Moursund's IT in Education Home Page

Digital Technology: Transforming Schools and Improving Learning

Moursund. D.G. (November 1999). Digital Technology: Transforming Schools and Improving Learning. In Day, B. (Ed.) Teaching and Learning in the New Millennium. Published by Kappa Delta Pi, an International Honor Society in Education.

An Education Scenairo Set in the Year 2015

Introduction to IT in Education

Computer and Information Science


Information Technology-Assisted Learning and Research

Information Technology and Problem Solving

Current Goals for Information Technology in Education

Six Broad Categories of Technology Standards

Profiles Describing Technology Literate Students

Prior to completion of Grade 2

Prior to completion of Grade 5

Prior to completion of Grade 8

Prior to completion of Grade 12

Information Technology Now and in the Future

Potentials for Improving Learning

Computer-Assisted Learning, Distance Learning, and Improving Learning

Computer-as-tool and Improving Learning

Information Technology-based Changes in Curriculum Content

Potentials for Transforming our Educational System

Is the Education Scenario Believable?



An Education Scenario Set in the Year 2015

It is still raining and cloudy early in the morning when Saundri finishes her breakfast and opens her PEA (Personal Education Assistant). Clouds and rain mean the household solar energy system is not producing much power. Today is Saundri's fifteenth birthday, and she is looking forward to a busy and fun-filled day. She hopes the weather will improve so that a lack of electrical power will not interfere with her evening party plans.

Glancing at her PEA, Saundri notices that the wireless connectivity to the Internet is solid at one megabyte per second. The battery level indicator is at the one-third level, indicating that she has about seven hours of power. She will have to charge the batteries later in the day. She also notes that the PEA's free memory is down to twenty-five gigabytes. Soon she will have to do some house cleaning.

With a few voice commands, Saundri sends her previous evening's homework to her various teachers. While doing so, she thinks briefly about her mathematics teacher in London, her science teacher in Washington, DC, and her global studies teacher in Mexico City. It would be neat to someday meet them face to face. Being in secondary school is fun, but she misses the interpersonal contacts of elementary school, where the teachers and students came together each school day.

Next, Saundri checks her computer "Inbox" and sees that she has quite a few e-mail messages, voice phone messages, and videophone messages. Her friends and fellow students from around the world have messaged her because they know it is her birthday. Plus, all of her course instructors have provided feedback on the schoolwork she turned in yesterday. There are other messages from her teammates on several school group projects.

Saundri opens some of the birthday greetings and talks to a couple of her friends. Several of her friends speak and write in languages that Saundri does not know, but her PEA provides reasonable quality translations in real-time. One message contains a gift for two free video viewings. She instructs her PEA to download Gone with the Wind, her current all-time favorite. She will share it with her friends and family at the birthday party this evening.

In her courses, Saundri is working on several large projects. In math and science, for example, her project is to explore situations in which research in math has led to new discoveries in science, and situations in which research in science has led to new discoveries in math. She is one member of a four-person team collaborating on this project. Her specific task is to understand what led to the development of the math topics currently being studied in her math course. The intended audience for this team term project are students located throughout the world with an interest in both math and science. The team will publish its report as an interactive World Wide Website, which is designed to help users learn how math and science have benefited each other.

Saundri is working on another project individually. It combines global studies with health education. She is particularly interested in how various levels of education in different countries may be affecting health levels, and vice versa. This project is dear to her heart, because one of her brothers died from a disease when he was only six years old. So, the fifteen-year-old decides to work on this topic for awhile.

She begins to look at death rates due to disease among people worldwide fifteen to thirty years of age as well as the number of years of schooling the deceased achieved. Saundri is searching for possible correlations. This project, however, seems too complex for the correlation techniques she has studied in the past. She asks to speak to her Statistical Consultant, a computer-based "agent." After a brief conversation, the Statistical Consultant senses that Saundri is in over her head and begins to provide her with an interactive tutorial on possible statistical techniques to use in this situation. In addition, the Statistical Consultant suggests that Saundri first study data from just two countries, rather than from the worldwide set of 273. This method will allow her to quickly carry out some trial-and-error experiments to help her more fully define the problem.

Meanwhile, her PEA has combed its own databases and begun a Web search. It reports that its own databases contain baseline data on education in the 273 countries but that the desired health data is scattered over thousands of databases on the Web. Saundri picks two countries for her pilot study and tells her PEA how to set up the database. Her PEA indicates that this task will take a few minutes, because it will have to search seventy-two Websites to get the needed data.

Rather than sit and twiddle her thumbs, the birthday girl asks to speak to her Personal Tutor. Saundri's Personal Tutor is another computer-based agent that works with her as she uses the Intelligent Computer-Assisted Learning (ICAL) materials in her PEA. The tutor immediately appears onscreen and praises her for beginning her schoolwork so early in the morning. Her Personal Tutor has complete records on what Saundri has studied, her interests, her preferred learning styles, and her areas of greatest intelligence from Howard Gardner's most recent list of ten intelligences. Saundri's Personal Tutor and the ICAI system make it possible for her to study anything she wants to study, at any time she wants to study it. The nature and level of instruction is always appropriate to her current knowledge and skills, and the best current theories of teaching and learning are always incorporated.

Later in the day, the sun shines bright and clear. Saundri plugs her PEA into the household solar energy system so it can recharge while she is out for soccer practice. She remembers to give a mental "Thank you!" to UNESCO for providing her with a full scholarship and the PEA for her secondary school education—especially since many of Saundri's friends dropped out of school at age twelve.

The bus into Nairobi will be coming through Saundri's village in a few minutes, and she is looking forward to this afternoon's workout with the soccer team. However, she will have to be on time getting back to her village, because she has a music lesson just before supper.

Does Saundri's scenario from the year 2015 sound like science fiction? Or does the technology-assisted education of this fifteen-year-old girl from Kenya seem like a plausible picture of the future? Before you answer those questions, let us examine where we have been and where we stand now in information technology (IT). Then, we can make some forecasts on the costs, capabilities, and availability of IT facilities in the year 2015.

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Introduction to IT in Education

First, it is important to understand the major differences among the three main instructional-use categories of IT. Many misunderstandings about IT in instruction can be resolved through an analysis of these three categories. For instructional uses, the IT categories include:

1. Underlying theory: computer and information science.

2. Problem solving: applications of computer-as-tool.

3. Learning and research: IT-assisted learning and research.

The next three sections describe these three categories as if they are separate and distinct. In many applications, these categories overlap one another. Indeed, a student is seldom engaged in a use of IT that falls purely into one of the three categories.

