Computer Technology in
- This chapter provides an overview
of how information technology is used in curriculum and
instruction. It includes a list of goals for students as
well as goals for teacher education.
of Information Technology in Education
- The diagram in Figure 4.1 indicates
the main roles of information technology in K-12
education. Although administrative uses are shown as one
of the major categories, our focus in this chapter is
strictly on instructional uses of this technology.
Figure 4.1. Information technology in K-12
Uses of Information Technology
- As the diagram in Figure 4.2
indicates, the instructional uses of information
technology have been gradually merging. Computer-assisted
learning materials now include computer-based tools.
Computer tools now include "Help" options that are a form
of computer-assisted learning. Many computer tools
include a built-in programming language that is readily
available to the tool user. However, we will discuss the
instructional uses as three distinct categories to help
clarify the unique characteristics of each.
Figure 4.2. A merger of instructional uses of
and Information Science
- Over the past 50 years, computer
and information science has emerged as a major discipline
of study. Many community colleges, technical institutes,
colleges, and universities offer degree programs in this
discipline. Current occupations and job openings suggest
that many jobs now require a substantial amount of formal
post secondary education in the computer field.
Many of the ideas from computer and
information science can be taught at the K-12 level.
Thus, all K-12 schools need to make a decision about what
to teach from this subject area. Some schools specify
elective courses, such as programming languages, an
advanced placement computer science course, a robotics
course, or an electronics course. Some schools integrate
instruction about computer and information science into
other curricula. For example, some computer programming
might be integrated into mathematics, while some
electronics and computer networking might be integrated
- The computer is a useful and
versatile tool. It can be used to help solve the problems
and accomplish the tasks that are at the center of many
different academic disciplines. Computer tools for
education can be divided into three categories:
- Generic tools: Software programs such as word
processors, database managers, and graphics packages
cut across many disciplines. All of the tools in an
integrated package such as ClarisWorks or Microsoft
Works are examples of generic tools. A student who
learns to use these tools can apply them in almost
every area of intellectual work.
- Subject-specific tools: There are tools that are
designed for a particular academic discipline.
Hardware and software to aid in musical composition
and performance is an example. Graphic artist and
engineering drawing software are additional examples.
Many different disciplines have developed hardware and
software specifically to meet the needs of
professionals. That is, there has been a merger of the
discipline and the information technology tools used
in the discipline.
- Learner-centered tools: There are tools that
require some programming skills, but that focus on
learning to learn, as well as on learning subjects
besides programming. Most hypermedia authoring systems
and all Logo environments serve as examples. The Logo
programming language that was pioneered by Seymour
Papert was specifically designed to create a rich
learning environment for children.
Progress in developing more and
better applications packages, as well as better
human-machine interfaces, is causing the tool use of
computers to grow rapidly. Also, computer scientists
working in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are
producing application packages that can solve a variety
of difficult problems that require a substantial amount
of human knowledge and skill. Such application packages
will eventually change the content of a variety of school
The key issue is what students
should learn to do mentally, versus what they should
learn to do assisted by simple aids such as books,
pencil, and paper, versus what they should learn to do
assisted by more sophisticated aids such as calculators,
computers, and other information technology. This is a
difficult question, particularly given the constantly
changing state of technology. The slow acceptance of the
handheld calculator into the curriculum suggests that
more sophisticated aids to problem solving will encounter
substantial resistance. The gap between what tools are
available and what tools are used in education is likely
The computer can also be a tool to
increase teacher productivity. Computerized gradebooks,
data banks of exam questions, computerized assistance in
preparing individualized education plans (IEPs) for
students with disabilities, and word-processed lesson
plans and class handouts are all good examples. These
increase the teachers' productivity by improving overall
efficiency of effort and saving valuable time. This is
particularly true when networks allow teachers to easily
share successful materials.
Many teachers now make use of a
desktop presentation system as an aid to interacting with
a group or whole class of students. This is a projector
system attached to a computer. It can be used to display
pre-prepared materials or graphs and other materials that
are generated during the interaction among students and
the teacher. For example, in a math class, the computer
and projection system can be used to create and project a
graph of data or a function being generated by the
students. In a social studies class, maps can be
retrieved from a CD-ROM and projected for whole class
- Computer-assisted learning (CAL) is
the interaction between a student and a computer system
designed to help the student learn. During the past 40
years, this general concept has been given many different
names, such as computer-based instruction and
computer-assisted instruction. The CAL name is intended
to emphasize "learning" rather than just "instruction."
