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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Grant # ESI-0002231 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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Suggested citation: National Research Council. 2002. Enhancing undergraduate education with information technology: A workshop summary. M. Hilton, editor. Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
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Copyright 2002 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
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Institute of Medicine
National Research Council
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PLANNING GROUP FOR THE WORKSHOP ON THE ROLES OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN IMPROVING TEACHING AND LEARNING IN UNDERGRADUATE SCIENCE, MATHEMATICS, ENGINEERING, AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION
Marshall S. Smith, Chair, Education Program Officer,
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Martha Darling, Educational Consultant,
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Deborah Hughes Hallett, Professor of Mathematics,
University of Arizona
Jack Wilson, Professor of Management,
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and
CEO of UMassOnLine*
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF
Jay Labov, Associate Director,
Center for Education
Kevin Aylesworth, Senior Program Officer,
Center for Education
Margaret Hilton, Program Officer,
Center for Education
Terry K. Holmer, Senior Project Assistant,
Center for Education
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:
Lara K. Couturier, Brown University
Martha Darling, Consultant, Ann Arbor, MI
Alan Lesgold, University of Pittsburgh
Evelyn T. Patterson, U.S. Air Force Academy
Barbara Sawrey, University of California, San Diego
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Nicholas J. Turro, Columbia University. Appointed by the National Research Council, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
Information Technology (IT) enables exciting new approaches to undergraduate science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (SME&T) education. Cognitive research has begun to illuminate how students learn (National Research Council [NRC], 1999a) providing a basis for design of more effective learning environments and teaching practices (NRC, 1999b). At the same time, personal computers with Internet access, as well as other IT tools, are becoming ubiquitous on many college and university campuses (Web-Based Education Commission, 2000). Encouraged by these developments, small but growing numbers of faculty are transforming traditional SME&T lectures and laboratories into more active learning environments that hold the promise of enhancing undergraduate learning.
Scientists, policy makers, and researchers discussed these developments at a workshop, held at the National Academy of Sciences in June 2000. Presenters described innovative undergraduate courses in a range of SME&T disciplines. Using IT, these courses have been transformed in ways that appear to enhance learning for a diverse spectrum of undergraduate students. However, workshop participants noted that the full educational potential of IT has not yet been realized. Several factors, including the difficulty of assessing student learning in technology-rich environments, the state of current technology, and cultural and institutional factors could pose barriers to rapid deployment of technology in SME&T classrooms.
The breathtaking pace of change in IT makes it virtually impossible to accurately predict its future impact on teaching and learning in undergraduate SME&T education. Nevertheless, many workshop participants felt that it was not only possible, but also essential, to begin planning for what the future might hold. Some presenters identified steps that could be taken to speed development of the educational potential of
IT and support a promising future for SME&T education.
This workshop evolved from a planning process begun in early 2000, when the National Academies created a new Center for Education (CFE). The new Center includes the Academies’ Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education (CSMEE), Board on Testing and Assessment, and Board on International Comparative Studies in Education. To define directions and priorities for future studies, CFE established a Strategic Planning Advisory Group. This advisory group gave high priority to the Center’s undertaking studies of the impact of IT in education. As the first step toward such studies, the CFE convened a planning group to develop a workshop on the role of IT in undergraduate SME&T education.
The goal of the workshop was to inform the Strategic Planning Advisory Group, workshop participants, and the public about some issues surrounding the use of IT in education. To reach this goal, the planning group invited workshop presenters to pay particular attention to the following issues:
What educational technologies currently exist, and how they are being used to transform undergraduate SME&T education;
What is known about the potential future impact of information technology on teaching and learning at the undergraduate level;
How to evaluate the impact of IT on teaching and learning; and
What the future might hold.
The planning group identified topics and speakers for the workshop, and developed the agenda, but did not participate in writing this summary. Both the agenda and this summary build on earlier research into the role of IT in pedagogy and learning, produced by CSMEE’s Committee on Information Technology. That committee analyzed and synthesized research about the ability of IT to enable new educational approaches, and identified many examples of such approaches. This synthesis of earlier research was sent to all workshop participants as background reading, providing a broader context for the presentations at the workshop, which focused on a few selected case studies. It is included in this workshop summary as Appendix A.