James G. Dunn
Digital Archives In Primary School Education
One of the more intriguing phenomena of the American educational system is the miraculous transformation of ordinary eighth-graders into masters of that dry, post-doctoral prose most commonly found within the vellum bindings of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The easy availability of primary cultural heritage materials now threatens to disrupt the steady progress of these extraordinary research achievements. Students may now be directed to consider primary source materials as the raw material for homework assignments.
The vision of the wired elementary school has been the fond dream of some politicians and equipment providers. However, in recent years there has been a tremendous increase in the number of elementary schools, public libraries and homes that have computers with connections to the Internet. In March, 1999, President Clinton gave a status report on his Administration's programs to provide Internet access for every classroom in America by the year 2000:
Vice President Gore and I have set a goal of connecting every classroom in America to the Internet by the year 2000. Today I am pleased to announce that new Department of Education data show that more than half the classrooms are connected - nearly twice as many connections as last year. And thanks to new E-Rate discounts that help schools and libraries connect to the Internet, we will reach our goal by the year 2000. Because of our efforts, children in the most isolated inner city or rural town will have access to the same universe of knowledge as a child in the most affluent suburb. Parents will be able to communicate more frequently with teachers, and keep up with the progress of their child in school. Our children will be 'technologically literate - and better prepared for the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future." New York Times, Cybertimes, March 2, 1999.
The dreams of the politicians are that the Internet in every classroom will be used by youngsters as more than a platform for playing astonishingly violent, interactive video games. The idea is that kids should actually learn something from the network and even more than if it were not available to them.
WHAT ARE ARCHIVES GOOD FOR?
Archives of cultural heritage materials are often unreflectively considered as socially valuable institutions. Although, it is undoubtedly true that the presence of archives in our society is for the best, it is useful to consider exactly where the value lies. This examination should be undertaken with a view to society as a whole and some sort of catalog generated. These specific items could then be examined to see which, if any, have relevance to the education of the young. When there is some sense of how archival material is useful to that goal, it would remain to be seen how those values could best be achieved if the archival materials are available for delivery over the Internet in digital form.
The use of the primary source material has been thought to be an important goal in the education of young children. It has been a goal that has not been seriously considered achievable because of the geographical barriers to access of important collections as well as the desire to keep dirty, little fingers off priceless and fragile objects. Both of these obstacles are cleared away by such digital access projects as the California Heritage Collection and the Making of America II. Professor Gilliland-Swetland has identified the substantial benefits that might be derived if elementary school curricula included archival materials:
· expand the relevance of archival repositories within society;
· begin to grow a records literate as well as information literate audience that is aware of the bureaucratic, social, political, and cultural evidence;
· promote the role of archivists as active participants in the communication of cultural heritage;
· take advantage of the technological and financial resources that are being allocated nationally for the application of information technology in the classroom and for educational reform;
· and, even promote archival education as a possible college choice[!].
Gilliland-Swetland, American Archivist, Vol.61, number 1, page 137.
The National Archives and Records Administration ("NARA") has also been considering the integration of primary source materials into the education of school children for some time. They have published two volumes entitled "Teaching With Documents." These books contain valuable historical documents along with articles that provide teachers with extensive background historical information and suggestions for integrating the documents into the classroom.
The NARA has also published a short manifesto entitled "History in the Raw," available at http://www.nara.gov/education/teaching/raw.html. This paper identifies the values that can be transmitted by using archival materials in teaching. The first is the ability to teach that subjective interpretation is behind most of history and that textbooks are really only one of many possible viewpoints:
Through primary sources students confront two essential facts in studying history. First, the record of historical events reflects the personal, social, political or economic points of view of the participants. Second, students bring to the sources their own biases, created by their own personal situations and the social environments in which they live. As students use these sources, they realize that history exists through interpretation - and tentative interpretation at that.
This increased level of sophistication regarding the analysis of historical documents can obviously be deployed by the students in evaluating similar processes, evidence and interpretation in their own lives and in contemporary society.
The NARA also identifies another important value of the use of archival material in education: the humanization of history. The NARA claims that by "using original sources, students touch the lives of the people about whom history is written. They participate in human emotions and in the values and attitudes of the past."
