Computers in the classroom

Earlier this year, we saw a great deal of media excitement around the idea of "Net Day," when many people--including the Vice President--pitched in to help get the schools wired to the Internet. While schools are under tremendous pressure to acquire such technology, there are concerns that schools will not be able to use these resources effectively. What are the problems? What is being done to address these issues?

We have arranged to go interview teachers and administrators in the San Jose School District. Though we don't yet have an agenda, here are some of the issues we would like to consider...

As the technology is relatively new and few teachers have had the good fortune of working with technology before, a whole educational procedure needs to be implemented to educate both the students and the teachers. If that requires an alternative group to come in and implement this--how can we make sure that it would be geared towards the educational needs-rather than pure technical/commercial matters.

Balance between teachers and computer time- how do we assure that this does not replace the teacher's role--while still incorporating it successfully. Will school districts adopt a philosophy like the one we saw in class (codetermination). Should we get teachers involved in the design process?

Resources- the issue of monetary allowances for a) the computers b) other stuff for the school. Where do we draw the line?

Affluence of school system- should only the Palo Alto school district be so lucky to receive even more goodies for their higher than average education- how do we get the same benefits to lower income areas? Who's role will it be to keep schools connected? Will corporations continue their support? or will the government have to step in?

Where in the curriculum will computers fit in? Will they remain within the domain of math and sciences? or will they be incorporated into other subjects as well?

What can we do to ensure that all students benefit from this technology...girls and minorities, lower SES? Education as an equalizer?

Also, this is the Benton Foundation recommendations:

1. The drive to connect schools must be part of a broader discussion about what skills students will need and how classrooms should function. Without such a dialogue, the new technology may be used in ways that have little effect and today's high expectations may become tomorrow's disillusionment.

2. We must invest more in training and other aspects of human infrastructure so that schools can make good use of computer networks once they are in place.

3. To sustain public support for networking in education, we must do more to demonstrate its educational value.

4. We must ensure that all students share in access to the information superhighway so that computer-based communications promote equal opportunity in the classroom rather than exacerbating social divisions among schools and students.

(educators and educational institutions must make a concerted effort to ensure equal access to computers for boys and girls).