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Computer and Information Science

Over the past fifty 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, and a relatively high demand exists for workers with good knowledge and skills in it. A number of high schools offer an advance placement (AP) course in computer science. (The course prepares students to take an AP test; those who score well may receive college credit.) This course is a balance between theory and practice in the field and includes a considerable emphasis on computer programming. Sometimes it is offered as a two-year sequence, designed to cover roughly the equivalent of a one-year university course. Only a small percentage of students take AP computer science courses in high school. The majority of K-12 students receive little or no formal instruction in this academic discipline. This represents a considerable change over the past twenty years.

In the early days of microcomputers, there was an emphasis on teaching students computer programming. Gradually that emphasis has been replaced by having students learn computer tools, such as word processor, spreadsheet, database, graphics, and the Internet. Interestingly, developing interactive multimedia and developing spreadsheets tends to require some of the same knowledge and skills used in computer programming. Few K-12 teachers who use multimedia and spreadsheets in their classes have this insight or the computer programming knowledge to follow up on this insight. This oversight is a significant weakness in instruction in these areas.

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The computer is a useful and versatile mind tool. It can be used to help solve the problems and accomplish the tasks at the center of many different academic disciplines. Computer tools for education can be divided into three categories: generic tools, subject-specific tools, and learner-centered tools.

1. Generic tools. Software programs such as word processors, spreadsheet, database, graphics, e-mail and the Web cut across many disciplines. A student who learns to use these tools can apply them in almost every area of intellectual work. Many school districts in the United States expect that all of their students will have learned how to use these tools by the end of elementary or middle school. Perhaps you are familiar with ClarisWorks (which is now called AppleWorks). It consists of a collection of generic tools, and many students learn to use all of these tools before finishing middle school.

2. Subject-specific tools. These tools are designed for a particular academic discipline. Hardware and software to aid in musical composition and performance is an example. Software for mechanical drawing (computer-assisted design) is another widely used example. Many different disciplines have developed hardware and software specifically to meet the needs of professionals within their disciplines.

3. Learner-centered tools. These tools are that require some programming skills but that focus on learning to learn as well as on learning subjects besides programming. Most hypermedia or multimedia authoring systems serve as examples. In addition, many of the generic tools include a built-in "macro" feature that adds learner-centered options.

Progress in developing more and better applications packages, as well as better human-machine interfaces, has caused the tool use of computers to grow rapidly. In addition, computer scientists working in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) are producing application packages to 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 subjects.

What students should learn to do mentally versus what they should learn with assistance from simple aids (books, pencils, paper) versus what they should learn assisted by more sophisticated aids (calculators, computers, other IT) remains a key educational issue. Given the constantly changing state of IT, it is not an easy issue to answer with a single solution. The slow acceptance of the hand-held 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 likely will increase.

The computer can also be a tool to increase teacher productivity. Computerized grade books, data banks of exam questions, computerized assistance in preparing individual education programs (IEPs) for students with learning 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 benefit is particularly true if 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 format is a projector system attached to a computer used to display pre-prepared materials, or graphs and other materials generated during the interaction between 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 explored.

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Information Technology-Assisted Learning and Research

IT-Assisted Learning and Research combines three important uses of IT in education: (1) computer-assisted learning (CAL) is the interaction between a student and a computer system designed to help the student learn; (2) computer-assisted research is the use of IT as an aid to doing library and empirical research; (3) distance learning is the use of telecommunications designed to facilitate student learning.

Over the past forty years, CAL has been given many different names, such as "computer-based instruction" and "computer-assisted instruction." In recent years, the field has come to include distance learning, e-mail-based instruction, and Web-based instruction. The CAL name is intended to emphasize "learning" rather than just "instruction." CAL includes drill and practice, tutorial, simulation, and a variety of virtual reality environments designed to help students learn.

The computer can be used for instructional delivery to students of 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 (Kulik 1994). In addition, CAL and distance education can provide students access to courses not available in a teacher-delivered mode in their schools.

There are two major categories of computer-assisted research at the K-12 level. First, there is the use of computers to read CD-ROM materials and to search electronic databases (for example, using the Web). Students of all ages learn to make use of some of the knowledge and skills of the research librarian. Second, there is use of computerized instrumentation to gather data and the use of computers to help process data. Many middle school and secondary school students are learning to use microcomputer-based laboratory tools and statistical packages.

Distance learning is rapidly growing in use and importance (International Society for Technology in Education [ISTE] 1999). Through the use of telecommunications, students and instructors can be connected in a two-way audio and a one-way or a two-way video network that allows real-time interaction. The Web is increasingly being used to provide the needed connectivity. Oftentimes, such instruction is asynchronous (not real-time), making use of videotapes or materials stored on a computer. This dimension adds convenience for the student. In the typical Web-based course, students interact with one another and the instructors (students often do group projects), even though they may be located at different places around the world.

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Information Technology and Problem Solving

An excellent overview of education and the wide variety of attempts to improve it has been provided by Perkins (1992). He analyzed attempted improvements in terms of how well they contribute to accomplishing the following general goals of education: (1) acquisition and retention of knowledge and skills; (2) understanding of one's acquired knowledge and skills; (3) active use of one's acquired knowledge and skills (ability to apply one's learning to new settings and ability to analyze and solve novel problems).

The third goal is the focus here. Different stakeholder groups differ significantly in what they believe should be the major goals of education. However, most agree that higher-order thinking skill—less ability to solve complex, novel problems and accomplish complex, novel tasks--is an important goal of education. Thus, higher-order thinking skills and problem solving are an implicit or an explicit component of almost all courses. In this section, the term "problem solving" includes both solving problems and accomplishing tasks.

There is a substantial amount of research literature on problem solving (Polya 1957; Frederiksen 1984; Frensch and Funke 1995; Moursund 1996). Many writers use a somewhat common set of vocabulary as they talk about problem solving. Problem solving consists of moving from a given initial situation to a desired goal situation. Another way of saying it: problem solving is the process of designing and carrying out a set of steps to reach a goal. Many writers also include provisos that, in a problem, it is not obvious how to reach the goal and there may be strict rules, constraints, and limitations of resources. (If it is relatively obvious how to get from A to B, then the situation is called an exercise. Of course, this means that the same exact situation can be a problem for one person and an exercise for another person.)

