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 From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 10|No 7|April|2001

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The Great Turning Point

By Jamie McKenzie

We may have reached a great turning point.

After several years of "cart before horse" and an unprecedented wiring and spending spree, many school districts are seeing the folly of binging (as in "binge") on equipment without making a balanced commitment to program and professional development. They are also waking up to the enormous ongoing support costs associated with maintaining an effective modern network.

Just as investors have shifted support from the inflated technology sector to "old economy" stocks and investments that promise a return on investment, many school leaders have made learning gains and student achievement the bottom line to assess the worth of new networks.

It is no longer enough to be connected. It is no longer enough to be digital and wired.

Schools are looking for results.


For twenty years we have been bringing computers and other technologies into schools. In recent times we have added the extra element of global networking. During both of those decades, we have struggled to avoid the trap of doing technology for technology's sake, but the challenge of networking buildings proved so daunting, that many districts found it difficult to maintain a focus on curriculum.

There are signs of a shift . . .

1) Conferences - Audience attraction to literacy and learning at technology conferences has grown dramatically. Some who watched attendance at the NCCE conference in Spokane noted a shift from razzle-dazzle techno-flash to information literacy and curriculum rich strategies, as Bernie Dodge attracted a huge following for his keynote on WebQuests. The proportion of sessions devoted to curriculum and learning is growing at conference after conference.

2) Consulting Issues - Clients are increasingly looking for support to create standards-based learning units and robust professional development offerings. Many of these are districts that have been networked for several years and have had some difficulty engaging the full support of all teachers. They seek ways to recruit and enlist the daily efforts of all teachers. They wish to move toward full utilization. They welcome assessment strategies that show results while helping to steer program efforts.

3) Dot Bombs - Some technology and Internet publishing companies are dropping by the wayside - those who focused their efforts too much on razzle dazzle and special effects with little attention to the needs, preferences and desires of the reluctant, late adopting, skeptical and traditional teachers. "Doing the Internet" and surfing have proven uninviting and strangely whimsical to most teachers who must contend with an increasingly demanding set of standards and assessments. Virtual field trips?


Just as stock market investors are re-discovering value as a prime issue when considering investment, it is predictable that the fan fare and eagerness of the past few years will give way to a more measured approach within schools as concepts such as return on investment will gain more attention while simplistic, inflated notions of school change will be set aside in favor of strategies that are grounded in research and practicality.

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Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie.
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