Aligning Research with Classroom Practice

from Educators' eZine

New Web Tools, Technology Rules and Tracking Trends

Hundreds of articles appear annually in various technology-related professional publications. Authors share their opinions, their research results, their best practices, their anecdotal stories, their philosophies, and so on. But do they have any impact on classroom practice? Do they really make a difference in schools?

We sifted through hundreds of articles published in the past year to locate the most useful to technology teachers and administrators. Although many were valuable, our filter yielded five particularly noteworthy contributions. Each one offers insights as highlighted below. Complete citations follow to facilitate further exploration.

In some cases, the wisdom will be an affirming reality check. In other cases, the information may be used to send a startling wake up-call to naïve, confused or uninformed individuals. In every case, the insights will inform practice, and once implemented, enhance teaching and learning.

Collaboration in Today's Classrooms: New Web Tools Change the Game

The article's title, new web tools change the game, is a gross understatement. Not only is the old game no longer viable, continually refusing to reform may soon constitute malpractice.

Today's "new" access to knowledge through technology is the most significant achievement since the first encyclopedia was published in the 18th century. Unlike the timely and universal acceptance of encyclopedias at the time, full technology integration today still seems to elude most schools.

Technologically enriched classrooms offer learners and educators immediate access to infinite information. The technology also unleashes opportunities to collaborate in enhanced learning environments and communities.

This article identifies an array of collaboration vehicles (i.e. podcasts, blogs, Internet, wikis, chat rooms, social networks, video-streaming and e-portfolios). It also describes how these "new generation Web 2.0 solutions are easier and more engaging to use."

Check this one out for a preview of the new, and hopefully soon to be, only game in town.

Driscoll, K. (2007, May/June). Collaboration in today's classrooms: New web tools change the game. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 14(3), 9-12.

Note: Free access to this article, once registered, is available at (Type the author's last name into the "MMISchools" search engine on the home page.)

Van Horn's Rules

Royal Van Horn, a professor of education at the University of North Florida, offers seven rules for technology leaders. Three "rules" are featured here - "technology should be designed from the user to the network center, not the other way around"; "not all users are alike in what they need or will use"; and "if you can't support it, don't buy it or implement it."

Although virtually everyone agrees with these rules, few organizations consistently apply them. The glaring example is the continuous debate between PC and Apple devotees. In most schools, although both PC and Apple platforms are needed, network center people insist on and support only PC platform computers. User needs are, therefore, secondary.

Placing users at the center of all decisions is Van Horn's point. Technology personnel should be integral collaborative partners, not sole or final decision makers.

We must also shatter the ongoing misconception that one size fits all. Uniformity is not the ultimate goal. Although budgetary constraints will understandably limit each user's dream, money should not trump this essential principle.

Van Horn draws the line in the sand with the final rule. Unless schools can offer users competent and timely technical assistance concurrently with new technology, he suggests forgoing the technology. Without adequate assistance, implementation is actually detrimental. His recommendation is clearly confirmed by numerous research studies.

Van Horn, R. (2007, November). Van Horn's rules. Phi Delta Kappan, 89(3), 232-233.
Note: Click here for access to this article available for a $3.00 fee

Tracking U.S. Trends

Education Week annually reports on the state of technology in K-12 schools. In their most recent document (2007), they rank each state's leadership in three core policy areas: access; use; and capacity. Georgia earned its highest rating (A), while South Dakota and Virginia were runner-ups with a grade of "A-". Receiving the lowest grade of "D" was Rhode Island, Nevada, and Oregon.

Detailed statistics by state are enlightening. Access to high-speed Internet-connected computers in school, for example, varies from fewer than two students on average in Maine and South Dakota, to roughly five students per connection in Utah, California and Mississippi. (Maine provides laptop computers to all public school 7th and 8th graders).

Use of other technologies varies significantly by state. In Missouri, for example, 70% of schools reported using digital whiteboards. The majority of schools in only eight states, however, reported using this technology.

About 45% of schools nationally utilize video streaming. Virginia, the state with the highest use, claims use in 80% of their schools.

All states, except for Iowa and Mississippi, have set technology standards delineating what students need to know and be able to do. "Forty-five states currently have technology standards for teachers, and 36 have put them in place for administrators, up from 34 states and 31 states, respectively, since 2003." The proliferation of standards continues. The question remains whether they will make a difference in student achievement.

These results generally reflect positive growth when compared to previous Education Week technology reports.

Bausell, C., & Klemick, E. (2007, March 29.). Tracking U.S. trends. Education Week, 26(30), 42-44. Note: Access to this article is available for a $2.95 fee at (Type the article's title in the "advanced search" box on the home page.)

Email:Janet Buckenmeyer