Here is a formal definition of the term "problem." You (personally) have a problem if the following four conditions are satisfied: (1) you have a clearly defined given initial situation; (2) you have a clearly defined goal (a desired end situation); (3) you have a clearly defined set of resources that may be applicable in helping you move from the given initial situation to the desired goal situation (there may be specified limitations on resources, such as rules, regulations, and guidelines for what you are allowed to do in attempting to solve a particular problem); (4) you have some type of ownership--that is, you are committed to using some of your own resources, such as your knowledge, skills, and energies, to achieve the desired final goal. These four components of a well-defined problem are summarized by the four words: givens, goal, resources, and ownership. Increasingly, IT is a readily available resource in problem solving.

People often get confused by the resources part of the definition of formal problem. Resources do not tell you how to solve a problem; they merely tell you what you are allowed to do and/or use in solving the problem. For example, you want to create an advertising campaign to increase the sales of a set of products that your company produces. The campaign is to be nationwide, to be completed in three months, and not to exceed $40,000 in cost. You have a computer available and you know how to use a spreadsheet. You are not to make illegal agreements with your competitors or to violate the high ethical standards of your company. All of these things fit under resources. You still have to figure out how to create the ad campaign.

This definition of formal problem emphasizes that problems do not exist in the abstract. They exist only when there is ownership. The owner might be a person, an organization, or a country. One of the difficulties that teachers face is that they have textbooks that contain so-called "problems" ( exercises and activities for students), yet the students often have no ownership of these exercises and activities. Project-based learning tends to allow students to define the problems that they will solve (the tasks that they will accomplish). Research indicates that this increases student motivation, because the students have ownership of "their" problem (Blumenfeld et al. 1991; Moursund 1999).

Over the years, humans have developed many important mental aids, including reading, writing, arithmetic, and computers. They have developed many important physical aids, including the plow, car, airplane, telecommunications, and automated machinery. They have developed a number of aids to formal and informal learning, such as schools. places of worship, playgrounds, and parks. Collectively and cumulatively, these three categories of aids allow people to routinely solve problems and accomplish tasks that were beyond what anybody could do a century ago.

In addition, over the years, humans have learned a great deal about problem solving. To illustrate some roles of IT in problem solving, we will focus on the single most important idea in problem solving: the idea of building on the previous work of yourself and others. In other words, do not reinvent the wheel! This idea means it is helpful to learn to conceptualize and to represent problems using the vocabulary and notation that people have developed over the millennia. This process of representing (modeling) problems is an idea that cuts across problem solving in many different disciplines. In addition, it is helpful to have the knowledge and skills of a research librarian and to have access to a good library.

Reading, writing, arithmetic, science, and technology are excellent examples of the previous work of others. Millions of researchers and practitioners have worked individually and collectively over thousands of years to develop our current knowledge base. Remember Saundri in 2015? She asked her PEA to find some data and organize it into a database that would be suitable for carrying out various statistical tests. Saundri did not invent computers, databases, and the various statistical tests she will use. Saundri and her Statistical Consultant know what statistical tests will be appropriate to her study and how the data needs to be organized to allow the computer to carry out the tests.

Humans store their collected knowledge and skills in their minds, in books, in artifacts they build, and so on. A car represents a huge amount of knowledge, as does the infrastructure that supports automobile transportation. It is relatively easy for a person to learn to drive a car. It will be even easier in the future as people develop automated car-driving systems akin to automatic pilots in airplanes.

To a large extent, a book represents a static way of storing information and knowledge, while an artifact such as a car represents a more dynamic way of storing information and knowledge. In essence, a book can tell a person what he or she needs to learn and how to solve a certain type of problem or accomplish a certain type of task. The person both needs to do the learning and follow the instructions. But a car can "just do it."

This explanation is an over simplification; however, the point to be made is actually rather simple: People build artifacts that incorporate a great deal of knowledge and skill. Other people learn to use these artifacts--often quite quickly and easily. In essence, by doing so, they gain knowledge and skill from the previous work of others.

The various information technologies that we call IT can be thought of as an artifact or a collection of artifacts that people have developed. What problems can a computer system solve? An answer is that computer systems can already do a lot, and that every year the collection of computer-solvable problems is increasing substantially. A computer system is a way of storing information (databases) along with sets of directions on how to use the information--and the ability to "just do it."

The term "computer system" as used in the preceding paragraph includes everything from a hand-held calculator to a microcomputer to a fully automated factory. Consider the inexpensive hand-held, solar battery-powered calculator. In 1997, you could purchase a new calculator at Office Depot for $4.99. Besides the usual four arithmetic functions, it includes sin, cos, tan, log, exponential, factorial, parentheses, and some internal storage. In high schools of yesteryear, square roots were calculated by hand, math tables were used to look up values of trigonometry functions, and learning to use a table of logarithms was necessary to carry out various calculations. Now, all of that instructional time as well as the math tables have been replaced by a reliable, easily portable, inexpensive hand-held calculator.

That is only a small piece of the story. Many high school students now use a calculator that also includes a key labeled "Solve" and a key labeled "Graph." The calculator can solve equations and graph functions. Even that is only a small piece of the story. There is microcomputer software that can solve a wide range of the types of problems covered in the traditional math curriculum up through the first two years of college. Indeed, this software is also available on a hand-held calculator.

Such calculators and microcomputer software have had some impact on the math curriculum. However, it would be a far stretch to suggest that math education has been transformed. It has not been. Remember, our educational system is highly resistant to change. It seems easy to be overly optimistic about the potentials of school reform or other major changes for education.

In the above examples, the focus was on calculators and computers in math. However, each area of human intellectual activity can be analyzed from the point of view of the problems it addresses, and the current and potential roles of IT in helping to solve these problems. IT is a powerful aid to problem solving in every academic discipline. The educational implications are profound.

Saundri talks to her PEA. Should students spend time developing good keyboarding skills when voice input is available? Computers can graph functions and data. Should students spend time learning to do this by hand? Computers can decide who is an acceptable risk for a home loan, and they are a powerful aid to doing one's income taxes. A good Web search engine can do many of the things that a skilled research librarian can do. The mechanical drawing course has disappeared from the high school curriculum--replaced by a computer-aided design course or a graphics art course.

