Monday, October 08, 2007

Shifting Sands: Changing How Students Use the Internet

I have spent a considerable amout of my own time since 1998 looking at different uses of technology in education. With the introduction of the Internet and it's boom in 1999 and 2000, the sands in education shifted. Slightly. With the tech bubble bursting in 2001, there was a lull in technology and a justification for education to hold off in the process of integrating technology into the classroom.

I can remember being on hand my last semester in high school unpacking some of the first Apple II's that were in classrooms. At that time they were used to teach BASIC programming, and soon there were other educational uses for the computers. Some followed the 'drill and kill' approach of electronic flash cards, while others allowed for some creative interactivity with the computer.

One of the first EdTech grants I wrote was for Apple III's to use with a program called "Where is Carmen SanDiego." I was going to have four machines in my classroom, and there would be four students to a machine, with different roles to play as they went through the 'game.' This created some interactivity with the students and the application, but in the end, the game was still 'static' and once the students went through the game, it was over. In the case of Carmen SanDiego, there were several different versions of the game dealing with US geography, world geography and history (time) which helped, but there was definitely a finite limit that could be reached and the game didn't allow for individual creativity.

The Internet, in its early days in education was seen as a digital card catalog. I can remember using "Gopher" from the University of Minnesota and using some of the first search engines, like Alta Vista. The means to create and publish on the Internet were still in the hands of a relatively few people, mostly academics and businesses. As far as k-12 schools were concerned, there was little that the Internet could be used for besides research for your own classes. I played around with transitioning some activities I had previously done in other ways, with the information found on the Internet, most notably a stock market simulation that I had used wth Economics classes.

In 1999, when I became the Tech Coordinator at Capuchino, I felt it was my duty to infuse as much technology into education as possible, which included creating Technology courses. For several years, I felt we did a pretty good job. In 2004, it hit me that we fundamentally changed the educational process for the students in our Tech classes, but did very little for those students in the regular education classrooms. We did the standard; making sure that students word processed formal writing assignments, used spreadsheets to analyze data, etc.

The last three years has seen the Internet and what students can do with it explode, but have we done what we can? I think we have moved forward, as well as any school has, with what we have done with Global Communications and the connected courses, but being the pusher I am, I am not satisfied... We need to do more. So, what are the next steps? Here are a few videos from the Kansas State Digital Ethnography program that may lend a little insight. I know they have at least given me a few things to think about.... take a look.

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