From Now On
Vol 9|No 1|September|1999
by Jamie McKenzie
(Information Technology) does not transform schools
Great teaching combined with a solid familiarity with information literacy skills might transform schools, but there has been entirely too much focus on the promise of wires and cables, laptops and desktops.
Three years into a global rush to wire schools, we still have scanty evidence that the huge expenditures have changed student performance. Politicians wax eloquent about "knowledge economies" while squandering money on poorly conceived educational ventures that ignore what we know about teachers, teaching and change in schools. (see June issue of FNO)
It is time we replace the term (Information Technology) with (Information Literacy).
To understand more about what is required for schools to make (Information Literacy) central to purpose, consider this article in the Connected Classroom Newsletter.
Problems of Readiness and Preparation
We are witnessing an equipment shopping spree that violates good sense and ignores what we know about changing schools. Schools have become the target for an unprecedented technology binge that is too often about decoration and status rather than achievement. Early adopting states are now (belatedly) commissioning "audits" that do little to demonstrate any return on investment.
Changing classrooms from "sage on the stage" traditional models to include "guide on the side" student-centered strategies and activities requires a prolonged commitment to professional development - one that is well beyond the resources and the savvy of most school districts, many of which are still fixated on the software trap mentioned earlier. We have few models to emulate and little evidence that this transformation of teaching styles is even possible.
Adding to that issue is a widespread failure to move computers about strategically in order to optimize maximize benefits. In far too many cases, computers are spread thinly across classrooms without regard for readiness and with too little "cultivation" of the classrooms or their occupants. (See May issue of From Now On.) "Strategic Deployment of New Technologies."
Problems of Philosophy and Inclination
Many teachers are inclined to stick with traditional teaching. Hank Becker's research shows that "traditional" teachers are three times less likely to use new technologies than "constructivist" teachers. (see April issue of From Now On) also (click here to go to "Internet Use by Teachers" Web site at University of California Irvine) We apparently suffer both from poor preparation and a lack of inclination.
While many "traditional" teachers in Becker's study express some desire to spend more time on student centered learning, they complain that new state curriculum standards and tests leave them little time or room to support such activities. Their "wishful thinking" does not translate into robust technology usage or (Information Literacy).
Inclination is rarely addressed as a technology challenge. Sadly, there is little written about the reluctant, late adopting, traditional teachers and how to enlist their support in the effort. (see summer bonus issue of From Now On) This failure helps to explain their lack of use.
Problems of philosophy and inclination are best addressed by clarifying purpose. Schools that focus their efforts on (Information Literacy) should be able to win the support of all teachers as they see the connection between literacy and performance.
As was fully outlined in the April issue of From Now On , many of the new, tougher tests require inferential reasoning skills. Students must learn to read between the lines and employ strategic reading.
The thought process is akin to Sherlock Holmes solving a murder mystery.
Sherlock begins with seven suspects. He checks everybody's story. He narrows it down to the butler and Aunt Gertrude. He gathers more evidence. He and Dr. Watson consider the clues. They test their theories. They combine clues.
They zero in on one suspect, lay a trap and find their woman (or man.)
Whodunit? The butler? Aunt Gertrude?
These same skills are central to problem-solving and decision-making. They are basic to (Information Literacy).
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