Because a computer system is a "just do it" tool, it has become an everyday tool for many workers. For white-collar workers in the United States, the ratio of computers per employee is now in excess of 1:1. It is inevitable that the steadily increasing "just do it" capability of computer systems will eventually lead to major changes in the school curriculum and in assessment.

Assessment is a particularly interesting challenge as we try to reconcile authentic assessment with the capabilities of a PEA. How do you test Saundri and her PEA working together? An "open computer" test? For example, how much weight should be given to spelling and grammar in writing? Even today's word processors are relatively good at detecting and correcting errors in spelling and grammar.

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Current Goals for Information Technology in Education

In very simple terms, there are two major goals for IT in education: One goal is to make use of IT as an effective aid to accomplishing the "traditional" (non-IT-related) goals of education. The second goal is to learn IT and its uses to solve problems and accomplish tasks--especially for situations in which use of IT conveys distinct advantages over nonuse of the technology. For example, nowadays, IT is routinely used to solve problems that cannot be solved without the use of IT.

As an example of the first goal, we all want students to learn how to read. We know a great deal about how to help children learn to read. We can capture part of the theory and practice of teaching reading into a CAL system. For most students, CAL is not nearly as good as one-on-one tutoring by a highly skilled human teacher; however, for many students, CAL systems are more effective than large-group (whole class) instruction for some of the components of learning to read. A number of CAL research and development efforts are being directed toward creating better CAL-based systems to help students learn to read.

There are many examples of the second goal. A computer system can be used to simulate an airplane design. It can be used for computer-assisted design that ties in with computer-assisted manufacturing. A computer system can simulate the exploding of a nuclear weapon or conduct long-range weather forecasting.

One can think of the World Wide Web as a Global Digital Library. The development of such a huge library, as well as providing lots of people access to it, was not possible before current technologies emerged. The Web is a new form of information storage and retrieval. Many people find it is highly useful to have good skills in searching the Web as well as making use of the types of resources it provides.

The IT education goals outlined previously are quite general. More specific goals are needed to help guide the development of curriculum, instruction, and assessment. In recent years, ISTE has been developing standards for students and for preservice and in-service teachers. ISTE is a nonprofit professional society that publishes a variety of journals, participates in conferences, publishes books, runs workshops, conducts research, and maintains a high quality Website. ISTE has worked with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education to develop IT standards for preservice teachers (ISTE Standards). Such standards are periodically revised to fit the continuing rapid changes in IT and uses of IT for K-12 education. Several U.S. states have adapted these preservice standards to fit their needs for in-service teacher standards. These standards need to be high enough so that teachers are well prepared to work with students trying to meet the student standards.

The following materials are from the ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for pre-K-12 students (ISTE Standards). A number of states are making use of NETS as they develop their state standards and assessment. Check your own level of IT knowledge and skill against the performance indicators for the various grade levels. Very few preservice and in-service teachers currently meet the suggested standards for students completing grades 9-12.

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Six Broad Categories of Technology Standards

The technology foundation standards for students are divided into six broad categories. Standards within each category are to be introduced, reinforced, and mastered by students. These categories provide a framework for linking performance indicators for various grade levels given in the next section. Teachers can use these standards and profiles as guidelines for planning technology-based activities in which students achieve success in learning, communication, and life skills.

1. Basic operations and concepts: Students demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology systems. Students are proficient in the use of technology.

2. Social, ethical, and human issues: Students understand the ethical, cultural, and societal issues related to technology. Students practice responsible use of technology systems, information, and software. Students develop positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity.

3. Technology productivity tools: Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity. Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, preparing publications, and producing other creative works.

4. Technology communications tools: Students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences. Students use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.

5. Technology research tools: Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources. Students use technology tools to process data and report results. Students evaluate and select new information resources and technological innovations based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.

6. Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools: Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions. Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.

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Profiles Describing Technology Literate Students

A major component of the NETS project is the development of a general set of profiles describing technology literate students at key developmental points in their pre-college education. These profiles reflect the underlying assumption that all students should have the opportunity to develop technology skills that support learning, personal productivity, decision making, and daily life. These profiles and associated standards provide a framework for preparing students to be lifelong learners who make informed decisions about the role of technology in their lives.

The Profiles for Technology Literate Students provide performance indicators describing the technology competence students should exhibit upon completion of the various grade ranges. In each profile list, the numbers in parentheses at the end of the items correspond to the six overarching technology standards for students given previously.

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Prior to completion of Grade 2, students will:

1. use input devices ( mouse, keyboard, remote control, and so forth) and output devices (monitor, printer, and so forth) to successfully operate computers, VCRs, audio tapes, and other technologies (1);

2. use a variety of media and technology resources for directed and independent learning activities (1, 3);

3. communicate about technology using developmentally appropriate and accurate terminology (1);

4. use developmentally appropriate multimedia resources (interactive books, educational software, elementary multimedia encyclopedias, and so on) to support learning (1);

5. work cooperatively and collaboratively with peers, family members, and others when using technology in the classroom (2);

6. demonstrate positive social and ethical behaviors when using technology (2);

7. practice responsible use of technology systems and software (2);

8. create developmentally appropriate multimedia products with support from teachers, family members, or student partners (3);

9. use technology resources (puzzles, logical thinking programs, writing tools, digital cameras, drawing tools, and so on) for problem solving, communication, and illustration of thoughts, ideas, and stories (3, 4, 5, 6); and

10. gather information and communicate with others using telecommunications with support from teachers, family members, or student partners (4).

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Prior to completion of Grade 5, students will:

1. use keyboards and other common input and output devices (including adaptive devices when necessary) efficiently and effectively (1);

2. discuss common uses of technology in daily life and the advantages and disadvantages those uses provide (1, 2);

3. discuss basic issues related to responsible use of technology and information and describe personal consequences of inappropriate use (2);

4. use general purpose productivity tools and peripherals to support personal productivity, remediate skill deficits, and facilitate learning throughout the curriculum (3);

5. use technology tools (multimedia authoring, presentation, Web tools, digital cameras, scanners, and so forth) for individual and collaborative writing, communication, and publishing activities to create knowledge products for audiences inside and outside the classroom (3, 4);

6. use telecommunications efficiently and effectively to access remote information, communicate with others in support of direct and independent learning, and pursue personal interests (4);

7. use telecommunications and online resources (e-mail, online discussions, Web environments, and so on) to participate in collaborative problem-solving activities for the purpose of developing solutions or products for audiences inside and outside the classroom (4, 5);

8. use technology resources (calculators, data collection probes, videos, educational software, and so on) for problem-solving, self-directed learning, and extended learning activities (5, 6);

9. determine when technology is useful and select the appropriate tool(s) and technology resources to address a variety of tasks and problems (5, 6); and

10. evaluate the accuracy, relevance, appropriateness, comprehensiveness, and bias of electronic information sources (6).