Historically, CAL developed along
two tracks. Well-funded projects, such as those carried
out by the military, produced very sophisticated
simulations that were used to train radar operators,
airplane pilots, tank crews, and commanders of large
battle units. Such CAL materials are cost effective in
meeting military training needs. However, military
training needs differ considerably from the needs of
students in K-12 schools.
The second track of CAL materials
consisted of commercial products and a huge number of
small scale projects carried out by individuals. For the
most part, these projects developed either
drill-and-practice materials or tutorial systems designed
to help students. Often the projects focused on basic
skills, such as arithmetic and reading.
Over the years, CAL has developed
into a viable commercial business. The steadily
increasing capabilities of computers have been combined
with mass storage devices, such as CD-ROM, to produce
sophisticated hypermedia-based instructional materials.
Now, there is a rapidly growing home market for such
instructional materials. Indeed, software has been
developed to help even very young children learn to use
the computer and then learn from the computer.
The computer can be used for
instructional delivery at every age, in every subject
area, and with all types of students. Evidence is
mounting that CAL is especially useful in special
education and in basic skills instruction. In addition,
CAL and distance education can provide students access to
courses that are not available in a teacher-delivered
mode in their schools.
With Special Needs
- The three general instructional
uses of computers discussed above are, of course, all
applicable to students with special needs. However, two
additional points are particularly important. First, many
students have physically handicapping conditions that can
be addressed by use of computer-based adaptive
technologies. The well-known physicist Stephen Hawking,
who has Lou Gehrig's disease, has helped the general
public to become aware of such computer capabilities.
Second, many students with various types of learning
difficulties can benefit from computer-as-tool and CAL.
Both the tool and the CAL materials may need to be
designed to fit the student's special needs.
Computer-based adaptive technologies
have proven to be invaluable in meeting the needs of a
number of students who face major physical challenges.
Consider a student whose physical difficulties prevent
the use of a pencil for writing or voice for speaking.
With appropriate adaptive facilities, this student may be
able to communicate in writing by using special input
devices to a computer. The same computer system can
provide the student with synthesized voice output. As
another example, consider a partially sighted or blind
student. This student can "read" ordinary text material
via video camera or other scanning device that inputs the
text materials into a computer for voice output.
Substantial research has provided a
foundation for developing computer-based tools and CAL
materials to fit the needs of students with various types
of learning difficulties. A simple example is provided by
the handheld calculator. Many students have difficulty
learning to do mental or paper-and-pencil arithmetic at a
reliable level. With appropriate instruction and
practice, however, many of these students can learn to
make effective use of a handheld calculator. Note that if
the student also has physical handicapping conditions, a
special handheld calculator may be needed. For example,
calculators that produce voice-synthesized output are now
for Information Technology in Education
- This section lists 13 goals for
computer technology in education. These goals have
emerged and evolved during the past 15 years as
microcomputers have come into common use in schools and
as the information highway has developed. These goals are
divided into four major categories: Functional Technology
Literacy; Independent Lifelong Learning; Capacity
Building; and Assessment and Evaluation. The quality of a
school or school district's instructional use of
computers can be judged by how well it is meeting these
goals. Additional discussion on the ideas of this section
is given in Effective Practice: Computer Technology in
Education (Moursund, 1995).
Goals-Functional Technology Literacy
- The four goals listed in this
section serve to define functional technology literacy
and provide guidelines to K-12 curriculum developers.
Notice the combined emphasis on both basic skills and on
higher-order, problem-solving skills.
Goal 1: Information technology literacy, basic
level. All students shall be functionally literate in
information technology. A basic level of information
technology literacy should be achieved by the end of the
eighth grade. It consists of a relatively broad-based,
interdisciplinary, general knowledge of applications,
capabilities, limitations, how they work, and societal
implications of computers and other information
technology. Here are six specific objectives that
underlie this information technology literacy goal.
- General knowledge. Students shall have
oral and reading knowledge of computers and other
information technology, and their effects on our
society. More specifically, each discipline that
students study shall include instruction about how
electronic aids to information processing and problem
solving are affecting that specific discipline.
- Procedural thinking. Students shall have knowledge
of the concept of effective procedure, representation
of procedures, roles of procedures in problem solving,
and a broad range of examples of the types of
procedures that computers can execute.
- Generic tools. Students shall have basic skills in
use of word processing, database, computer graphics,
spreadsheet, and other general purpose,
multidisciplinary application packages. This also
includes basic skills in using menu-driven hypermedia
software to create hypermedia materials as an aid to
- Telecommunications. Students shall have basic
skills in using telecommunications to communicate with
people and to make effective use of computerized
databases and other sources of information located
both locally (for example, in a school library, a
school district library, a local community library)
and throughout the world. They shall have the
knowledge and skills to make effective use of the
Internet and the World Wide Web.
