Initial ILIT Activity: A Symposium
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
On January 24, 2001, Dr. Wm. A. Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering and cochair of the steering committee on Improving Learning with Information Technology (ILIT), opened the symposium by outlining the confluence of issues and opportunities that catalyzed the project:
National Will—The Bush administration's first legislative act was to issue his education plan, No Child Left Behind. Wulf believed that both the emphasis of the proposed legislation and its timing reflected a growing national recognition of the need to address the problems of K-12 education in America.
How People Learn—The cognitive and social science advances explicated in How People Learn (National Research Council (NRC), 1999b) have provided the academic and research communities with a more precise, scientifically based understanding of how people construct personal knowledge and understanding from infancy to adulthood.
Computing Power—In the past decade, information technology has become relatively inexpensive, very powerful, and nearly ubiquitous.1
How to increase access to education technologies and minimize the digital divide— defined broadly as socioeconomic disparities in access to information technology—were important themes of this workshop and of the ILIT project itself. Additional discussions on these topics can be found later in this text. Also see Pea, 2001.
These vital elements position policy makers, cognitive researchers, teachers and administrators, and technologists to work together effectively to harness the power of information technology so that it can transform the productivity of K-12 education, just as it has done for the business community and many other aspects of society.
Cochair Roy Pea followed Wulf. He began his remarks by quoting John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems: “The next big killer application for the Internet is going to be education.” (Friedman, 1999). Pea thought this comment indicated that the time was ripe for the ILIT project. He identified the following “megatrends” within the educational landscape that could aid the project by coalescing the three principal communities:
Learning Sciences Research—How People Learn (NRC, 1999b) explains the solid scientific basis for guiding advances in curriculum, pedagogy, teacher education, and assessment. A corollary project on bridging theory and practice (NRC, 1999c) discusses the divide between what is known in the learning sciences and what appears in teacher education programs, reform agendas, textbook and technology-based curricula, and the public perception. How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice provides powerful insights and paradigms for using technology to support learning, such as incorporating authentic and engaging inquiry-based tasks, drawing upon real-world contexts for learning, connecting experts and communities of learners, and considering the social aspects of computing. New approaches to visualization and analysis make very complicated subjects much more accessible through animation, visualization, and other techniques that tap the multiple intelligences of different learners and sustain new forms of learning conversations. Computing can enable complex problem solving that lets students do more challenging things than they could do without it by “scaffolding ” their activities. Information technology facilitates opportunities for feedback, reflection, and revision through paradigms ranging from intelligent tutoring systems to more complicated ones that provide frequent assessment and context to guide instruction. IT also permits more focused attention on teacher learning in online communities of practice and other paradigms. While teachers are unlikely to be replaced by these technologies, IT creates new and interesting opportunities and challenges to the ways in which educators can most effectively organize their working lives and carry out their many tasks as lifelong learners and professionals.
Standards and Accountability—Pea credited the work of the state governors and organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academies for developing mathematics and science standards that have contributed to the nationwide effort to achieve excellence in education. Coupled with these standards is a greater emphasis on proof that students are achieving the educational goals.2
K-12 Technology Infrastructure and the Impact of the E-Rate3— The K-12 technology infrastructure has been rapidly changing through the investment of close to $6 billion in the E-rate and other state and industry funds, so that now there is an infrastructure upon which to build. This means that almost all public schools and three-quarters of instructional rooms are connected to the Internet (Cattagni and Ferris, 2001), although wide socioeconomic disparities still persist (National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 2000). Furthermore, 70 percent of the nation's K-12 teachers also have PCs and Internet connections at home, which affords another avenue to reach and influence them.
Technology Purchasing Challenge—Pea highlighted some particular challenges within the school administrative infrastructure regarding the acquisition of technology. He believes that those who purchase technology for schools are hamstrung because they have difficulty in finding out what products are readily available and appropriate for their needs. Furthermore, he noted that those who are likely to use the technologies in schools—primarily teachers and students—are rarely the ones who buy the products or influence the buying decisions. Instead, that responsibility tends to fall on administrators and parents, who may be swayed by considerations other than the educational effectiveness of the products.
Teaching Workforce—Linked to other changes taking place in the K-12 environment is a wave of changes in the teacher workforce. Accord
While there was some discussion of the danger of overtesting and test preparation dominating the school day, the discussion centered on the national desire for more concrete accountability of student performance. For more information on the ramifications of overtesting, see NRC, 1998.
The timing of the symposium coincided with the change in administration and several participants expressed concern about whether the new administration would continue the same level of support for educational services such as the E-rate and distance education initiatives as the previous administration. In fact, while the symposium was taking place, President Bush placed a hold on all E-rate funds.
ing to figures provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (Hussar, 1999) and others, nearly two million new teachers will need to enter the workforce by 2008 to replace those who will be retiring or leaving the profession for other reasons. Colleges and universities are not likely to educate enough new teachers to meet the classroom staffing needs of the schools. This means that many new teachers are likely to be uncertified or at least less qualified than they need to be (see Olson, 2000), especially given the increasing demands for academic excellence and accountability in the nation's public schools.