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Prior to completion of Grade 8, students will:

1. apply strategies for identifying and solving routine hardware and software problems that occur during everyday use (1);

2. demonstrate knowledge of current changes in information technologies and the effect those changes have on the workplace and society (2);

3. exhibit legal and ethical behaviors when using information and technology, and discuss consequences of misuse (2);

4. use content-specific tools, software, and simulations (environmental probes, graphing calculators, exploratory environments, Web tools, and so on) to support learning and research (3, 5);

5. apply productivity/multimedia tools and peripherals to support personal productivity, group collaboration, and learning throughout the curriculum (3, 6);

6. design, develop, publish, and present products (Web pages, videotapes, and so forth) using technology resources that demonstrate and communicate curriculum concepts to audiences inside and outside the classroom (4, 5, 6);

7. collaborate with peers, experts, and others using telecommunications and collaborative tools to investigate curriculum-related problems, issues, and information, and to develop solutions or products for audiences inside and outside the classroom (4, 5);

8. select and use appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and solve problems (5, 6);

9. demonstrate an understanding of concepts underlying hardware, software, and connectivity, and of practical applications to learning and problem solving (1, 6); and

10. research and evaluate the accuracy, relevance, appropriateness, comprehensiveness, and bias of electronic information sources concerning real-world problems (2, 5, 6).

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Prior to completion of Grade 12, students will:

1. identify capabilities and limitations of contemporary and emerging technology resources and assess the potential of these systems and services to address personal, lifelong learning, and workplace needs (2);

2. make informed choices among technology systems, resources, and services (1, 2);

3. analyze advantages and disadvantages of widespread use and reliance of technology in the workplace and in society as a whole (2);

4. demonstrate and advocate for legal and ethical behaviors among peers, family, and community regarding the use of technology and information (2);

5. use technology tools and resources for managing and communicating personal/professional information (finances, schedules, addresses, purchases, correspondence, and so forth) (3, 4);

6. evaluate technology-based options, including distance and distributed education, for lifelong learning (5);

7. routinely and efficiently use online information resources to meet needs for collaboration, research, publications, communications, and productivity (4, 5, 6);

8. select and apply technology tools for research, information analysis, problem solving, and decision-making in content learning (4, 5);

9. investigate and apply expert systems, intelligent agents, and simulations in real-world situations (3, 5, 6); and

10. collaborate with peers, experts, and others to contribute to a content-related knowledge base by using technology to compile, synthesize, produce, and disseminate information, models, and other creative works (4, 5, 6).

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Information Technology Now and in the Future

IT has changed markedly over the past fifteen years. Moreover, the pace of will likely continue for the next fifteen years.

Following are two original ads from a local newspaper:

(1984) Spring Special: New microcomputer, only $900! One megahertz speed, 8-bit, 64K memory, 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, printer, and monochrome monitor.


(1999) Spring Special: New microcomputer, only $750! Three hundred megahertz speed, 32-bit, 48M memory, 3.5 -inch floppy drive, 5-gigabyte hard drive, 24X CD-ROM, 15 -inch color monitor, color printer, and 56k modem.

Several of the fifteen-year changes are especially noteworthy:

  • The change in speed from 1 MHz 8-bit to 300 MHz 32-bit. Depending on the types of operations being performed, the 1999 microcomputer is approximately 1,200 to 19,200 times as fast as the 1984 microcomputer.
  • Internal memory in the 1999 microcomputer is about 1,300 times as much as in the 1984 machine.
  • A 3.5-inch floppy disk holds about ten times as much as a 5.25-inch floppy disk.
  • The 5-gigabyte hard drive and the 24X CD-ROM were not available for microcomputers in 1984. In those days, a 5-megabyte (one-thousandth as much storage) hard drive cost about $5,000 and the CD-ROM had not yet been invented.
  • Although the Internet had been invented, telephone modems were relatively slow (300 bps or about 180 times slower than the 56k modem) and relatively few microcomputer users had modems.
  • The 1999 microcomputer costs less than the 1984 microcomputer. If one take inflation into consideration, it costs well under half as much.

It is more difficult to provide an analysis of changes in software, databases, networking, and other resources between 1984 and 1999. The advent of the Macintosh in 1984 introduced the general public to the graphical user interface, the laser printer, and powerful word processing and graphics tools. Now, all of these facilities are commonplace. The World Wide Web has been developed, and use of the Internet has become commonplace. Interactive hypermedia, a huge range of CD-ROMs (and now, DVD), along with streaming audio and video on the Web are beginning to be taken for granted.

What does the future hold? Perhaps the most often quoted basis for predicting the future of computer hardware is Moore's Law. Gordon Moore was one of the founders of Intel. In the mid-1960s, he noted that the number of components (transistors, resistors, capacitors) that could be manufactured on a single chip had been increasing at a steady and somewhat predictable pace. Eventually, he made the statement that the density of components on a chip was doubling every 18 months, and this has come to be known as Moore's Law.

Moore's Law has proven to be relatively accurate for more than thirty years, and experts predict that it will continue to hold for about another twelve to fifteen years. After that, no further doublings will be possible without a complete change in the technology, so the farther future is harder to predict. Researchers are currently working on developing new forms of transistors and other related electronic components that will be much smaller than those expected to be manufactured twelve to fifteen years from now. However, it is difficult to tell whether laboratory-produced discoveries will ever "scale up" to mass production at a reasonable cost.

What does this periodic doubling mean? It means that, if a 1 million component chip is state of the art, then eighteen months later a 2-million component chip will be state of the art--and 18 months later a 4-million component chip will be state of the art. Over a fifteen-year period of time there are 10 doubling periods of 18 months. Note that 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 is 1,024. Very roughly speaking, this tends to mean that the speed and memory of a state-of-the-art microcomputer will improve by a factor of 1,024 over a period of fifteen years.

