Impact of New Information:
Multimedia and Networks
IS 246, Winter 2001
Focus Group: Technology and Education
Vickie Deneroff firstname.lastname@example.org
Denita Walker email@example.com
Dave Wee firstname.lastname@example.org
The goal of our website is to examine the cause and effect relationship of unequal access to technology and information as it relates to education. Literature on issues relating to technology and education is abundant and our survey of the literature in the field should not be considered to be exhaustive, but rather a sampling of varied points of view. Aspects of technology and education which we found to be of particular interest during the course of the quarter included:
The Divide Between Those Who Have and Those Who Do Not...
Progressive technologies in the world have always seemed to be divided between those that have and those that have not. Historically, those that have, have experienced greater access and enjoyment of new capabilities, while those that have not have been left behind. This common scenario has become apparent with regard to computer technology--most specifically, when one examines household access and use of computers and the World Wide Web.
Numerous studies have used household income as an indicator of many things when it comes to the World Wide Web. Many of those studies have concluded that income not only indicates how likely you are to have home access to the web, where it is you go when you are online, and the length of time spent online during any given period. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the majority of those that use the web tend to be in the middle to upper-middle socioeconomic classes.
An interesting aspect of equity that we came across in our survey of information on the digital divide was that the concern over inequity of access is an imagined scenario. The argument's proponents point out that anyone who has recently studied the market for new computers knows that computers can be brought dirt-cheap and access to the Internet, in some cases is provided for free (providing that you dont mind all the banner ads). Because of this, they argue that everyone has access to the web. Walk into any public library and its there free of charge. Some community organizations and churches will even provide access and use of their computers. One could argue, therefore, that perhaps the inequity of access for different groups is related to preferences for usage of disposable income and/or preferences for uses of free time that contribute to these statistics. Politics of the scenario aside, however, the fact remains that Latinos, Blacks, and those with low household incomes are still much less likely to own a computer or even use computers and the web.
Here are just some of the questions that we have reviewed over the quarter:
How can equitable access to hardware and digital information be achieved?
What role does the commodification of information play in access to information?
Learning and Learning Organizations
The Current and Future Effects of Technological Innovation on Learning in and out of Schools
"The future is a foreign country. They do things differently there." (Can't remember who said that)
The late 80's and early 90's were full of euphoria about the wonderful possibilities of computer technology to "fix" the many problems of American education. Some envisioned the end of schools, with students sitting at computers programmed to teach them the skills they seemed unable to learn in classrooms (especially inner-city classrooms). Some of these visions went so far as to propose the end of teaching and schools as we know them. Less radical visions still included computerized tutorials to drill students and free teachers from the drudgery of routine tasks, allowing them to interact with students in more meaningful and creative ways. Surely the students of the year 2000 would be sophisticated technology users, and the slogans suggested that American students would be competitive for the 21st Century.
In the 15 short years since the start of serious interest and thought about the role of technological advances, overall not much has changed in education. As we have found out, merely putting computers in schools has very little effect on educational achievement. School, itself a complex cultural institution, is embedded in the larger culture. After struggling with school change for half a century, it has become pretty obvious that improving education is exceedingly complicated. Below are questions we have asked ourselves in order to try to tease out some of the ways that technology has affected or has the potential to affect schools and other learning organizations. There are many more variables in the technology-education connection; these are just the few we were able to consider in our focus group.
- How does school culture affect how technology is used?
- Does the introduction of technology change social interaction between teachers and students and students with each other?
- Does the use of technology change the relationship between schools and communities?
- How might technology create opportunities for nontraditional learning?
- What kind support and training do teachers need to effectively use technology in schools?
- Will teachers accept or develop new teaching methods associated with technology in the classroom?
- What are the most effective ways that technology can be used in the classroom?
Technology and Education in a Societal Context
It would be difficult dispute the idea that American Society has come to embrace a paradigm that sees an increased use of technology in our lives as synonymous with progress. Numerous studies from wide-ranging organizations confirm that the sheer number of computers in use in society has a whole has increased at a seemingly exponential pace.
Schools, as cultural institutions, have followed the lead of the communities that they serve and as a result, there has been a drive to implement technology in our Nation's schools with a seemingly unprecedented zeal. The general enthusiasm for increasing investment and implementation of technology in schools has sometimes led to the failure to consider the minority view which questions the dominant line of reason.
Groups on both sides of the technology-in-schools debate weigh in with studies supporting their views and we have attempted to select resources that reflect a range of viewpoints with regard to our initial areas of interested which included:
- Do the benefits of technology in schools justify the costs?
- What are developmentally appropriate uses for technology in schools?
- Will the implementation of technology in schools prepare students to enter the workforce?
- How might technology use affect social development?
- Do computers belong in schools?
- Why is technology in schools seen as such an important issue?
- Who is framing the discourse around technology in education?
- Do children really need access to computers at a young age in order to become productive and contributing adult citizens?
- Has the push for technology in schools come about as convenient political cover for society's unwillingness to adequately fund basic public education for all?