Professional development issues for current teachers also pose significant challenges (see for example, (NRC, 1996b, 2000; National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, 2000). In U.S. high schools, a third of the teachers of mathematics, a quarter of those in English, and a fifth in science are teaching without a college major or minor in the fields in which they are teaching. As data have shown, deep knowledge of the content and processes of a discipline is critically important to successful teaching (Darling-Hammond, 1996, 1997; Stodolsky, 1988). Pedagogy alone cannot equip a teacher to teach effectively.
Attention to Improving Education from Policy Makers and the Business Community—The policy makers and business community have paid extraordinary attention to improving education in recent years. The CEO Forum on Education and Technology4 and other groups continually identify education, readiness of the workforce, and related issues as their first priority in addressing critical issues (see for example, NRC, 1999a, 2001).
K-12 Education as a Driving Market Influence—There is a perception among the investment community that K-12 education is a major underdeveloped marketplace. Merrill Lynch, which has funded several feasibility studies in this area, says that the $360 billion K-12 sector is the largest in the cradle-to-grave education industry, but the most difficult in which to invest (Moe et al., 2000). Companies that provide materials to
The CEO Forum on Education and Technology was founded in fall 1996 to help ensure that America's schools effectively prepare all students to be contributing citizens and productive workers in the 21st century. To meet this objective, the Forum plans to issue an annual assessment of the nation's progress toward integrating technology into American classrooms through the year 2000. For more information, see <http://www.ceoforum.org/>.
public education must deal with fragmented school markets; different local and state policies for developing and adopting curricula, textbooks, and other materials for use in the schools; and long adoption cycles. Despite the huge size of K-12 education market, there is a general perception that because of its exceptional fragmentation the education marketplace simply does not function as other sectors of the economy (Web-Based Education Commission, 2000).
The Power and Ubiquity of Computing—Moore's Law predicts that the power of the microprocessor will double every 12 to 18 months (Webopedia, available at http://www.webopedia.com). Metcalfe's Law says that the potential value of a network is the square of the number of nodes connected to the network, whether the network consists of phones or computers (Gilder, 1993). Today, modern information technology is becoming ever more powerful and efficient and doing so in less time than predicted by Moore's Law. Developments in technology are resulting in greater and greater miniaturization, portability, digital convergence, and increased bandwidth even as costs are falling. Recent advances include applications-based networking, the application service provider (ASP) model, different platforms such as handhelds, thin client servers, peer-to-peer and wireless networks, and digital cameras, videocams, and MP3 music players.
One of the most interesting outcomes of these developments has been a sustainable marketplace for e-learning in the past couple of years. Although at present most e-learning services are connected to universities rather than K-12 education, that could change.
The Changing Workforce5—Quality education is an imperative for an information-driven economy and society. The kinds of analytical skills that information technology begins to bring into work and the knowledge economy create new demands on education. As the modern work-place becomes increasingly complex, workers face new intellectual demands—and indeed, with biogenetic and other scientific breakthroughs, the country needs a better-informed citizenry. Pea urged participants to keep in mind that today's students will be most directly affected by and come to lead in facing the challenges posed by these rapid global transformations. The leaders of tomorrow are in school today, and it is incumbent on the educational system to help them learn in ways that will improve their future and the future of society.
See NRC, 1999a.
The Fourth Wave of the Internet—Technological advancement began with the fundamental net protocols developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and government agency contractor work; it then evolved into bulletin boards and online services; this was followed by the web with its capability for rich text, graphics, and images. The emerging fourth wave, as characterized by Norman Winarsky (Sarnoff Labs, 2000), is expected to bring four major dimensions of explosive growth:
ubiquitous connectivity, starting with the connected PC;
media richness, which began with text, evolved to text and graphics, and continues with the creation of audio and video capability and 3D interactive, immersive worlds;
IT capacity, moving toward much faster processing, nearly unlimited storage, and much faster bandwidth connectivity;
increasingly smarter services, from simple browsers to search engines capable of personalized and customized search.
Box 1.1 below provides a sampling of data to indicate the advancements on the horizon. The alignment of these crucial elements—a deeper understanding of how people learn, coupled with robust computer power available at cheaper cost—appears to indicate tremendous potential for affordable, personal portable gateways to e-learning, which will eventually become available to all students and teachers. Current research in the cognitive sciences coupled with the power of emerging IT should make it possible to provide fundamentally better real-time teaching and assessment capabilities in classrooms. Ready access to IT specifically designed for improving education should provide opportunities for meaningful, career-enhancing professional development for many more teachers in the myriad settings that constitute today's and tomorrow 's education environments. Access to this kind of quality professional development would enable teachers to learn about advances in education research and about the kinds of tools that are available to support their efforts both in and outside of the classroom.