THE INTERNET IN THE CLASSROOM AND IMPROVING CHILDREN'S ACCESS TO ARCHIVAL MATERIAL
Children have generally not had much access to archives because of the geographical and logistical impediments of organizing class field trips and the preservation issues faced by the archives. Similar barriers, of course, existed for adults.
As already noted, the "wiring" of the American school system is well underway and, in many places, has actually been completed. At this point, the focus must shift to understanding and developing best practices for the use of the available technology to teach. There is no point in using the Internet in classrooms if it is not can not be shown that students are better educated by its presence.
Indeed, serious criticism has been leveled against the implacable technology bandwagon. Overblown promises about the miracles to be bestowed on children by the latest invention are a time-honored American tradition. Thomas Edison in 1922 predicted that "the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and ... in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks." (Todd Oppenheimer, "The Computer Delusion," The Atlantic, July 1997.) He also quotes the eminent sociologist Sherry Turkle as saying: "The possibilities of using this thing [computers in schools] poorly so outweigh the chance of using it well, it makes people like us, who are fundamentally optimistic about computers, very reticent."
One of the most important criticisms of classroom computerization is the tradeoffs that are being made. Stories are rife about school districts cutting such demonstrably valuable programs as music and art, while at the same time buying what Clifford Stoll called "Silicon Snake Oil." Oppenheimer concludes his Atlantic article as follows:
That could free the billions that Clinton wants to devote to technology and make it available for impoverished fundamentals: teaching solid skills in reading, thinking, listening, and talking; organizing inventive field trips and other rich hands-on experiences; and, of course, building up the nation's core of knowledgeable, inspiring teachers. These notions are considerably less glamorous than computers are, but their worth is firmly proved through a long history.
In mid-May, 1999 Gary Chapman, who directs a technology and social research project at the University of Texas and is the former director of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility delivered a paper at a Brookings Institution conference in Washington, D.C. At that time, he claimed that "there is not a rational basis" for Clinton's goal of putting a computer in every classroom:
It's very, very rare for me to run into a student who is totally incompetent with computers [referring to his graduate students.] But it is unfortunately, not rare for me to run into students who can't write or speak well, can't spell and have huge and alarming gaps in knowledge. (New York Times, May 19, 1999)
While understanding that the use of primary sources in teaching children is potentially very valuable, the archival community should use its prestige and influence to insure that its contribution to education is made in a responsible and professional manner. Precisely because of their deep professional awareness of the transmission of social values, archivists must insist that their materials not be used as a "come-on" by computer hardware salesmen. Fortunately, while digitization of archival materials is occurring at a rapid pace, there is a thriving research program into the appropriate uses of technology in education.
DIGITAL ARCHIVES CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FOR EDUCATION
We are reaching a critical mass of available on-line digital archives and many, if not most, of these have the specific mission of utility in classroom teaching. The following is a description of some selected projects. There are a large number of other archival collections being placed on the Web regularly from very small collections to much larger ones.
THE LEARNING PAGES
AMERICAN MEMORY PROJECT
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
The Learning Pages are part of the American Memory Project http://memory.loc.gov/) and emphasize the use of the Library of Congress' spectacular collection of historical materials for school use.
There are resources available for both teachers and students under the "Learn More About It" page. These are extremely useful summaries of the collections and the historical context in which they should be considered. These summaries have been prepared by experts in the field and educators. Also provided are helpful tips about searching the collection, related collections and suggestions for good search strategies. Among the other important resources are further reading recommendations from the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
This project also provides teachers with lesson ideas for the use of these archives in teaching American history.
THE DIGITAL CLASSROOM
NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION
The NARA provides archival materials along with curricular suggestions to teachers for using it. One can find reproducible images of primary source material, sample lesson plans, and search and navigation hints and links to cross-curricular resources.