The PEA that Saundri uses is not state of the art. Indeed, it is a three-year-old model that cost in the mid-price range in the year 2012. Saundri's PEA is 100 times as fast, has 100 times the hard disk capacity, and costs less than half as much today's modest-priced microcomputers. Her PEA has a speed of 35 gigahertz (35 billion operations per second), about 5 gigabytes of primary memory, and about 500 gigabytes of disk storage.

Such numbers are so large as to be meaningless to most people. A 300-page textbook with a reasonable number of diagrams and small low-resolution photographs requires approximately 2.5 megabytes of storage. This reference point means that the hard drive on Saundri's computer can store approximately 200,000 such books. That is perhaps ten times the number of volumes in a typical secondary school library.

Of course, it would be silly to fill all of this disk memory space with books. With an Internet connection running at 1 megabyte per second, Saundri can download a book in less than three seconds. So, much of the PEA's disk storage is used for video materials. It requires many billions of bytes (many gigabytes) of storage for a full-length, high-resolution movie.

Saundri's wireless connectivity to the Internet seems quite fast by today's telephone modem standards. However, such speeds are possible with today's technology, and so they will be inexpensive and commonplace fifteen years from now. Saundri lives in a poor rural African village that lacks the infrastructure found in many wealthier parts of the world. Fiber optic has already been installed in many nations' businesses and schools, and it is beginning to be used to connect homes. If Saundri had a fiber optic connection, it might be a thousand times as fast as her wireless connection.

What good is all of that computer speed--the 35 gigahertz? Recall that Saundri talks to her computer. Voice input to computer is now in widespread use. Yet today's "voice input" simply means that the computer can input the stream of sounds, translate it into words, store the words in its memory, and display them on the screen. A 35-megahertz computer can do this almost in real-time, and with an accuracy rate of perhaps 95 percent.

Today's voice input systems do not understand the meaning of what they are hearing. Sure, a computer can be programmed to carry out specific tasks when it receives specific voice commands. For quite a few years, we have had computer systems that respond correctly to commands such as, "Computer, open the word processor" or "Computer, save the file." That is a very limited form of "understanding."

In recent years, however, computer translation of natural languages has made considerable progress. The next fifteen years will bring still more progress in the theory and practice of voice input, language translation, and understanding of natural language. The gains to be expected in computer speed and memory capacity will also help. Fifteen years from now, we will have relatively good simultaneous (real-time) translation (voice input, voice output) of natural languages. Such systems will still not be nearly as good as a highly qualified human translator, but they will be quite adequate for many communication tasks.

Voice input and natural language translation are not the only problems being worked on by researchers in artificial intelligence and other aspects of the field of computer and information science. Films such as the 1999 Star Wars movie, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, required many thousands of hours laboring on state-of-the-art microcomputers. In the movie, can you tell the difference between creatures animated by human actors inside costumes and creatures fully created by computer animation? Progress in the field of computer animation, along with faster computers, will narrow this gap even more. The increased speed of computers will make it possible for people like Saundri to do very high-quality animation work on their personal computers.

What difference does this make in education? Saundri was making use of Intelligent Computer-Assisted Learning (ICAL). This program covers a range of learning aids, such as drill-and-practice, tutorials, simulations, and virtual realities. Simulators are so good that they have become a routine aid to training airplane and spaceship pilots. In such computer simulations, it is necessary to generate video images (what the person is seeing) very rapidly--a pilot turns the airplane, changes altitude, or looks out a side window; new images have to be produced in real-time.

Saundri's ICAL system includes virtual reality that allows her to meet and talk with key historical figures ("be they alive or be they dead"), explore the cities of the current and ancient worlds, and carry out scientific experiments too dangerous and too costly to "actually" do. The PEA gives her access to original sources of information from the great libraries of the world. Although her Personal Tutor is not really very smart from a human point of view, it can provide a lot of help as she explores these virtual reality worlds and makes use of other aids to learning.

Saundri's PEA gets better year after year, due to continued progress in development of software, teaching theory, learning theory, and so on. Her PEA is fast enough and has enough storage capacity to accommodate a great deal of continued progress in the non-hardware areas.

In a recent issue of The New York Times, this quote appeared: "Researchers from Hewlett-Packard and the University of California at Los Angeles have developed a way to create molecular-sized computing components using chemical processes (rather than light beams) to make integrated circuits. Although their accomplishment is just a first step for the new field of molecular electronics ("moletronics"), it leads in the direction of a new world in which computers will be 100 billion times as fast as a Pentium processor and a space no bigger than a grain of salt will hold the power of 100 workstations" (The New York Times 1999). This type of "far out" research suggests that there may well be major technological breakthroughs in the future that will lead to still faster, smaller computers. Current technologies will make Saundri's PEA quite possible by the year 2015. Future technologies may produce a far more powerful PEA of wristwatch size!

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Potentials for Improving Learning

Saundri's use of her PEA illustrates some ways that information technology will improve learning. In addition to providing good access to people and to information, her use of automatic language translation opens up still more library and people resources. The Internet provides her access to human teachers, fellow students, and a wide range of formal coursework. Distance learning allows her to pursue a curriculum appropriate to her abilities, current interests, and long term goals. The PEA's Intelligent Computer-Assisted Learning system allows Saundri to study almost any topic she can think of--at any time she wants. The instructional materials presented are appropriate to her current levels of knowledge, skills, and learning styles. Her Personal Tutor has knowledge of what Saundri has studied and knows, general theories of teaching and learning, and how to provide some help in her studies. Finally, the PEA is providing Saundri with learning opportunities that would not otherwise be available to her.

The potentials for improving learning can be grouped into three areas: (1) computer assisted learning, distance learning, and improving learning; (2) computer-as-tool and improving learning; (3) improving learning through IT-based changes in curriculum content.

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Computer-Assisted Learning, Distance Learning, and Improving Learning

CAL can be thought of as attempts to use IT to implement teaching theory, learning theory, brain research, and so on. This process has been going on for more than forty years, and significant progress has occurred. Kulik (1994) is a meta-metastudy of computer-assisted learning. That is, by the time Kulik was doing this federally-funded study, there had already been enough metastudies of CAL to justify a study of the metastudies. Kulik's study suggested that, over a huge range of studies, students learn about 30 percent faster and somewhat better, as compared to the various control groups that were used in the studies. This is impressive. Mann, Shakesshaft, Becker, and Kottramp (1999) report a large-scale, multiyear use of CAL in West Virginia. The results are consistent with the Kulik (1994) study. In addition, the overall project suggested that such wide scale implementation is economically and politically possible, even in a state that has economic problems. (West Virginia does not spend nearly as much money per student as a number of other states. Per capita income in West Virginia is a lot less than in many other states.)