The project sponsor, the U.S. Department of Education, and the committee of the ILIT project recognize that these opportunities for improving
Box 1.1 Information Technology Horizon
SOURCE: Adapted from data compiled from Forrester Research, Jupiter Media Metrix, and IDC.6
6Forrester Research is an independent research firm that analyzes the future of technology change and its impact on businesses, consumers, and society; Jupiter Media Metrix delivers analysis, measurement, advice, and events to provide businesses with global resources for understanding and profiting from the Internet; IDC is a provider of technology intelligence, industry analysis, market data, and strategic and tactical guidance to builders, providers, and users of information technology.
education cannot be viewed only as promises for the future. There are difficult challenges to bringing the full potential of IT to bear on improving teaching and learning. The creation of cutting-edge technology designed for specific educational goals and needs will require coordination and cooperation by the best thinkers and planners in information technology, the sciences of learning, and the educational community. New and evolving knowledge, strategies, and mechanisms will be required to meet the current and future needs of schools and other educational settings.
Over the timeline for this project, the committee expects to establish ongoing dialogue and interactions among the three sectors—the IT industry, the learning sciences, and the education community. The committee will need to find ways to tap the knowledge, research, and innovations of each of these communities, because they all must become fundamental contributors to the process of improving teaching and learning. Strategies must be developed to allow the end users of the technology to make more strategic and informed decisions about what hardware and software to purchase, how to maintain it, and how to best employ it to transform teaching and learning. Professional development and ongoing institutional support will be required to prepare teachers to use the technology most effectively. At the same time, decisions by end users need to be made with the understanding that the IT industry has recognized and responded to the true needs of education consumers, and that it has designed its products in accordance with what is known about human learning, as well as the current realities and future opportunities of the K-12 education system.
Pea acknowledged that the different constituencies who were invited to this symposium and who will contribute to the remainder of the project have diverse goals, different criteria for success, and different perceptions of the constraints that block that success. There are friction points among these communities that must be addressed forthrightly. He urged participants to move beyond current barriers and obstacles to establish mutual respect, recognition, and trust, because everyone has something to bring to the table. How can these communities be energized to work together in powerful new ways, to richly envision the future of learning technology? This is the greatest challenge. If it can be accomplished, it will provide the most promising route to serving the needs of the education community.
Finally, Pea said that the ILIT committee wants to find pathways to partnerships that will leverage the collective intelligence of the three communities. To do this, the committee's first goal will be to build a common language that will lead to an understanding of the priorities and perspec-
tives of each of the communities. To this end, part of this symposium and the future activities of the committee will include analyzing and reflecting on case studies of partnership projects and examining processes, outcomes, and products of those efforts. Symposium participants will need to ask tough questions about why a particular strategy or approach worked or did not work, how challenges were overcome, and which strategies for success could be used in other settings.
Linda Roberts, former director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education at the time of the symposium, concluded the welcoming remarks by briefly sharing wisdom garnered from her lengthy experience at the intersection between education and IT. She recommended the following: having a vision, staying focused, recognizing the incentives and using them, and, finally, providing a common vocabulary. She concluded by urging participants not only to really think about the future, but “to do the future. ”
Following the first day's activities, two guest speakers shared their expertise on two crucial topics for the project to improve learning with information technology. First, John Bransford, chair of the committee that produced How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (HPL), published by NRC in 1999, offered a short presentation on how children learn and the influence and impact of technology on learning.
Bransford reported that the HPL committee concluded that learning is a basic, adaptive function of humans. People are designed to be flexible learners and active agents in acquiring knowledge and skills. While acknowledging that people learn many things without formal instruction, the committee found that formal training is usually necessary to learn reading, mathematics, the sciences, literature, and the history of a society, and the school is the traditional venue for this learning. Bransford said that learning in science, mathematics, and history has become more challenging because of their growing volume of information and increasing complexity. On the other hand, recent research provides a deep understanding of complex reasoning and performance on problem-solving tasks and how skill and understanding are acquired.
In the last 30 years, research has generated new conceptions of learning in five areas, which Bransford highlighted for the participants:
Memory and Structure of Knowledge—Knowing how learners develop coherent structures of information has been particularly useful in understanding the nature of organized knowledge that underlies effective comprehension and thinking.
Analysis of Problem Solving and Reasoning—New research on expert learners has enabled learning theory to account for how learners acquire skills to search a problem space and then use these general strategies in many problem-solving situations. The result has been a clear distinction between problem-solving skills in novice learners and the specialized expertise of individuals who have proficiency in particular subjects.
Early Foundations—Scientific studies of infants and young children have revealed the relationships between children's learning predispositions and their emergent abilities to organize and coordinate information, make inferences, and discover strategies for problem solving.
Metacognitive Processes and Self-Regulatory Capabilities—Individuals can be taught to regulate their behaviors, and these regulatory activities enable self-monitoring and executive control of one's performance.
Cultural Experience and Community Participation—Learning is promoted by social norms that value the search for understanding. Early learning is assisted by the supportive context of the family and the social environment, and through the kinds of activities in which adults do with children.