An example of the fascinating use of archival resources for teaching the interwoven texture of history is the lesson concerned with "Gliddens' Patent Application for Barbed Wire." http://www.nara.gov/education/teaching/glidden/wire.html
This lesson proceeds from the simple documents filed for the patent to a sophisticated examination of how this basic technology transformed the economy and sociology of the American West. The teacher is provided with detailed suggestions for developing these issues for her students.
NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES
This is a joint project begun in 1997 and sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Trust for the Humanities, MCIWorldCom, and the Council of the Great City Schools.
The site provides links to the "top 49" humanities web sites, on-line lesson plans and in-school activities. Its mission is providing user-friendly access to the best on-line resources for teaching English, history, art history, and foreign languages. Although this site is not itself a digital archive, it is mentioned here because it has such an excellent interface to high quality archival resources. Furthermore, it provides the teacher with practical resources to take advantage of those other sites by including lesson plans and suggestions for educational activities that can be organized in the school.
This site was selected as one of five finalists for the Computerworld Smithsonian award for Innovation Network. As such, it has been accepted into the Smithsonian Institution's Permanent Research Collection of Information Technology. The permanent collection is the world's premier historical record of computing applications and innovations and how they are being used to improve society. EDSITEment is one of five finalists in the Education and Academia category. (Winning web sites will be announced June 7, 1999.)
AMERICAN HERITAGE VIRTUAL ARCHIVE PROJECT
This is a collaborative project among the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford, Duke, and the University of Virginia. The Project is creating a shared database of EAD-encoded finding aids describing and providing access to collections documenting American history and culture.
This project is not tailored to the use by school children or their teachers at all. It is a research project concerning issues of cross-collection metadata standards.
CALIFORNIA HERITAGE COLLECTION
This collection of over 28,000 images, mostly photographs, is a part of the Online Archive of California. The images are all drawn from the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley.
This project sponsored an initiative to use these archival images in the K-12 curriculum. The project objectives were designed to:
· Introduce K-12 students and teachers to archives and archival materials
· Create web-based lesson plans based on the California Heritage Collection
· Promote the integration of the Internet and primary sources into K-12 curriculum
The California Heritage Pilot Project worked with six schoools, at multiple grade levels during the 1997-98 school year. The web-based lesson plans that resulted from the individual school projects can be found at: http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/calheritage/k12.
HISTORIC AMERICAN SHEET MUSIC PROJECT
A project of the Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Special Collections Library at Duke University. The Historic American Sheet Music Project provides access to digital images of 3042 pieces from the collection, published in the United States between 1850 and 1920. It is planned that this site will be integrated into the American Memory Collections at the Library of Congress. This web site explains how sheet music can make history a personal journey:
An examination of sheet music reveals something of the inner life of the American citizenry in a way distinguishable from diaries and newspaper accounts, while also more intimate than the historian's descriptive synthesis. Use of these materials in conjunc-tion with letters and diaries can make history more personal. A soldier's mention of a song sung around the campfire in a letter to his family makes us more aware of the daily life of that man. To actually see the music and sing it ourselves transports us to that place and time for a moment. By examining the illustrations we can also study not only changes in fashion and dress, but expectations of appearance and behavior.
The illustration series "Society and culture--Women" gives an interesting overview of the "ideal" woman from 1850 to 1920. We also can view a less comfortable (through more modern eyes) overview of how African Americans were depicted both in the illustrations and in the music.
NEW DEAL NETWORK
In October 1996, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (FERI) launched The New Deal Network (NDN), a research and teaching resource on the World Wide Web devoted to the public works and arts projects of the New Deal. NDN is now based at the Institute for Learning Technologies (ILT) at Columbia University.
At the core of the NDN is a database of photographs, political cartoons, and texts (speeches, letters, and other historic documents from the New Deal period). Currently there are over 20,000 items in this database, many of them previously accessible only to scholars. NDN is drawing from a wide variety of sources around the country to create a theme-based archive.
The site includes materials specifically tailored to elementary school use, providing lesson plans, discovery guide, student showcase, and links to other resources. The student showcase is exploring one of the most fascinating potentials of the Internet. The New Deal Network and a community of interested scholars and educators are providing support for specific school projects that are exploring relevant subject matter. One example cited is the Bland County History Archives Project. Students in US History classes in Rocky Gap High School, located in southwestern Virginia, will be documenting the impact of the Great Depression in their community, using oral histories, photographs and other primary documents.
