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"Abandon certainty! That's life's deepest command. That's what life's all about. We're a probe into the unknown, into the uncertainty." Frank Herbert, in Children of Dune, was most certainly not referring to the numerous roles that computers play in the world of education, but he might as well have been. By correctly incorporating computers into education, we can probe into the "unknown" and "uncertain", namely that of learning. In the 1920's, Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget put forth the theory that children develop by interacting with their environment. Computers can be integrated into this interaction, and in addition, can be used to create entirely new environments for children to interact with. This would seem to be a worthy reason to bring computers into the schools. However, Peter Jurkat, a Management professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, offers several other reasons. These include the idea that teaching is the presentation of "images", and the fact that computers are well-suited for this task, the increasing importance of computers in the world as a whole, the inherent efficiencies offered by the use of computers in areas like calculations and document creation, and simply, that computers are "fun." Introducing computers into the classroom sounds like a great idea, but the logistics of doing so are mind-boggling. There needs to be cooperation on all levels, from the students on up to the national government. Comprehensive planning must be done, with large-scale projects requiring a great deal more planning. Timing factors must be taken into consideration, and include such things as how long it will take to engage administrative support, the amount of time needed to set up and test the network/lab/individual workstation, and time needed for the inservice training of educators. Obviously, none of this comes cheap. With school budgets already being squeezed for every last penny, where can these projects get funding from? Professor Jurkat, working with the Center for Improved Engineering and Science Education (CIESE), which is based at Stevens, outlined a three-phase planning process for computerization of an elementary or secondary level school. In the first stage, the commitment of the administrators must be engaged. This includes the Board of Education, on down to the central administration, principals, and department heads, as well as the teachers. It can be accomplished by showing them what is possible, using demonstrations and having them take part in workshops. The second phase includes getting computers into the classrooms for trial usage by both teachers and students. The final stage involves the planning for the systematic use of the computer, weaving it into the curriculum so that deals with every issue in the school. Incorporated into this broad three-stage outline are other important components, including: educational philosophy, potential applications, the scope/extent of the project, the selection of hardware and software, and the evaluation of existing facilities. The planning and execution for elementary and secondary level schools generally takes place over several years, generally as part of a wider-reaching "technology plan." Determining the scope of the project is time consuming. Those involved must decide how things would best be structured: centralized computer labs in each school, isolated terminals in each classroom, or an integrated district-wide network. The evaluation of existing facilities is also important, because if re-wiring, or even new construction is needed, it may take anywhere from several weeks to several years to complete. Once the hardware and software for the project has been selected, the bidding from vendors may be opened. The scheduling of inservice education for those involved is another important, and time consuming, facet of the project. After everything is in place, student usage for the systems needs to be scheduled. This is often a harrowing process, as the ratio of students to computers is usually rather lopsided. Ideally, many of these steps, as well as others not mentioned here, can take place concurrently, shortening the amount of time needed for a successful project. "In 1988, a committee of three - two freshman science teachers with backgrounds in computer hardware and software and an administrator responsible for computer use in the school - met to work out what computer environment would best serve the greatest number of students." (Czerwinski, p. 19) Who gets involved in the computerization of a school? There is no one "best" answer to this question. Often, as in the case above, it is teachers with a hardware and/or software background. Sometimes, the planning is done exclusively by the school administration. However, excluding the teachers from the planning process tends to create numerous problems. Some districts form Computing/Technology Committees which work in conjunction with the administration, the teachers, and the community in planning for the computerization of a single school or an entire district. In Fran O'Gorman's school, a single Computer Coordinator was selected, and he was given the task of planning the computer room. Of course, none of this comes for free. What costs are involved? The obvious ones stem from the purchase of the hardware, software, and peripherals. These costs can range from less than $10,000 for a one- room, one-shot deal to several million for a full-school, district- wide computerization. The modification of existing facilities, or the construction of new facilities, typically runs several thousand dollars. Additionally, there is the ongoing cost of maintenance, upgrades, and replacements. Each year, this cost amounts to approximately 10% to 15% of the initial investment. The negotiation of site licenses for software can be quite costly upon startup. The costs associated