Bransford also shared the committee's findings regarding new information technologies. He said that a number of the features of new technologies appear to be consistent with the principles of a new science of learning. For instance, new technologies that afford increased interactivity have the potential to create more environments for students to learn by doing, to receive regular feedback for improvement, and to refine their understanding and development of new knowledge. Students can use visualization and modeling software tools to increase their conceptual understanding. New technologies provide access to a vast array of information, including digital libraries, real-world data to use in analyses, and linkage to remote experts and others who can provide information, feedback, and inspiration, all of which can enhance the learning of teachers and administrators as well as students. Bransford commented that there are many ways that technology can be used to help create such environments, both for teachers
and for students. However, he also noted that many issues arise in considering how to educate teachers to use new technologies effectively. For instance, what do teachers need to know about learning processes? About technology? What kinds of training are most effective for helping teachers use high-quality instructional programs? What is the best way to use technology to facilitate teacher learning? Bransford concluded that good educational software and teacher-support tools, developed with full understanding of the principles of learning, have not yet become the norm, and that the ILIT committee's deliberations about these questions would benefit the educational community.
Nora Sabelli, University of Texas at Austin, followed Bransford's remarks with a short presentation on creating partnerships in K-12 education that bring research and practice together. At the start of her talk, she said that there is a consensus that the problems facing the public are in urgent need of attention and that existing basic research on how people learn, if used properly, could make a big difference in addressing those problems. However, in her view, the results of the basic research must be linked more strongly to the implementation issues raised in applying such research, and until these links are established, the potential for using the basic research to improve K-12 education will remain unrealized.
Sabelli said that education presents special challenges to creating such partnerships because there is no private sector research in education, and there is limited capacity to conduct the needed research at the state or local level. To address some of these challenges, she called for creating effective models for the interactions between technology, user-driven research (as defined by Stokes, 1997), and classroom practice. The creation of tools that embody those models requires partnerships and associated development cycles that are of sufficient scope to provide meaningful outcomes. The tools developed by the partnerships must be robust yet flexible enough to adapt to a wide range of conditions. Furthermore, she indicated that these tools should integrate tools and artifacts from other fields of knowledge; they should be driven by how they are used by teachers and students; and they should be capable of evolving.
In her closing remarks, Sabelli exhorted the audience to create partnerships that are like “fires and tornadoes,” which will try to remain “alive” by modifying their environment to their needs, going around barriers, and replicating.
OPENING COMMENTS: PARTICIPANT OBSERVATIONS CONCERNING OBSTACLES AND CHALLENGES
Following the welcoming remarks, the participants were encouraged to begin a frank discussion about their respective communities as the first step toward building a common vocabulary, and thereby fostering more mutual understanding and respect of each other's domains. The conversation was facilitated by David Sibbet, president of the Grove Consultants International, who translated participants' remarks into a visual representation of connections, alliances, barriers, and opportunities. The visual representation of this activity, admittedly challenging to interpret in its static state without the benefit of watching its creation, is available on the project's website, <http://www.nrcilit.org>.
Participants shared the challenges they face within their sector, the opportunities on the horizon that better use of information technology promises, and a realistic explanation of how success is measured and rewarded within their own communities. This activity was undertaken to foster a clearer understanding of ineluctable divergence, dawning convergence, and possible partnership and facilitation among the three main communities. The honest exchange generated a range of issues for the ILIT committee to consider. The conversation also prompted colleagues to suggest other organizations, companies, researchers, and educators to engage in this process. Many of the comments are summarized below.
Identifying Fundamental Community Differences
A participant offered initial comments, describing a “caricature” of the separate, sometimes competing, and certainly diverse nature of the different communities—learning sciences, education, and the IT industry:
Learning scientists write grants and papers, conduct research, earn tenure (or not), and get promoted (or not).
Educators teach students, make lesson plans, communicate with parents and administrators.
The IT industry makes products and delivers shareholder value.
He added that each group holds unproductive myths about the others. For instance, educators are tired of experts telling them what to do. They have been through that time and again. Educators and learning scientists
often do not trust industry. Claims of intuitive, easy-to-use equipment prove untrue, while quality of service is too often lacking. Learning scientists often perceive that educators are resistant to change, and industry does not take the time to understand the learning scientists ' research findings. Few educators or industry representatives read the journals in which learning scientists publish, while educators or learning scientists may not follow industry news and are unlikely to be proficient with technology or inventive enough to see the potential of technological tools. Another participant commented that because the rewards in industry are very different from those in academia and teaching, industry can be a difficult partner. Industry is rewarded for making money, thus it concentrates on who is in charge, how many students the products will reach, and what will make money. These broad differences suggest different strategies, goals, and information-seeking activities, and they point to the myriad obstacles facing the ILIT committee as it attempts to build a coalition among these sectors.
