are using computers in exactly the way that experts say is most effective: as the basis for projects built on the unique skills and interests of each individual student.

In a visit to a public school classroom in New York City in which 70 percent of the children qualify for free lunches, the author finds the members of an eleventh-grade English class intently working on their online projects, while their teacher works one-on-one with a student. The teacher points out that eMail adds greatly to his ability to communicate with students as individuals, instead of taking control of the classroom as the disseminator of generic information. …Read More

“Hope for Urban Education” takes flight

Nine urban elementary schools that have served children of color in poor communities and achieved impressive academic results are the focus of this report released in December at the Department of Education’s third regional Improving America’s Schools conference in Chicago. “What stands out among these schools,” said Education Secretary Richard Riley, “is a clear and unrelenting focus on high standards, a commitment to serving children and ensuring their academic success, and a collective sense of responsibility and persistence among school staff.” Most of the 150-page report (126 pages) is devoted to in-depth case studies of these nine schools: Harriet A. Baldwin School in Boston; Baskin Elementary in San Antonio; Burgess Elementary in Atlanta; Centerville Elementary in East St. Louis, Ill.; Goodale Elementary in Detroit; Hawley Environmental Elementary in Milwaukee; Lora B. Peck Elementary in Houston; Gladys Noon Spellman Elementary in Cheverly, Md.; and James Ward Elementary in Chicago. All are Title I-funded schools that pool resources through “schoolwide projects” to serve all students and improve achievement. This study and report were produced for the Department’s Planning and Evaluation Service by the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

States struggle to define technology standards:

Forty out of 50 states lack a technology component in their high school graduation requirements, according to a report issued by the Milken Exchange on Education Technology last August. With an ever-increasing demand for technologically skilled workers in industries across the board, some experts wonder why this is so.

Of the ten states with a technology graduation requirement, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Texas all require students to take technology coursework. Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina require such coursework only if students fail to pass a computer skills test or to demonstrate proficiency with technology.

The content of the technology curriculum varies from state to state. In many, the focus is on computer skills. In North Carolina, students must learn computer ethics and skills such as keyboarding, word processing, desktop publishing, spreadsheet and database use, and multimedia presentations. Students across the state must pass a standardized computer skills test, and generally do so before leaving middle school, said Janice Johnson, section chief for technology planning and support in North Carolina. …Read More

Technology Is Rapidly Transforming Public Education

Technology is changing the ways that students can be taught so rapidly that within a decade, the entire American public education system will be transformed, says Joseph J. Cirasuolo, president of the American Association of School Administrators.

Because the internet can radically change notions of place and community, Cirasuolo sees the entire present structure of teacher-led instruction in physical classrooms as ripe for revolution in the next five or ten years.

Among his predictions: …Read More

Teens Seek Human Guidance, Not Computers in Science Education

When it comes to their science education, teens rate parental involvement as more important to generating their interest than educators or technology-related equipment and courses.

This is a key finding of the Lemelson-MIT Program’s latest Invention Index, an annual nationwide survey of Americans’ perceptions about inventing and innovating. The study contradicts society’s image of teens as isolated technophiles, according to economist and Lemelson-MIT Board Chairman Professor Lester C. Thurow: “As our children know, the latest technology is the oldest technology—brain power plus motivation,” he said. “Our study shows that kids still want attention, support, and guidance from their parents above all else.”

About 55 percent of teens surveyed say encouragement from parents to do well in science is an excellent way to build their interest in the sciences, compared to 35 percent who say “buying computers, technology, and educational equipment” is an excellent idea. …Read More

By The Numbers:

Could there ever be enough computer equipment in schools? A recent report by Quality Education Data (QED) suggests that, after years of intense investment in computer hardware at the K-12 level, schools might finally be reaching a saturation point for spending on hardware.

The Technology Expenditures report, which forecasts K-12 spending on technology in the current school year, indicates that overall technology spending will drop slightly in 1999-2000, after years of steadily increasing. According to the report, the average dollars spent per student will dip from $142.21 in 1998-1999 to $132.57 this year.

Perhaps more telling than how much schools are spending on technology is where they are spending their allotted dollars. The most significant change noted in the study is a sharp decrease in hardware spending, from 42.6 percent of the budget per student in 1998-1999 to just 35.4 percent of the budget this year—an average decrease of $13.58 in spending per student on hardware. …Read More

Excerpts from ISTE’s Connecting Curriculum and Technology

Profiles for technology-literate students

In 1998, ISTE released a set of technology standards for K-12 students—performance indicators that could be used as benchmarks to define “technology-literate” students at each grade level. The new ISTE publication expands upon these benchmarks by providing illustrations of classroom scenarios in which students demonstrate the desired skills.

For example, according to ISTE’s technology standards, prior to the completion of grade eight, students should be able to:…Read More