with holding inservice courses is also an important consideration. As a concrete example, consider the sample cost analysis offered by Dr. Edward Friedman, Director of the CIESE program, in his keynote address given to a conference of the National Academy of Sciences in June, 1991. A model for costing this activity at the high school level is based on having a computer and projection system for every mathematics classroom teacher and a laboratory with 15 networked computers for every 7 mathematics teachers. (Friedman, p. 8) It shows that the costs add up rather quickly, even for a small scale, focused purpose computerization project. The costs were broken down as follows: (Friedman, Figure 5) 7 Computers w/ Projection Systems on Movable Carts $30,000 1 Networked Lab - File Server + 15 Workstations + Printers 40,000 Network Software and Utilities 8,000 Mathematics Software 20,000 5 Year Service Contracts 7,000 Facilities Prep., Security, Supplies, Etc. (5 years) 25,000 ---------- Total: $130,000 Where do the funds for elementary/secondary level computerization come from? Funding can be found in a number of places. Often a line item in the district budget will provide money for the purchase of hardware, software, etc. If it's not that easy, schools must often rely upon old-fashioned fundraising tactics to scare up the needed funds. Often, local businesses will sponsor programs to help out. As an example, two grocery store chains in Washington D.C. gave over 1000 Apple computers to area schools, because local residents actively collected cash register receipts as part of a contest. (Gore, 28) The federal government is also an excellent source of funds, with $8 billion guaranteed by the passage of the Hawkins-Stafford Elementary and Secondary School Improvement Act of 1988. Chapter I grants go directly to the states, and local school boards apply for these funds, for use in programs that meet the needs of disadvantaged populations. Often, these funds are used to implement computer assisted education. Chapter II grants go directly to school districts, with money being distributed proportionally based on enrollment. Districts use the money to augment education in specified areas. Grant money is also available from various departments, agencies and offices within the federal government. Additional grants are available from "foundations", "trusts", and "projects", with the money coming from large corporations, or the wealthier members of society. There are numerous book and articles available, which detail where and how to find needed funding. In addition, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill has an Internet-accessible database at INFO.ACS.UNC.EDU (login: info), which will search for funding sources based upon user-specified keywords. Inevitably, problems will be encountered during the computerization process. Most will probably be focused on hardware and software. However, there is another area, as Macey Taylor of the University of Arizona states, "The biggest problem in most people's eyes is not hardware or software but 'humanware'." Compatibility between systems is an extremely common problem. System compatibility problems manifest themselves in both hardware and software. Currently, the Apple Macintosh, IBM PC compatibles, and the Commodore Amiga are the most popular computers for use in education. "Proprietary" interfaces used on all three types of systems immediately render many peripherals unsharable. Hardware differences among the models from a particular company also add to compatibility problems, as in the case of the Apple II series vs. the Apple Macintosh, or the IBM PS/2 series with MCA buses vs. the IBM PC/XT/AT and compatibles, which use ISA buses. Even such a simple thing as disk size can cause tremendous problems. If all of your software comes on 3.5" discs, and the computers are all shipped with 5.25" floppy drives, both the software and the computers are rendered effectively useless without each other. The software itself is often the root of many problems. Before purchasing software for use in the classroom, check to see if it supports backward/forward compatibility with its files. "Generic Application Version 2" is of little value if the students can't access any of the files they created with "Version 1". Many programs are able to read and write the file formats used by other programs. This feature can help to alleviate many software compatibility problems. Software "co-existence" is another commonly encountered problem. Be sure that the software you will be using will reside peacefully in memory with any memory-resident utility or memory management software. This will prevent the system from going down in the middle of a student's session at the computer - a frustrating experience at best. An inherent problem with computer systems is that they come with "built-in obsolescence", that is, they are seemingly obsolete almost immediately after they are purchased. Attempting to keep pace with today's speeding technology is almost futile, yet it is important to try. There are many questions dealing with obsolescence that need to be considered before hardware is purchased. What is the projected "lifetime" of the hardware, before it becomes obsolete? Will it still be of educational value when it is obsolete? Will we have funding to buy new equipment when and if necessary? Can the hardware be expanded to prevent obsolescence? Caren Rene Harris, a K-6 creative writing teacher at Hunt School in Texas has had experiences with hardware and software problems. Originally, when her writing lab was computerized, the Apple IIGS was the computer of choice. Last year, when she was given the chance to upgrade the lab, she was dismayed to learn that the Macintosh was considered the computer to buy. She comments, "Now I am having difficulty because I am working on different machines and have to switch word processing programs on the students frequently." Anne