Opinions from the K-12 Sector
A K-12 educator noted that education was in the middle of the diagram constructed on the whiteboard during this conversation. He thought this was both ironic and accurate, as education often appears to be squeezed by the other stakeholders. On one side, the learning sciences community provides the latest strategies or tools based on its research, but these findings may be valid for only a year or two until the next “breakthrough.” This speaker asserted that, by necessity, many educators have “desensitized” themselves to this sector's contributions and continue to do what their experience tells them is best for helping children learn. The speaker also felt that, on the other side, educators think the technology industry “comes in and feeds off of them for a while” and then disappears.
He acknowledged that this was an unfair generalization of the role of both of these communities, but an historical perspective tended to validate educators' disgruntlement. Finally, he commented that leaders within the education community itself found it challenging to change these impressions. For instance, he and his colleagues were attempting to impress upon professionals within their sphere of influence that there is a constantly evolving outlook on pedagogy stemming from learning sciences research, and that an awareness of this research should be among the professional demands of teachers.
Building on the previous speaker's view from the “front lines,” a learning scientist noted that the biggest resistance from classroom teachers comes because they have not been engaged in goal setting. It was her experience that when teachers find a new product or educational strategy that makes a difference, they will adopt it instantly, especially if they encounter it early in the school year. This participant encouraged the ILIT committee, within its work, to treat teachers as true customers rather than as mere conduits to students. Teachers are the human agents in the classroom. Another K-12 representative added that the conversation seemed to imply that education was the point of resistance and that another, stronger body could “empower ” it, rather than treating it as a partner in the process.
A K-12 educator questioned what he had in common with the university professors who were present at the symposium—many of whom were considered part of the “education” domain as he was. He represented a public school district with 11,000 students, 97 percent of whom are ethnic minorities, and 85 percent of whom are poor. His goal and that of other urban educators is to make sure that these children have access to higher education and to employ technology to achieve that.
Another participant from the K-12 sector offered a concrete appeal to the technology community. She stated that, beyond purchasing licenses, there is currently nothing that documents what students do every time they touch the computer; there is no system that specifically collects that kind of data. Although web-browser cookies are collected (documenting websites students visit), teachers and administrators are not able to integrate data about what sites students are viewing so that they can build on students' interests.
Finally, another person with ties to both the learning sciences and technology communities commented that if any progress is to be made, participants should understand that education is not monolithic. There are policy makers at the state or district levels who have considerable clout. There are administrators, students, and parents who must be courted. Most of all, there are the teachers who must be persuaded and engaged to bring their experiences to the partnership. Understanding the roles, perspectives, and interests of these various players should be a key part of the ILIT study, and a similar exercise should be attempted for the learning sciences and industry communities as well.
Potential Goals for Technology in the Classroom
At one point in the symposium, a computer scientist thought it pertinent to offer three possible reasons for fully integrating technology into K-12 education, and he challenged the group to decide which of these would be the focus for the ILIT project:
Technology as a skill. Just as other practical courses, such as keyboarding and cooking, are offered to prepare students for their future, using technology skillfully should be included in the K-12 curriculum.
Computers as tools for learning and discovery. The education, research, and IT communities must grapple with how to integrate technology into the educational process so that it fundamentally changes teaching and learning, enabling knowledge creation and development.
Understanding technology fundamentals. Information technology will be with today's children for the rest of their lives, and the dramatic changes exhibited through the four waves of the Internet that occurred in the past 30 years will continue to change over the next 30 years, probably at a faster pace. Students must understand the fundamentals so that their learning keeps pace with technological developments, regardless of how they choose to spend their lives.
He recognized that most of the conversation up to this point had centered on the second goal, but suggested that the others were also important for the committee to consider. Another researcher commented that it would be imperative that prospective clients for any of the above goals be consulted in order to prioritize the goals.
Another participant commented that the discussion thus far had centered on formal education. This person encouraged ILIT colleagues to consider building coalitions among the large set of informal educational communities: youth-serving organizations and after-school programs, for example, as well as cultural institutions, libraries, museums, archives, etc.
As part of this discussion of goals and vision, another participant questioned what kind of infrastructure the community must construct to accomplish its mission. He lamented the lack of a solid “implementation science” or “implementation art,” whereby successful projects could be scaled up to affect a larger share of the educational community. He commented that this would require a “start-to-finish” or “end-to-end” objective, a task that educators appear unequipped to imagine at this time, nor
did he think that there was sufficient technical infrastructure to support creating such a model. He envisioned a model that would include indicators of success or areas for improvement besides those commonly used (i.e., test scores). Educators hear everyone clamoring for results, he said, but the ILIT project should be very articulate about who the partners are, what they can offer, and whose lives will be enriched and how.
Continuing that line of thought, a learning scientist stated that the nation needs innovation and a new science of implementation that takes into account assessments of merit for both individual and organizational performance—indicators other than standard scores and more traditional assessment measures. He also called for more thoughtful, principled consideration of the nature of an IT infrastructure that would be sustainable, particularly by under-resourced organizations. He suggested that capitalizing on application service providers, movements to make “opensource” code available (e.g., <http://sourceforge.net/>), and other trends might be more effective than assuming that the dominant consumer models are the best strategy.