VIRTUAL SEMINARS FOR TEACHING LITERATURE
This site is produced by our cousins across the pond at Oxford University, Humanities Computing Unit. These seminars involve in order an introduction to World War I poetry, an in-depth look at the poet Isaac Rosenberg based upon his poem "Break of Day in the Trenches," an introduction to manuscript study, and an introduction to text analysis. These topics are obviously too advanced for the younger children but the site provides a stunning example of the integration of digital archives into higher level educational pursuits. This site has won many important awards.
The foregoing collection of links to digital archives related sites provides a very small sampling of the remarkable wealth of intellectually valuable materials now available on-line. These digital archives are making a deliberate and conscientious effort to maximize the use of these treasures in primary and secondary education. At this still early stage of the digital revolution, it is already possible to confidently predict that the Internet will deliver substantial and worthwhile educational materials to the classroom.
However, other issues still remaining include whether access to on-line archival materials can be tailored for the use by different grades and the best practices for using these materials to teach.
TAILORING PRESENTATION OF ON-LINE CONTENT FOR CHILDREN
The effective use of on-line archival materials in education would obviously be enhanced if the presentation of the material could vary depending upon the age and cognitive abilities of the child using it. It is a matter of very good fortune that the technical means for accomplishing this are presently available and that the archival community has been in the vanguard of their deployment.
Documents delivered over the World Wide Web are coded in hypertext markup language, "HTML." This coding technique provides information which a browser program can interpret and use to display the document. HTML is only able to describe in the most rudimentary form the structure of the document itself.
Serious initiatives are now underway to expand upon the document descriptions that are conveyed over the Internet. These are generally subsumed under the research topic of the "Standard Graphical Markup Language," ("SGML") and its younger cousin, the "Extensible Markup Language," (XML").
SGML AND XML
The desirability of using SGML is that it provides for the strict definition of the structural contents of the document and leaves as a separate issue the processing of the document. The author creates the content and then specifies all of the elements of the document and the relationships among them. From there the document may be interpreted and totally reconstructed by any SGML compliant document processing system. Receiving the SGML document, interpreting the critical information conveyed by the SGML coding, and then displaying, printing, retrieving, or playing the document is left to the processing system. The key to this entire process is the descriptive markup.
The ideal SGML document is "portable, multimedia aware, interactive, retrievable and open-ended." In order to achieve these features, there must be a precise fit between the document and the target application, which might be search and retrieval software, viewing devices, multimedia navigation engines, etc. The required precision is made possible by 3 fundamental rules of SGML:
1. The markup for an SGML application is explicit and unambiguous.
2. SGML clearly distinguishes between the document and the processing of the document;
3. The author and editor of a conforming SGML document deal with writing and markup and not with processing.
The drafting of documents has traditionally been facilitated by the selection of particular genres. A specific genre sets up well-understood expectations for structure that the writer may simply incorporate. Similarly, the job of a writer of an SGML document is facilitated when it is known that the product is to be of a certain document type. In SGML, the document type is described according to formal rules in a document type definition or "DTD."
The Encoded Archival Descriptor ("EAD") is just such a DTD. It is the formal standard for encoding archival finding aids in digitized collections. It was started by Daniel Pitti at UC Berkeley in 1993 and was originally funded by the U.S Department of Education.
Documentation for the EAD is now published in the Encoded Archival Description: Tag Library Version 1.0. It contains "essential documentation for archivists, museum curators, and librarians who are using or thinking about using EAD. The Tag Library lists and defines all EAD Version 1.0 elements and attributes, and indicates their relationship to one another." Dooley, J., "Introduction. Encoded Archival Description: Content and Theory." American Archivist, Vol.60, Number 3, 264-265. EAD as a standard is now maintained by the Library of Congress. http://lcweb.loc.gov/ead/ead.html. The Society of American Archivists also provides extensive resources in cooperation with OASIS at http://www.oasis.org/cover/EAD-SAA-SpecialIssues1998.html.
