From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal
Vol 6|No 9|June|1997
For what Purpose?
- In the rush to connect classrooms to wide area networks (WANs), Intranets and the Internet, clarifying educational purpose is critically important. The questions and criteria listed below are intended to help guide school districts in the design of such networks in order to optimize their impact and help schools realize an impressive return on investment.
1. Information Power:
Quality Information to the User Desktop
- When a student or teacher sits down at any networked desktop, how rich and reliable are the information resources made available? Does the network support student research and problem solving?
- Does the network support powerful information harvesting in a child friendly manner?
- Is there a periodical collection on every computer such as EBSCO, Electric Library, or ProQuest which supplies current articles on topics which are supportive of the school curriculum?
- Is there an assortment of electronic reference tools n every computer such as an encyclopedia, an atlas, a thesaurus, and a dictionary?
- Does the network provide user friendly access to information resources available on the Internet with appropriate "interfaces" so that teachers and students may move rapidly and efficiently to useful information?
- Does the network provide adequate bandwidth so that information arrives rapidly and efficiently?
- Does the network provide access to locally collected data (such as historical documents and water quality data) and lesson resources in support of the curriculum?
- Does the network provide access to local resources such as library books, videos, curriculum guides, board policies, personnel policies, etc.?
- Does the design of the desktop or "interface" make location of information and navigation efficient and comfortable?
2. Communication and Collaboration
- Does the network reduce isolation, increase contact and support the exchange of ideas, resources, and inventions?
- Can teachers and students conveniently store and find their work on the network so that the work builds and is always available?
- Can teachers and students exchange lessons, instructions, work and information across the network with ease and comfort?
- Do library media specialists work with teachers to design their buildings' information menus so that they are age appropriate, coherent and curriculum relevant?
- Can teachers and students exchange information and ideas with teachers, students, experts and others regionally or globally?
- Can teachers and other staff members share good ideas, questions, interests and needs through e-mail exchanges?
- Can the administrative staff communicate important information and expectations through the network to all groups which have a need to know the information?
- Does the network offer frequent, easy and convenient access to resources so that the rich information and powerful tools become part of the daily life of the schools as well as all the staff members and students?
- If all students wished to make use of computers on a daily basis, how many minutes would be possible? If they wish to spend 3-4 hours in a week writing an essay or doing research, is that possible?
- Does the amount of access match program needs?
- To what extent are computers located so that students and staff may use them when they need them?
- Are all computers located where they are likely to be used 85% or more of the time?
- Are computers placed in specific locations because they are needed there for pre-defined purposes and goals or are they placed in locations without any clear purpose other than balanced distribution?
- Are computers distributed in line with learning models and research which have been proven effective or are they placed in locations without any clear purpose other than balanced distribution?
- Is there an appropriate balance between "open access" computers as opposed to computers located in scheduled access rooms and labs where an "appointment" is required?
- Is there a plan to move away from "lab-centered" access to "distributed" access as staff and students develop the skills and capacity to sustain a "distributed" system?
- Is there a clear understanding of "critical mass" - the minimal essential number of classroom computers required to sustain significant use? Self-contained elementary classrooms require 1 computer for every 4-5 students. Secondary classrooms require 1 computer for every 2-3 students but most secondary teachers prefer access to such resources only 20-25 per cent of the time because coverage pressures make anything more quite unlikely.
4. Evidence of Use
- Can we be sure the technology is used frequently in ways which support our goals?
- Is there a system to keep track of utilization trends and rates in each building?
- Is there a clearly stated expectation about utilization rates?
- Is there a planning mechanism to keep utilization "on the table?"
- What happens if utilization falls below expectations?
- Are all staff expected to do "their fair share?" How are these expectations expressed and then monitored?
- Are the expectations written into curriculum documents as required learning experiences?
- Credits: The background is from Jay Boersma.
Other drawings and graphics are by Jamie McKenzie.
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