The Accountability Specter
Many participants acknowledged the increasing importance of accountability that is currently engulfing K-12 education. One cognitive scientist remarked that, in her dealings with teachers and administrators, she took care to explain the basis of her work, her background in cognitive science, and why the strategy she was proposing seemed promising. However, she noted that, increasingly, the only language that really registers with K-12 leaders is the language of results. Given ongoing national, local, and state efforts to require schools to show improved test scores or risk penalties such as having their students removed or awarded vouchers to attend other schools, this emphasis on testing seems to be a persistent pressure under which educators now must work. She cautioned ILIT committee members to consider questions of accountability carefully throughout their deliberations.
A colleague in a large university system was compelled to remind others that context is extremely important in addressing the problem of im-
proving learning with information technology. As she noted, in some cases the university system is either more or less important than the state education bureaucracy. She said that instead of worrying about the differences in vocabulary and perspectives among the three sectors, participants should recognize that what actually matters is the view among the different education stakeholders. She posited that current trends indicate that members of some state boards of education are less interested in developing empowered learners than in teaching students phonics and the conventional algorithms for computation. The current thinking of the information technology and learning sciences communities represented at the symposium and the instructional materials actually purchased by the states are worlds apart. She mentioned that some states, such as California, are adopting only software that teaches children conventional algorithms. Even materials that many educators and learning scientists considered mathematically accurate and pedagogically superior were not adopted because they appeared to require “too much intelligence” on the part of the teacher. She continued that materials that had well-developed artificial intelligence (AI) components built into them for algebra were not even considered because of perceived obstacles—they were delivered in a technological format, students could not take them home to do homework, and so on. Finally, she believed that the discussion so far had wholly neglected the contexts in which the diverse communities must work to accomplish what the symposium participants seemed to agree needs to be accomplished.
An administrator identified another mismatch: between the traditional educational infrastructure or establishment and another, wholly different system that might perhaps better suit efforts to build an integrated technology. He commented that the old educational establishment, particularly the university structure of incentives, budgets, and the flow of money, is out of alignment with new visions of education and must be transformed (see, for example, NRC, 1999d). Technology has the potential to reduce distance and time dramatically, in both the geographic and organizational sense, and ideas can be implemented quickly. In short, he posited that information technology applications are out of sync with the predominant, current institutional infrastructures. However, another participant challenged this statement. He claimed that often the technology falls radically short of enabling users to achieve the visions and aspirations it promised, so a new paradigm seems premature.
Frank Reflections on Past Efforts to Incorporate Technology into the Classroom
As part of this discussion, a computer science professor commented that he had attempted to use technology in college-level teaching but found the cost-benefit ratio for both students and faculty to be quite unclear. He acknowledged that we have reached the point where technology is doubling things that matter, specifically computing power, and this means that IT is finally positioned to be truly useful to educators if only they could understand how best to apply it. However, he reminded others of the skepticism that past efforts to harness the power of technology in the classroom had generated within the education community. He noted that the early hyperbole about the potential of IT had resulted in the introduction of technology into K-12 education at a very rapid rate and a very great cost. Despite valiant attempts by educators to transform teaching and learning at these grade levels, IT had often proved more trouble than educators thought it was worth. Furthermore, there is very little research evidence to support the claim that IT actually improves learning outcomes (President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, 1997), and a growing cynicism among educators about its promise (see, for example, Cuban, 2001). This, he cautioned, is one of the obstacles facing the ILIT committee.
Technology Generating New Knowledge
An academic with strong industry ties remarked that the semiotic7 dimension of information technology has been generating new knowledge about teaching and learning; modern computational media now allow educators and researchers to change representational infrastructures in mathematics especially (Kaput and Roschelle, 1998), and representational infrastructures then change what it means to know, that is, they change the very nature of knowledge, learning, and cognition. He continued that he thought that applications of information technology were becoming out of sync with this burgeoning new knowledge. He cautioned that, as stake-
A general philosophical theory of signs and symbols that deals especially with their function in both artificially constructed and natural languages and comprises syntactics, semantics, and pragmatics. Merriam-Webster, Inc. (1991). Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Author
holders consider using IT to improve the delivery of learning, they should also question the kinds of knowledge that students should be learning. Much cognitive work has examined these new forms of knowledge, learning, and representational infrastructures. He cited the work of symposium participant Alex Repenning, who has developed AgentSheets as a software application to provide end-user programmable agent-based modeling systems for educational use, which simply modeled dynamical systems that previously could not be modeled by traditional representational infrastructures, such as algebra or arithmetic or even coordinate graphing systems (Repenning, Ioannidou, and Zola, 2000).
One participant invited the others at the symposium to talk seriously about who the learners are that the ILIT committee wants to help. He speculated that those in attendance would differ in their answers to that question. He added that his commitment to improving learning with information technology stemmed from caring deeply about how these different strategies will improve the lives of students, teachers, and parents who work hard every day to improve education in the United States. He realized that there are other audiences as well.