The value of encoding a document in SGML is that it may be presented in any way that the application designer desires. The SGML taggings of archival materials can be interpreted and translated by a computer to HTML and distributed over the World Wide Web to ordinary web browsers.
The complexity of the SGML scheme has been mitigated somewhat for use on the Internet and so a more streamlined standard, Extensible Markup Language ("XML") has been developed by the W3C. Current versions of the most popular web browsers, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5.0 and Netscape Navigator 5.0 recognize XML tags. Furthermore, Microsoft is supporting XML more broadly by making XML a supported file format in its forthcoming Office 2000 application suite. The EAD was developed to be fully compliant with XML as well.
The World Wide Web Consortium ("W3C") is currently working on further extensions of the XML standard to allow for even greater flexibility of presentation of XML encoded documents over the Internet. One important development is the Extensible Style Language ("XSL"). There are two basic ideas behind XSL, the first is that it allows a user to extract selected information from an XML document. The second is that it allows that selected information to be formatted. There is no limit to the formatting that XSL can apply to XML encoded documents.
These powerful technologies can be used to deploy EAD encoded archival materials over the Internet in formats that are specifically tailored to specific audiences. Any style sheet selected by the user (or the user's teacher) can display the XML document. Various style sheets can be written to make the display of the document consistent with the user's needs. As an example, an XML-tagged document could be run through a voice-synthesis apparatus that will "say" the text. Another style sheet could render the same document in a completely different way.
The sophistication of the software available for the use of on-line materials is rapidly increasing as business uses the Internet for large volumes of commerce. Many major computer companies are investing heavily in the research and development of tools for the management of on-line data. The archival community's adoption of the EAD has left it well positioned to take advantage of these developments.
The issue has now actually become what is the best way to incorporate on-line digital content into children's education. The technology is or certainly will be available to realize any educational model deemed advisable. Extensive research is now being conducted to find ways to use the power and flexibility of computer networks in education.
CURRENT RESEARCH INTO ISSUES OF TECHNOLOGY AND EDUCATION
Although the Clinton Administration seems to have put the cart before the horse by spending billions of taxpayer dollars on computers without any clear idea of how to use them, many research programs currently underway may be able to deliver reliable recommendations for educational use of computer and network technology. Some of the more provocative studies are described here.
CENTER FOR INNOVATIVE LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES
The National Science Foundation has recently funded the establishment of the Center for Innovative Learning Technologies (CILT). This is a joint enterprise among UC Berkeley, SRI International, Vanderbilt University and the Concord Consortium. http://cilt.org. See also, http://www.sri.com/policy/ctl/html/cilt.htm. (The lead investigator in CILT from UC Berkeley is Marcia C. Linn in the Graduate School of Education.)
One potentially fascinating area of research being undertaken by CILT is its "Community Tools" theme. Here the project proposes to teach by using on-line learning communities. Among the sets of tools that CILT believes are needed to enable such communities are so-called "Network Improvement Tools." These tools could "enhance learning by linking individuals to new sources of knowledge, like-minded peers, subject-matter experts, or teachers." Some representative technologies are MUDs and MOOs, collaborative filtering tools, software agents, and metadata that enable searching and organization of data so that they can be recognized by XML-compliant Web browsers. Obviously, the EAD for archival materials is well-positioned to take advantage of developments in this field.
Abstracts of a long list of research projects that CILT has funded are described in http://cilt.org/html/cilt99_abstracts.html.
Although there are many very interesting projects currently going on in the Network Improvement Tools area, it appears there it is not now actively pursuing metadata research.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY
UC Berkeley has sponsored a series of research projects into developing electronic networked approaches to elementary and high school science instruction. The current version of this approach is the Web-based Integrated Science Environment ("WISE") project. http://wise.berkeley.edu/WISE/index.html. This work is funded by the National Science Foundation. The concept of the program is that by using WISE, students can apply their existing science understanding in the context of meaningful situations where they practice important lifelong learning skills like critiquing evidence, comparing different theories or designs, designing new arguments or artifacts, and searching for evidence to support their views or to inform their designs.
The UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education is also sponsoring the Knowledge Integration Environment ("KIE') research program. http://www.kie.berkeley.edu. This project was an outgrowth of an earlier, ten-year long project, the Computer as Learning Partner project. The CLP project was also funded by the National Science Foundation.
The CLP project was integrated into the UCB project called the Instructional Technology Program. http://www.itp.berkeley.edu. This program was designed to provide support to faculty members in using computers and other technology for instructional purposes.
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
ONE SKY, MANY VOICES
This is a project to create K-12 weather curricula, using CD-ROMs and the World Wide Web, for the interactive study of weather and air quality. http://www.onesky.umich.edu
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN DIGITAL LIBRARY
TEACHING AND LEARNING PROJECT
A project focussing on science resources for 6th through 12th grades. The project identifies four broad areas for it exploration:
· Structure of the On-Line Materials
· Student Learning
· Teacher Use
· Implementation Issues
Structure of the On-Line Materials
Here the University of Michigan Digital Library's research is closely related to the issues relating to the deployment of the EAD and other XML schemes. The area of concern is that the vast quantities of unstructured information that can be accessed through the Internet will overwhelm the student. Thus, the UMDL team is pursuing answers to some of the following questions:
Issues with the medium.
1) How do we structure the large amounts of information in the digital library in order for students to take the most advantage of it? 2) How can information searching be embedded as part of a learning environment to promote inquiry? 3) What kind of information is best represented in various media? 4) How do the media complement each other to help students learn?
Issues in providing scaffolding.
1) What are the types of scaffolding that are most appropriate for digital library technology? 2) What are the issues in developing interfaces that implement such scaffolding strategies? 3) When should scaffolding be faded as student expertise in using the digital library increases?
Issues in usability.
1) How does one avoid the exponential learning curve typical of technology? 2) Because the digital library will be used as an integral part of classroom activities, what scaffolds are needed to make this use effective? 3) How do we enable students to publish their own documents in the digital library and share them with others?
Assessment of Student Learning
Continued investment and use of computer networks in classrooms simply can not be justified without sound data supporting its pedagogical effectiveness. The UMDL has identified this an another broad area for inquiry and has specifically set forth the following research questions:
Does the use of on-line teaching materials materials help students development deep understanding of science content and process? What understanding of science concepts do students develop by using the digital library? How does student motivation toward learning science change by using the digital library? How does student thoughtfulness change by using the digital library? How do students use on-line learning materials? What types of artifacts are created and published in the UMDL? What types of interactions occur as a result of on-line publishing and what types of changes result?
The use of digital resources has the potential to change classroom practice and how teachers go about the practice of teaching. As a result a number of question surface:
How do teachers use on-line teaching and learning materials? How do teachers make use of the various media and different parts of the digital library? How does use of the digital library influence practice?
How can on-line inquiry be embedded as a part of inquiry-based learning? How does the use of on-line projects impact teaching?
The use of digital resources has the potential to change classrooms, but past experience and research has shown that just giving teachers access to the materials or telling them how to use them is not enough. Teachers too need to be active learners in the process. We need to explore the following questions.
What initial supports do teachers need to use on-line resources? What continued support is necessary for teachers to effectively use on-line materials? What types of hardware configurations allow for effective use of on-line resources?
The UMDL has identified several unique characteristics of on-line educational resources:
On-line materials may have different characteristics and implications for teaching and learning than traditional print and non-print resources. The unique characteristics of on-line materials include:
1.Content is current.
Using resources on the Internet, students will obtain the most current information regarding the questions they are exploring.
2.Content can be from primary resources.
In many circumstances, students will use the same data and information sources as scientists.
3.Content is comprehensive.
In typical libraries used by secondary school students, a subset of popular and scholarly material on a given subject is available. The UMDL and WWW will expand the range of content enormously,
giving students access to an unprecedented range of information sources.
4.Resources are represented in various formats.
In particular, information is available in digital form for easy manipulation and use by students. Video and sound provide new information (for example, dynamic views of the ozone holes), and new ways of receiving information, revealing new possibilities for students to build understanding.