At some point, CAL will inevitably become a routine component of our educational system. Some CAL will be delivered through the Internet and some will be delivered from local sources, such as CD-ROM, DVD, and local area networks. This integration will lead to improved learning over a broad range of subject matter areas for most students. Another aspect of CAL, and all types of distance learning, is that it makes available courses of instruction otherwise inaccessible to students. If a student gets an opportunity to take a physics course--when the student's school does not offer such a course--do we call this improved learning? Certainly.

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Computer-as-tool and Improving Learning

There have been innumerable small studies (for example, doctorate dissertations) on use of individual tools such as a word processor or a database in a wide range of schools and grade levels. Collectively, such studies provide some evidence that an individual computer tool may lead to small improvements in learning.

An interesting parallel exists with computer use in business. Over the past forty years, business has invested hugely in IT. Initially the investment was for isolated applications. Businesses did not detect much in the way of overall improvements in their efficiency, levels of productivity, and profitability due to these initial investments. In more recent years, many more computers--and more powerful computers--have been acquired, and networking has been implemented. Substantial amounts of money have been spent on staff development. Businesses have come to understand use of IT as an integral part of their overall system. This realization has made a major difference in productivity and profitability. In recent years, the United States has had a very long period of increasing prosperity and productivity, couple with low inflation. Research suggests that quite a bit of this economic success is due to IT. That same scenario will occur in education.

Until recently, IT has not been readily available to students, and IT has not been networked. Even now, our schools have only about one microcomputer per five students (Becker 1998). Many of these microcomputers are quite old, and the majority of them are not networked. Research literature suggests that making lots of IT available, along with supportive professional development, improves learning.

Sandholtz, Ringstaff, and Dwyer (1997) presented results from ten years of research on high-density computer sites. Each student had a computer at school and a computer at home. Initially, these computers were not networked. Many different measures were used to explore potential improvements in education, such as student performance on tests, student attendance, student drop-out rates, and students going on to post-secondary education. The results were quite positive. The Sandholtz et al. (1997) study also included a considerable amount of discussion of project-based learning and how this improved learning.

A report by the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (1997) summarized research on IT in education with evidence that it improves learning. The report placed special emphasis on project-based learning and on constructivism. It also noted that not enough funds are being put into educational research. IT is changing education, the committee agreed, and the United States should be spending more money doing research on IT uses to produce changes for the better.

Rockman (1998) studied school settings in which whole classes of students have laptops and Internet connectivity to use at school and home. As with the Sandholtz et al. (1997) study, there were multiple measures and a large number of participants. At the time, the laptop program had only been going on two years. Improved learning was occurring. Such laptop projects began in Australia in the early 1990s. Increased learning was noted in these early projects.

The Web is a tool beginning to have an impact on student learning, but we lack definitive research on the nature of this impact. One of the arguments for providing students and teachers Web access is its rich source of information. Students and teachers can access more information, from more varied sources, and the information is more up to date. (If you have not spent much time looking at educational resources on the Web, you might want to look at Federal Resources for Educational Excellence The U.S. Government has made available a huge amount of up-to-date materials and continues to add to these resources. Perhaps you will want to check out the Central Intelligence Agency site; it includes detailed information on about 250 countries.)

Schools in the United States (as well as in a number of other countries) will continue to increase their numbers of computers and to improve their connectivity. Some school systems take a CAL approach, while others focus on computer-as-tool. In both cases, improved students learning is a likely outcome if the implementation is done well. In both cases, professional development is important. However, it appears to be a more critical factor in the computer-as tool approach.

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Information Technology-based Changes in Curriculum Content

Earlier, the issue was raised about what we want students to learn in situations when a computer can solve or make a major contribution to solving a problem being studied in school. For example, should students learn to calculate square roots using paper-and-pencil techniques when the least expensive hand-held calculators have a square root key? Should students learn to do graphic artist and mechanical drawing work by hand when computer-assisted design tools are such a powerful aid to accomplishing such tasks? In some cases, the answer is already in.

Changes have occurred in the math curriculum, and mechanical drawing courses have disappeared from the curriculum. Paper-and-pencil bookkeeping courses have been replaced by courses in which students learn to use the spreadsheet and accounting software. One can argue that these changes represent improvements in learning. What sense is there in spending learning time to develop skills that will never equal those of a computer? The time is better spent in learning to work with a computer, with the human doing problem posing, reality checks, and other activities that computers do not do very well. Students in architect schools study a wide range of topics, including design as well as structural soundness and energy use. Many of the students have considerable artistic design talents and are especially interested in this aspect of architecture. Yet, what good is this creative talent if their buildings will be felled by a high wind or by an earthquake? What good is it if their buildings are energy inefficient and too costly to use? In recent years, software has been developed for structural engineering and energy use analysis of a proposed building. These are complex problems well suited to the capabilities of a modern computer. Such software will gradually have an impact on the curriculum content in an architecture program.

Over time, the IT-based changes in curriculum content will have a very major impact on student learning. The overall learning of students will be much improved by providing students with better tools and spending school time in helping them to learn to use these tools.

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Potentials for Transforming our Educational System

Nowadays, school reform, school restructuring, and school renewal are in vogue. The first two terms suggest that our educational system is in some sense "broken" and that major changes are needed. The third term suggests that perhaps less drastic action is required.

There are many possible definitions of what it might mean to "transform" our educational system. Among the possible goals related to technological issues are these three:

Goal 1: Provide every student with lifelong opportunities to obtain a good education. Substantially narrow the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots." Do this by significantly improving the opportunities available to the have-nots--not by lower the opportunities available to the haves.

Goal 2: Implement the best theory-based and practitioner-based ideas that have been developed for improving education.

Goal 3: Help students gain effective levels of expertise over a wide range of disciplines that society deems important as well as over disciplines students deem important. For example, our society considers math an important discipline. We require students to study this subject for many years. Indeed, many students are required to take at least one year of math in college.