Pemberton has encountered another type of problem in trying to help bring Nottoway High School, located in a rural area of Virginia, into the computer age. A computer lab was set up over this past summer, but defective hardware was discovered, and returned for repair. As of mid-November, the hardware has still not been repaired. Once the hardware and software problems have been surmounted, there is still the problem of "humanware." Many people agree with Macey Taylor that this is the biggest problem in computerization. Will Barratt, of Indiana State University, comments that "The limitations are only those of the imagination of the faculty, which in some cases is a fatal limitation." Cathy Brandt, a teacher of the hearing impaired at Ashland Elementary School in Lexington, Kentucky, feels that, "The only limitations are with the one who is implementing it [computer assisted instruction] in the classroom." In 1990, a study done by the Office of Technology Assessment concluded that inadequate teacher training was a stumbling block. A survey conducted by Bank Street College in 1990 found that it took teachers at least five years to learn how to use computers in creative ways and that they need time, ready access to computers, and consistent support from other computer-using colleagues. By providing comprehensive, on-going preservice and inservice programs for teachers we can teach them how to use the computers, and how to use them in creative ways to enhance education. It is no longer enough for teachers to know simply how to operate a computer. Today, they must know how to incorporate it into the classroom to teach a range of subjects. Preservice programs at colleges of education need to encourage the use of computers to extend and enrich the learning process. The "Power On!" report from the Office of Technology Assessment suggests that training in the use of technology is an important part of educating new teachers. However, this training shouldn't stop when they get into the classroom. Innovative inservice programs will encourage teachers to go beyond their current level of expertise. Making inservice training mandatory, however, is not the correct direction in which to head. Training should be done on a voluntary basis, involving those teachers that choose to be there. Ideally, the inservice programs should be designed so as to interest and involve the greatest number of teachers. In addition, the programs should enable teachers to interact and share information with other computer- using colleagues across the country and throughout the world. Once the inservice programs have finished, follow-up is important, to continue the flow of information and assistance to teachers. As you can see, integrating computers into the classroom, is, by far, no easy task. It is a part of a learning process, not only for the students, but for the teachers and administrators as well. "In this learning process, we cannot afford to be timid, but rather, we must be daring in our approach. We want to employ the computer where it is most effective, not neglecting other approaches to learning." (Bork, p. 7) Only by getting everyone to work together, from the students on up to the federal government, can the fusion of computers and education be successful. Using computers as teaching tools will allow us to voyage into the world of education, because as Tennessee Williams said in Camino Real, "Make voyages. There is nothing else." ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- BIBLIOGRAPHY "A Forum on Funding." Supplement to Electronic Learning, September 1990. Barratt, Will. Electronic mail. October 26, 1992. Bork, Alfred. Learning With Computers. Bedford: Digital Press, 1981. Clark, Danial M. "How to Write A Winning Proposal." Special Supplement to Electronic Learning, March 1989: 9-11. Culbertson, Jack A. and Cunningham, Luvern L., eds. Microcomputers and Education. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1986. Czerwinski, Peter W. "Developing A Multipurpose High School Student Computer Room." The Computing Teacher, May 1991: 19-22. Davis, Gary. Electronic mail. November 16, 1992. "Finally, An A+ For Computers In Class?" Business Week, November 11, 1991: 158-162. Friedman, Edward A. "TECHNOLOGY'S TROJAN HORSE: The Classroom Computer." Keynote Address, National Academy of Sciences Conference. June 21, 1991. Fulton, Kathleen. "Preservice and Inservice: What Must Be Done In Both." Electronic Learning, October 1988: 32-36. Goodspeed, Jonathan. "Federal Government Must Take A More Active Role." Electronic Learning, October 1988: 20-24. Gore, Al. "The Digitization of Schools." Business Week, December 10, 1990: 28-30. Harris, Caren Rene. Electronic mail. October 28, 1992. Jurkat, Peter. Personal interview. November 23, 1992. Kotlas, Carolyn. "Technology Grants in Higher Education." (#IRG-07). Institute for Academic Technology, 1992. Langhorne, Mary Jo, et al. Teaching With Computers: A New Menu For The 90's. Phoenix: The Oryx Press, 1989. McLaughlin, Joe. Electronic mail. October 30, 1992. Moeller, Dr. Joseph. Personal interview. November 13, 1992. O'Gorman, Fran. Electronic Mail. November 11, 1992. Pemberton, Anne. Electronic mail. November 20, 1992. Radway, Cindy. Electronic mail. November 18, 1992. Snyder, Tom and Palmer, Jane. In Search Of The Most Amazing Thing. Reading: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1986. Solomon, Gwen. "The Role Of The Federal Government In Educational Technology." Electronic Learning, October 1988: 46-49. Specht, Philip. Electronic mail. November 18, 1992. Taylor, Macey. Electronic mail. October 27, 1992. Trotter, Andrew. "Computer Learning With Integrated Systems." The Education Digest, December 1990: 28-36 Watters, Ann. Electronic mail. October 25, 1992. Wendt, Catherine. Electronic mail. November 23, 1992. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright 1992 by David Belson U94_DBELSON@VAXA.STEVENS-TECH.EDU U94_DBELSON@STEVENS