- Hardware. Students shall have basic knowledge of
the electronic and other hardware components and how
they function sufficient to "dispel the magic." They
shall understand the functionality of hardware
sufficient to detect and correct common difficulties,
such as various components not being plugged in or not
receiving power, various components not being
connected, and printer out of paper.
- Computer input. Students shall have basic skills
in use of a variety of computer input devices,
including keyboard and mouse, scanner, digital camera,
touch screen, and probes used to input scientific
data. They shall have introductory knowledge of voice
input and pen-based systems.
Goal 2: Information technology literacy,
intermediate level. Deeper knowledge of computers and
other information technology as they relate to the
specific disciplines and topics one studies in senior
high school. Some examples:
- Skill in creating hypermedia documents.
This includes the ability to design effective
communications in both print and electronic media, as
well as experience in desktop publication and desktop
- Skill in use of information technology as an aid
to problem solving in the various high school
disciplines. A student taking advanced math would use
computer modeling. A commercial art student would
create and manipulate graphics electronically.
Industrial arts classes would work with computer-aided
design. Science courses would employ
microcomputer-based laboratories and computer
- Skill in computer-mediated, collaborative,
interdisciplinary problem solving. This includes
students gaining the types of communication skills
(brainstorming, active listening, consensus-building,
etc.) needed for working in a problem-solving
Goal 3: Computer-as-tool in curriculum content.
The use of computer applications as a general-purpose
aid to problem solving using word processor, database,
graphics, spreadsheet, and other general purpose
application packages shall be integrated throughout the
curriculum content. The intent here is that students
shall receive specific instruction in each of these
tools, probably before completing elementary school.
Middle school, junior high school, and high school
curriculum shall assume a working knowledge of these
tools and shall include specific additional instruction
in their use. Throughout secondary school and in all
higher education, students shall be expected to make
regular use of these tools, and teachers shall structure
their curriculum and assignments to take advantage of and
to add to student knowledge of computer-as-tool.
Goal 4: Information technology courses. A high
school shall provide both of the following "more
advanced" tracks of computer-related coursework.
- Computer-related coursework preparing a
student who will seek employment immediately upon
leaving school. For example, a high school business
curriculum shall prepare students for entry-level
employment in a computerized business office. A
graphic arts curriculum should prepare students to be
productive in use of a wide range of computer-based
graphic arts facilities. Increasingly, some of these
courses are part of the Tech Prep (Technical
Preparation) program of study in a school.
- Computer science coursework, including problem
solving in a computer programming environment,
designed to give students a college-preparation type
of solid introduction to the discipline of computer
Goals-Independent Lifelong Learning
- The three goals listed in this section focus on
computer technology as an aid to general learning.
Goal 5: Distance education. Telecommunications
and other electronic aids are the foundation for an
increasingly sophisticated distance education system.
Education shall use distance education, when it is
pedagogically and economically sound, to increase student
learning and opportunities for student learning.
Note that in many cases distance education may be
combined with computer-assisted learning (CAL, see Goal
6) and carried out through the WWW (see Goal 1D), so that
there is not a clear dividing line between these two
approaches to education. In both cases students are given
an increased range of learning opportunities. The
education may take place at a time and place that is
convenient for the student, rather than being dictated by
the traditional course schedule of a school. The choice
and level of topics may be more under student control
than in our traditional educational system.
Goal 6: Computer-assisted learning (CAL).
Education shall use computer-assisted learning when it is
pedagogically and economically sound, to increase student
learning and to broaden the range of learning
opportunities. CAL includes drill and practice,
tutorials, simulations, and microworlds. It also includes
computer-managed instruction (see Objective C below).
These CAL systems may make use of virtual realities
- All students shall learn both general
ideas of how computers can be used as an aid to
learning and specific ideas on how CAL can be useful
to them. They shall become experienced users of CAL
systems. The intent is to focus on learning to learn,
being responsible for one's own learning, and being a
lifelong learner. Students have their own learning
styles, so different types of CAL will fit different
students to greater or lesser degrees.
- In situations in which CAL is a cost-effective and
educationally sound aid to student learning or to
overall learning opportunities, it will be an integral
component of the educational system. For example, CAL
can help some students learn certain types of material
significantly faster than can conventional
instructional techniques. Such students should have
the opportunity to use CAL as an aid to learning. In
addition, CAL can be used to provide educational
opportunities that might not otherwise be available. A
school can expand its curriculum by delivering some
courses largely via CAL.