If we could accomplish all three of these goals, I would say we had transformed education. Of course, you can add many items to this list, and, undoubtedly, many individuals will consider their additions more important. Still, the potentials of IT to help accomplish various goals in education seem clear.

Saundri's PEA can be mass-produced and mass-distributed. There is considerable economy of scale. We are used to the idea of providing all students with textbooks; it is not a far stretch of the imagination to think of providing all students with a PEA. We might well come to consider a PEA and its connectivity as a birthright--something made available to everybody throughout their lifetime. That would be a significant step toward meeting the first goal of transforming education.

In terms of the second goal, our current educational system struggles with translating theory and best practices into widespread use. When a well-proven new idea becomes available, how do you get it implemented in several million different classrooms? Similar questions hold true for the new knowledge being developed in every field. Many researchers estimates the totality of human knowledge is doubling every few years--such as in three, five, or ten years.

Professional development is always listed as an important part of the answer. Yet, this approach cannot possibly succeed. The pace of progress in research in all aspects of knowledge--including in all aspects of education--far overwhelms the ability of educators to keep up with everything relevant to their professional work. Improvements in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and educational materials have long been part of the answer. Provide the teacher with new, better textbooks and lesson plans. Many school districts manage to do this on a six-year cycle (time for four doublings in areas covered by Moore's Law; perhaps the time for one doubling of the totality of human knowledge). Clearly, these two traditional approaches are doomed to failure when faced by exponential rates of change.

Does Saundri's PEA provide a solution to the second goal? Yes--at least partly. The electronic availability of content and learning materials means they can be updated easily and frequently. Updates can occur automatically every time Saundri is on the Internet. The PEA certainly changes the role of a teacher. A teacher becomes a learning facilitator, not a primary source of information and of delivering instruction. The skills of being a learning facilitator (what many of us would currently call a "good teacher") tend to have a long lifetime and tend to grow with increasing experience and maturity. Professional development remains important, but it is a less-overwhelming challenge.

The third goal focuses on students gaining a useful level of expertise in many different areas. The meaning of "useful" changes over time. As a very general example, at the end of World War II, the typical industrial manufacturing job in the United States required a fourth-grade education. Now, there are less than one-third as many of these types of jobs, and new employees typically need at least a high school diploma.

Bereiter and Scardamalia (1993) presented an excellent overview of the research and practice on expertise. It takes a long period of study and practice for a person to achieve their full potential in a particular field. If a person has the potential to be world class in a field such as gymnastics, chess, or math, it takes ten years or more of hard work to achieve this potential. Thus, a person does not have enough years to achieve a really high level of expertise in many different fields. However, few of us aspire to being world class in multiple disciplines. A more practical question is how long it takes to achieve a functional level of expertise in the various disciplines important to our lives.

For a specific example, consider the level of knowledge and skills it takes to correctly fill out a federal income tax form. Not only is this task complex, the tax laws change every year. Consequently, many tax preparers make a living by maintaining a level of tax expertise adequate to successfully complete the task. Perhaps you make use of a professional to do your income tax returns. Or, perhaps you make use of a piece of software (a computer-based expert system) to help you do the task. Indeed, you and your computer system can have the knowledge and skills to complete the task. Yearly updates to your software, and a modest amount of yearly learning on your part, can maintain the expertise of your income tax preparer.

As a final example, consider arithmetic and mathematics. How good are you at paper-and-pencil long division? Probably you can still do this, since you are an educated person. Yet, can you figure the monthly payments for a house or a car loan? Can you do appropriate fiscal planning for your retirement? These problems relate to math, and they are beyond the capabilities of most people who have studied only a year or two of college mathematics--that is, our current system of math education does not provide an adequate level of math expertise for most people.

Similar examples can be developed for any area of academic expertise. Increasingly, a PEA is part of a solution to the problems that the third goal addresses. Together with his or her PEA, and appropriate education using it, a student can achieve a level of expertise appropriate to many problems and tasks. Unaided by a PEA, and/or with an inappropriate education, the student does not have much of a chance.

Will IT transform education? The answer is inevitable: there are many goals of education that can no longer be met without appropriate use of IT. Because so many people believe these goals are important--both to themselves as individuals and to our society or nation--IT will and must be used. Such use will transform education.

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Is the Education Scenario Believable?

By now, you have probably made up your mind about the extent to which you believe the Saundri scenario set in the year 2015. This scenario is set at the secondary school level. It portrays an anywhere-anytime educational system that makes use of computer agents, intelligent computer-assisted learning, distance learning, the Internet, the Web, and local opportunities for face-to-face participation in sports, music lessons, and so on. The worldwide demand for such educational opportunities (which includes considerable demand from rural United States) is driving the creation of this type of educational system. The development of facilities that Saundri uses are inevitable.

How soon Saundri's facilities become available will be determined mainly by funding. Various components of the PEA system have already been built, and they are gradually improving. Bringing these components all together could be carried out by an enterprising company, or it could be done through large grants--for example, from governmental agencies or a very large foundation. Progress on developing each of the needed components is ongoing. Thus, the cost of pulling it all together will gradually decline over the years. Fifteen years seems far enough into the future, so that some reasonably good version of Saundri's PEA should be available by then.

Clearly, the PEA will have an impact on education. Even in quite traditional schools, we will see the PEA becoming a routine tool. Students will come together in classrooms, and the teacher will provide face-to-face facilitation as students work in a combination of traditional and PEA-assisted learning. Students in rural settings, home-schooled students, and students in less-affluent locations throughout the world will gradually come to use the PEA as a major component of their educational system. Even students in affluent traditional school systems will begin to receive a significant portion of their formal instruction via the PEA.

The PEA and the facilities Saundri is using constitute a type of competition for our current educational system. As Norman (1998) noted, the PEA is a disruptive technology. It is a type of technological change that can completely transform an industry. Our educational system is a large and complex industry. It may be able to accommodate to the PEA, or it may be severely disrupted. An example of severe disruption would be privatization of much of the current public educational system, perhaps with a majority of schools being run by for-profit companies. A different type of disruption would be a huge growth in home schooling or very small private schools run by groups of parents and a few paid staff--made possible by the PEA. Still a different type of disruption would be major changes in secondary education, perhaps with a large number of secondary school students engaged in a work/study situation run by the companies in which they hold jobs.

You can create your own scenarios, including "business as usual." The future holds interesting times for our educational system.

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