A Caution about Developing Too Common a Language
Finally, one participant cautioned that trying to develop a common language could turn out to be a nonconstructive exercise. It could conceal fundamentally important facets that distinguish the different communities. He warned colleagues to be aware of this paradox.
EXEMPLARS: IT CAN BE DONE
The symposium included presentations by representatives from four projects that have successfully used information technologies to achieve significant goals. These projects all involved partnerships that required the kind of bridging work the ILIT committee would like to highlight and promote nationally for further achievement in improving learning with information technology.
Barbara Allen and Darryl LaGace shared their insight in developing and managing Project LemonLINK, based in Lemon Grove, California, which focuses on high-speed connectivity; equitable, adequate access to resources; development of web-based instructional tools; and ongoing professional development for teachers.
LemonLINK is a Connected Learning Community model built around an application service provider (ASP) for the entire community. Using server-based computing, thin-client technology, and a high-speed cable modem network that makes the latest technology available to those who can least afford it, the Lemon Grove School District has become one of the first to become an application service provider for an entire community. By turning the thin clients into a simple appliance that anyone can operate, as well as making access to the latest programs and educational resources available, LemonLINK enables businesses and families in the community to bridge the digital divide. This model is one example of an affordable computing device without costly maintenance or software upgrades. A user-friendly, web-based interface acts as a common portal, linking the city to the educational community and ensuring that families throughout the community have an equitable advantage to informational technology access.
The heart of the project has been the creation of a Connected Learning Community through business and government partnerships to develop a unique infrastructure that connects all schools and the city via microwave and fiber-optic technologies. The network's architect is Darryl LaGace, Lemon Grove School District's director of information systems, who envisioned a connected learning community in which the school district serves as the communication hub for an entire community. What makes the system unique is the use of a microwave tower, located at the district office. Each school and city facility in turn has its own microwave and/or fiber-optic link and can access the programs needed from workstations in classrooms and offices. The wide-area network (WAN) provides enough bandwidth to support a full duplex Ethernet connection from 100 MB to 1 GB to each location. In turn, all district sites have been wired with fiber-optic backbone, hubs, and switches. Because every classroom is connected to the network, all the computers in those classrooms are connected to the Internet. All city government facilities have been wired including City Hall, the Fire Department, Public Works, the Recreation Department, the
Community Center, Teen Center and the Senior Center. Construction of the sophisticated microwave WAN began in 1993.
Significant business partnerships have been the key to making the Connected Learning Community vision a reality. The system has attracted the attention of a number of technology, telecommunications, and software companies such as Microsoft, Compaq, Cox Communications, Cisco, Citrix, Bell and Howell, Computer Curriculum Corporation, Communications Systems Group, and Wyse Technology. These firms, along with many others, have assisted Lemon Grove in further development to expand the network into homes in the community.
Union City, New Jersey
Fred Carrigg and students Steven Perez and José Marrero talked about the transformation of the Union City, New Jersey, public schools from a failing system to an exemplar.
Union City, New Jersey, is located in Hudson County, directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan. With 60,000 residents in 1.4 square miles, it is the most densely populated city in the United States. The predominant ethnic makeup of Union City is Cuban, though recent arrivals from the Caribbean and Central and South America, as well as longtime Italian residents, add to the diversity of the city' s population. Of the 10,500 students in the district's 11 schools, 93 percent are Latino, 70 percent of whom do not speak English at home. Thirty-four percent of the students are enrolled in the district's bilingual/ESL program. The Brookings Institute classified Union City as one of the 92 most impoverished communities in the United States; 27.5 percent of Union City's children live below the poverty line, and 84 percent receive free or reduced-priced lunches.
In 1989, the Union City schools failed in 44 out of the 52 categories that the State of New Jersey uses to determine the effectiveness of school districts. The schools were failing in areas such as student attendance, drop-out rates, and scores on standardized tests, and as a result they were threatened with state takeover. Like many urban districts, Union City was also facing many obstacles to correcting these deficiencies, including language barriers, parents with limited formal education, and students with little incentive to stay in school.
Rather than lose local control of the school district, however, Union City decided to face these challenges head on and drastically reform the entire educational system. This entailed formulating and implementing a
five-year Corrective Action Plan that drastically reformed the entire educational system through the following changes: extending most classes in subject areas to 120-minute periods in elementary and middle schools and 80minute periods in high schools; increasing in-service training for teachers from 8 hours a year to 40 hours; refurbishing buildings, replacing windows, and painting classrooms and hallways; replacing individual student desks with cooperative learning tables; and replacing textbooks for individual students with class libraries.
Union City chose to implement the reforms in the elementary classrooms first, then add classes year by year until reform reached every grade level. This decision meant that no student schooled in a reformed learning environment had to face the former method of instruction when he or she entered a new grade. Furthermore, the inevitable headaches that arise during renovations and the first years of new curricula were kept to a manageable scale. It also meant that the District was able to take the lessons learned from each successive implementation and apply them toward easing the transition in subsequent years.