- Computer-managed instruction (CMI) includes record
keeping, diagnostic testing, and prescriptive guides
as to what to study and in what order. CMI software is
useful to both students and teachers. Students should
have the opportunity to track their own progress in
school and to see the rationale for the work they are
doing. CMI can reduce busywork. When CMI is
cost-effective and instructionally sound, staff and
students shall have this aid.
Goal 7: Students with special needs.
Computer-related technology shall be routinely and
readily available to students with special needs when
research and practice have demonstrated its
- Computer-based adaptive technologies
shall be made available to students who need such
technology for communication with other people and/or
for communication with a computer.
- When CAL has demonstrated effectiveness in helping
students with particular special learning needs, it
shall be made available to the students.
- All staff who work with students with special
needs shall have the knowledge and experience needed
to work with these students who are making use of
computer-based adaptive technologies, CAL, and
System Goals-Capacity Building
- The three goals in this section
focus on permanent changes in our educational system that
are needed to support achievement of Goals 1-7 listed
Goal 8: Staff development and support. The
professional education staff shall have computers to
increase their productivity, to make it easier for them
to accomplish their duties, and to support their
computer-oriented growth. Every school district shall
provide for staff development to accomplish Goals 1-7,
including time for practice, planning, and peer
collaboration. Teacher training institutions shall
adequately prepare their teacher education graduates so
they can function effectively in a school environment
that has Goals 1-7.
This means, for example, that all teachers shall be
provided with access to computerized data banks, word
processors, presentation graphics software, computerized
gradebooks, telecommunications packages, and other
application software that teachers have found useful in
increasing their productivity and job satisfaction.
Computer-based communication is becoming an avenue for
teachers to share professional information. Every teacher
should have telecommunications and desktop presentation
facilities in the classroom. Computer-managed instruction
(CMI) can help the teacher by providing diagnostic
testing and prescription, access to item data banks, and
aids to preparing individual education plans.
Goal 9: Facilities. The school district shall
integrate into its ongoing budget adequate resources to
provide the hardware, software, curriculum development,
curriculum materials, staff development, personnel, and
time needed to accomplish the goals listed above.
Goal 10: Long-term commitment. The school
district shall institutionalize computers in schools
through the establishment of appropriate policies,
procedures, and practices. Instructional computing shall
be integrated into job descriptions, ongoing budgets,
planning, staff development, work assignments, and so on.
The school district shall fully accept that "computers
are here to stay" as an integral part of an Information
Age school system. The community-the entire formal and
informal educational system-shall support and work to
achieve the goals listed above.
- The three goals listed in this section focus on doing
strategic planning and on obtaining information about the
effectiveness of programs for information technology that
are implemented by teachers, schools, and school
Goal 11: Strategic plan. Each school and school
district shall have a long-range strategic plan for
information technology in education. The plans shall
include ongoing formative evaluation and yearly
Goal 12: Student assessment. Authentic and
performance-based assessment shall be used to assess
student learning of information technology. For example,
when students are being taught to communicate and to
solve problems in an environment that includes routine
use of the computer as a tool, they shall be assessed in
the same environment.
Goal 13: Formative, summative, and residual impact
evaluation. Implementation plans for information
technology shall be evaluated on an ongoing basis, using
formative, summative, and residual impact evaluation
techniques. Formative evaluation provides information for
mid-program corrections. It is conducted as programs are
being implemented. Summative evaluation provides
information about the results of a program after it has
been completed, such as a particular staff development
program, a particular program of loaning computers to
students for use at home, and so on. Residual impact
evaluation looks at programs in retrospect, perhaps a
year or more after a program has ended. For example, a
year after teachers participated in an inservice program
designed to help them learn to use some specific pieces
of software in their classrooms, are they actually using
this software or somewhat similar software?
for Teacher Technology Education
- In recent years, a great deal of thought has gone
into determining what computer knowledge and skills
teachers need to have. It is clear that a two-pronged
approach is needed in teacher education. One prong is
aimed at preserve education. Newly graduated teachers
must have the knowledge and skills to help our schools
achieve the student Goals 1-7 listed in the previous
section. The second prong is inservice education. Every
school needs to have in place an inservice program that
helps all teachers gain the knowledge and skills to
achieve the student goals.
The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher
Education (NCATE) is the official body in the United
States for accrediting teacher preparation programs. The
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)
has worked with NCATE for a number of years in the
development of teacher preparation standards. With
assistance from ISTE and others, NCATE has developed
technology standards for all preservice teachers. These
are called Unit Guidelines. These same goals are a good
starting point for inservice education. For both
preservice and inservice teachers, the goals listed below
are minimal. They provide a starting point, but they are
far from the levels of competencies that teachers need if
information technology is going to have a significant
positive impact on our educational system.
