been spent trying to implement technology in classrooms across the country over the past 10 years, too much of the education community is still waiting for it to happen. She and colleague Darryl LaGace proceeded to draw on their experience in the Lemon Grove School District to identify obstacles they encountered and to share what they suggested is a promising approach to realizing the benefits of technology-rich curriculum and instruction that could be applied in other school districts.
Lemon Grove is a community eight miles east of San Diego with 4,600 students in grades K-8, 60 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Approximately six years ago the district developed a vision for creating a truly connected learning community, with access to that community from anywhere in Lemon Grove, including classrooms, libraries, homes, and community centers. From the outset the designers of this on-line learning community saw easy and seamless access as pivotal to providing the same type of technology-enabled educational experience across all classrooms and to all students.
Their initial target for access to hardware was a ratio of one conventional computer to four students. After more than a year into the plan, it became clear that the 1:4 computer-to-student ratio was not making a difference in instruction. The computers remained literally and figuratively peripheral, while the amount of time the hardware or software was unusable or required special attention reinforced concerns that this approach to instruction and learning was unreliable. Those involved with developing this learning community concluded that unless they could achieve at least a 1:2 computer-to-student ratio, the traditional model of teacher at the head of the class, lesson-driven education would remain firmly in place. Today Lemon Grove has achieved a ratio of 1:2 and, the presenters contended, a transformed system of teaching and learning. Allen and LaGace proceeded to summarize the multiple organizational, technical, and economic obstacles their community faced and the strategies they adopted to overcome them.
First, Allen identified six challenges to integrating cheap, fast, robust computers into instruction for every student: reducing the cost of ownership; preparing teachers with high-quality, ongoing professional development; providing ready access to educational software linked to standards; involving parents and providing home access, including subsidized access; involving the people and organizations in the greater community whose buy-in is critical to achieve the vision and goals of the learning community; and, perhaps most importantly, justifying the cost of the effort by demonstrating the impact of the project on gains in student learning and achievement.
Some of these challenges relate to school district organization and operations, while others are technical in nature. The critical district-level