Technology Enhanced Learning

Carrie Heeter
Michigan State University
Department of Telecommunication


3.0 Technology promise and the real world

Internet 1 is already commonplace, while Internet2 is experimental. What's the reality of Internet 1 penetration in public schools?

In 1998, 90% of public schools had at least some access to the Internet [2]! The number continues to grow. Looking closer at the classroom rather than school level, 39% of teachers had Internet access in their classrooms.

Having access in the classroom does not necessarily equal use. Twenty-six percent of elementary teachers have actually used the World Wide Web in their classrooms. Twenty-six percent of middle school teachers do so. Thirty-four percent of high school teachers have used it.

Some teachers use the Internet to prepare lessons.

Twenty-eight percent of teachers use the Internet themselves weekly, or more often, to find information to use in lessons. Thirty-two percent do not use the Internet at all in preparing lessons; forty percent do so occasionally. In other words, nearly three fourths of teachers do not regularly use Internet 1 to prepare for teaching.

Some teachers make creative, extensive use of the World Wide Web. Eighteen percent have posted information for students; seven percent of teachers had students email at least three times in a year; four had kids publish on the web.

Internet 1 may touch some K-12 teachers and their students deeply, but it impacts the majority of K-12 teachers and their students hardly at all. Other research by the same authors suggests computer technology is more likely to be welcomed and used by teachers who embrace constructivist-compatible teaching practices. "However, changing other teacher's philosophies and beliefs to be more constructivist simply by having them use computers may not work [2]."

Elliot Soloway‚s HiCE (Highly Interactive Computing in Education) group has been studying what it really takes to put technology in real K-12 schools in Detroit and Chicago [15]. His goal is routine, daily use of computational media and technology in a modeling-intensive, project-based science classroom. Nationally, the average high school student uses a computer 30 minutes a week, or about 19 hours a year. Students in the HiCE program each used the ClarisWorks program alone for over 130 hours during the pilot year.

However, Soloway challenges Internet2 to actually do what Internet 1 promised. Access and speed of access with Internet 1 is not guaranteed. In Detroit schools the Internet doesn‚t work. Teachers face a 50/50 chance that Internet in a computer lab will not work when they go to use it with their class. In the classroom, it‚s a thirty- percent chance of working. The question is not how many Internet connections there are in schools, but how many Internet connections are there that work.

Two HiCE projects focus on methods of studying and changing public school organizations to move technology adoption processes from politics to engineering. Chicago and Detroit provided one centralized and one decentralized school system and it turns out the equation for introducing technology is different. Centralized school systems, work with IT professionals. Decentralized school systems make decisions independently. In both cases, a key recommendation is to bring IT and curriculum people to the table so that curriculum needs are integrated into technology planning.


Copyright © 1999 CommTech Lab @ Michigan State University.
All rights reserved.