The remainder of this section is quoted from 1996
NCATE materials written by ISTE. This and additional
related information can be found on the ISTE WWW
All candidates seeking initial endorsements in teacher
preparation programs and particularly programs in
educational computing and technology require foundations
in: 1) Basic Technology Operations and Concepts; 2)
Professional and Personal Use of Technology; and 3)
Application of Technology in Instruction.
- Basic Technology Operations and Concepts.
Candidates will use computer operating systems and
user interfaces to run programs; access, generate and
manipulate data; and to publish results. They will
also evaluate performance of hardware and software
components of computer systems and apply basic
troubleshooting strategies as needed.
Performance Indicators. Candidates will:
operate a multimedia computer system
with related peripheral devices to
successfully install and use a variety of
use terminology related to computers
and technology appropriately in written
and oral communications.
describe and implement basic
troubleshooting techniques related to
using a multimedia system with related
operate and interface peripheral
devices with a computer system supporting
imaging including scanner, digital camera,
and/or video camera.
observe demonstrations or uses of
specific-purpose electronic devices and
adaptive assistive devices for special
observe demonstrations or uses of
broadcast instruction, audio/video
conferencing, and other distant learning
demonstrate knowledge of uses of
computers and technology in business,
industry, and society.
- Personal and Professional Use of Technology.
Candidates will apply tools for enhancing their own
professional growth and productivity. They will use
technology in communicating, collaborating, conducting
research, and solving problems. In addition, they will
plan and participate in activities that encourage
lifelong learning and will promote equitable, ethical,
and legal use of computer/technology resources.
Performance Indicators. Candidates will:
use productivity tools for word
processing, database management, and
apply productivity tools for creating
basic multimedia presentations.
use computer-based technologies
including telecommunications to access
information and enhance personal and
use computers to support problem
solving, data collection, information
management, communications, presentations,
and decision making.
demonstrate knowledge of equity,
ethics, legal, and human issues concerning
use of computers and technology.
identify computer and related
technology resources for facilitating
lifelong learning and emerging roles of
the learner and the educator.
- Application of Technology in Instruction.
Candidates will apply computers and related
technologies to support instruction in their grade
level and subject areas. They must plan and deliver
instructional units that integrate a variety of
software, applications, and learning tools. Lessons
developed must reflect effective grouping and
assessment strategies for diverse populations.
Performance Indicators. Candidates will:
explore, evaluate, and use
computer/technology resources including
applications, tools, educational software
and associated documentation.
describe current instructional
principles, research, and appropriate
assessment practices as related to the use
of computers and technology resources.
design, deliver, and assess student
learning activities that integrate
computers/technology for a variety of
student grouping strategies and for
diverse student populations.
design student learning activities that
foster equitable, ethical, and legal use
of technology by students.
practice responsible, ethical and legal
use of technology, information, and
- The educational system in the
United States is highly decentralized. There can be major
differences in the quality of education that students are
receiving in two schools that are in the same school
district, to say nothing of the differences that exist
between school districts. In addition, there are a large
number of private schools in this country.
Very few schools are currently
achieving all of the information technology Goals 1-13
listed in this chapter. Relatively few colleges of
education are achieving the NCATE-recommended teacher
preparation goals, and there are relatively few schools
in which all of the teachers have achieved these
In summary, we have a long way to
go. Each school and school district can assess its
current progress against the goals listed in this
chapter. This can provide a starting point for developing
plans to meet and exceed these goals.
- This chapter covers a number of
potential uses of information technology in education. It
also contains a list of goals for this field. As with
other educational goals, these can be considered to be
forecasts. While some school districts are making good
progress on achieving these goals, overall nationwide
progress has been modest. However, leaders in the field
of information technology in education are committed to
their achievement. Thus, these goals are already shaping
the future. As more and more educators work to achieve
these goals, these goals will increasingly shape the
future of education.
Think about what it will mean as
distance education and computer-assisted learning become
routine parts of our educational system. Each provides
learning opportunities at a time and place to better fit
the convenience of the learner. Each provides access to a
far broader range of courses than even the largest school
can make available. Students will be empowered by
steadily increasing choice of curriculum content, mode of
instructional delivery, time, and place. The current
educational system will face steadily increasing
competition from distance education and CAL.
A modest number of parents and
educators can take the lead in having a school or school
district assess its progress in achieving the goals
listed in this chapter. Be aware that education is a
political "game." It is very helpful to get the media
involved. Our educational system can be a lot better. A
few parents, educators, and media people working together
can produce a significant change in a local education
The next chapter explores some of
the key characteristics of the Information Age that need
to be addressed by our educational system.