5.Students can publish on-line.
Student artifacts can be shared by a wide audience.
6.Content is readily accessible.
Information is in a single source, obtainable from the point of access. That is, the information is obtained at the same time and from the same place as when it is located.
HIGHLY INTERACTIVE COMPUTING IN EDUCATION
This project is conducting research into integrating technology into K-12 classrooms. The project is an interdisciplinary study being undertaken in collaboration with the Detroit Public Schools for the past two years and the Ann Arbor Public Schools for the past eight years. The participants are drawn from the School of Education, College of Engineering, School of Information, and School of Public Health.
They are developing middle-school science curriculum and technical tools to support learning.
PCs FOR FAMILIES PROJECT
The US Department of Education is supporting a 3-year program in the Computer Science Department at Virginia Tech in cooperation with the Montgomery County Public Schools. Nicknamed the PCs for Families program, the project seeks to determine whether, under the best of circumstances, access to networked computing by both students and their families has measurable effect upon long-term student achievement. Initiated September 1, 1996.
A 5th-grade classroom has been designed with a networked computer for every two students. A computer is lent to the family of each student in the program. That will enable the students to work at home with their families in the same way that they do at school. A curriculum will be designed to encourage reading, writing, exploration, collaboration, and critical analysis. Parents will be trained in networked computing along with their children, and their participation will be required.
Besides assessing outcomes when students are immersed in network-based computing at an early age, the project seeks to determine the human costs associated with full technology utilization. Also to be studied is the applicability of different technologies across a wide range of lesson types.
There are many corporations, educational institutions and government agencies actively investigating the use of networks and computers in teaching children. Some of these research programs can be accessed through the following resources.
The Association for Computing Machinery ("ACM") maintains a Special Interest Group concerning Computer Human Interaction ("SIGCHI"). A subgroup emphasizes research on children's interactions with computers. This subgroup is called SIGCHI Kids and Computers and it can be found on the Web at http://www.acm.org/sigchi/kids. ACM maintains an online bibliography of human computer interface literature that can be searched for educational issues. Significant search terms include children, kids, child, and K-12.
There is also a San Francisco Bay Area Chapter called ACM SIGCHI Bay CHI Kids & Computers. http://www.baychi.org/bof/kids.
The U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Office of Educational Technology
The Department of Education funds and sponsors a number of important research activities. In addition, it serves as a clearinghouse of current topical political developments.
Stanford Learning Lab
The Stanford Learning Lab is a collaborative venture to improve student learning and to promote creativity in education through the introduction of "pedagogically informed learning technology."
UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS
Center for Knowledge Communication
This program is sponsored by the U.Mass. Computer Science Department. It is looking into teaching systems that have deep knowledge of the subject and sophisticated responsiveness to individual users. Over the past twelve years the Center has researched:
"1.Curricula to organize instructive problem scenarios along incremental pathways within the problem scenario space.
2.User models to assess knowledge and reasoning about dynamic and unpredictable human learning.
3.Planning mechanisms to make decisions about tutoring strategies.
4.Intelligent new-media systems using simulations and video.
5.Authoring tools to aid in the construction of intelligent tutoring systems."
CME: Center for Media Education
This organization describes itself as "a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of electronic media, especially on the behalf of children and families."
The Policy division of this company is involved in some of the most important ongoing research in the use of technology in education. Its work is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, the California Department of Education and the Ford Foundation.
UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO
The University of Waterloo in Canada is conducting research into the development of tools to enable learning over the network and to design new learning activities and environments for use within the classroom.
THE CONCORD CONSORTIUM
A non-profit research and development organization whose mission is to further creative and innovative uses of information technology in teaching.
The promise for great strides in the education of children is tantalizingly close in the fantastic progress in computing and communications technology. This promise has already been sullied by its blatant use as a political stalking horse. Results from careful and scientifically sound research projects are necessary to begin to implement these powerful technologies in a responsible fashion into our children's schools. When those programs have been developed, the wealth of the nation's archives will be available on an unprecedented and unimagined scale to enrich students' understanding of their history, their culture and themselves.