In addition to curriculum reforms, substantial increases in the district 's operating budget played a critical role in Union City's efforts. Over the past eight years, the budget for the Union City School District increased from $37.8 million in 1989 to $126 million in 2001 as a direct result of equitable school funding legislation, known in New Jersey as the Quality Education Act (QEA).
Beginning in 1993, Union City also made a deliberate decision to invest substantially in technology resources. The city did this largely out of equity considerations, believing that urban students would once again risk falling drastically behind suburban students if they did not have access to state-of-the-art technological resources. The district built fiber backbones in each of its 11 schools. Approximately 85 percent of the 3.500 instructional computers—those in classrooms, media centers, and computer labs—are part of a district-wide network that connects the schools, two public libraries, the city hall, and the local daycare center to the central office servers through T-1 lines. With a ratio of four students per computer, Union City is now one of the most wired urban school districts in the United States.
Learning Technologies in Urban Schools, Designing for Instructional Change
The Chicago City Science program was presented by Barbara Watkins, principal of James McCosh Elementary School (and now chief education officer of the Chicago public schools); Irene DaMota, principal of Roberto Clemente High School; and Louis Gomez, associate professor of learning sciences at Northwestern University. The Chicago City Science program consists of two partnerships. One partnership involved the Center for Learning Technologies in Urban Schools (LeTUS),8 and middle school curriculum development teams at McCosh. The second partnership involved LeTUS and high school curriculum development teams at Clemente through the Math, Science, and Technology Academy (MSTA).9
The goals of the LeTUS-McCosh partnership were to develop innovations in science teaching that conform to an accountability system focused on mathematics and literacy; to integrate technology with instruction; to initiate collaborations in which teachers work together on instruction; and to develop leadership from within the school. The goals of the LeTUS-Clemente partnership were to generate ideas for developing high-performing schools and to building a learning community. To achieve these goals, the partnerships had to resolve conflicts between the goals of the research project and those of the districts and find a way to fit the project into crowded instructional agendas.
The LeTUS-McCosh partnership is credited with helping increase students ' scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS). Between the partnership 's inception in 1995 and 1999, the mathematics scores on the ITBS for all students at McCosh have risen about 19 percent, while their scores in reading have risen more than 15 percent. Lessons from the McCosh partnership include the recognition that the partnerships must focus on developing the professional community of teachers within the
A National Science Foundation funded center with a partnership between Chicago public schools, Detroit public schools, Northwestern University, and the University of Michigan that forms collaborations with urban schools, designs project-based science curricula, develops interactive computing technologies, and supports systemic education reform.
A partnership between Chicago Public Schools, Chicago City Colleges, and four-year colleges and universities with the goal of improving teacher professional development, curriculum, and student academic achievement in mathematics, science, and technology education in grades 7-14.
school if they expect to have a school-wide impact; partners must be carefully selected to ensure that the program remains coherent; and long-term partnerships tend not only to generate new research questions but to offer the means with which to answer them.
The experience of the Clemente partnership produced two important lessons: For the desired learning communities to take root, they need an instructional focus; and team-based curriculum planning changes teaching and learning practices. Furthermore, the prestige of a partnership can also encourage even tightly controlled school bureaucracies to allow some latitude in the design of the program. The LeTUS-Clemente partnership is credited with helping increase student performance in reading and mathematics. Students who were performing below their grade level before entering the program made an average grade-level gain in mathematics of 0.88, whereas similar students who were not in the program gained only 0.51 grade levels. The corresponding gains in reading are 1.20 grade levels versus 0.42 grade levels. The differentials in grade-level gains for students performing above grade level are 2.03 versus 0.79 in mathematics and 1.74 versus 0.14 in reading.
The SimCalc/UMass-Dartmouth/Texas Instruments Partnership
James Kaput of the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, explained the goals of the SimCalc project, which aims to introduce powerful mathematical ideas to young children by using techniques that tap into their natural abilities. SimCalc is based on the premise that technology provides essential means to restructure curriculum in order to democratize access to important and powerful ideas; build much more longitudinal coherence between the early and the later years of education; focus on the growth of big ideas and their roots in everyday human experience; crack the formalism barrier by providing multiple ways of working with mathematical ideas, using the full range of human linguistic, visualization, and cognitive capacities; increase efficiency by teaching several important ideas simultaneously; and bring mathematics taught in K-12 schools out of the nineteenth century and into the twenty-first century.
The SimCalc Project began in 1993 as a National Science Foundation (NSF) research project to democratize access for students in grades 6-13 to the mathematics of change and variation, including the ideas underlying calculus. The initial project was based on prior work by Kaput and Ricardo
Nemirovsky at TERC in the late 1980s, and eventually evolved into two separate partnerships—one to conduct research and another to address commercial issues.
To achieve the goal of increasing the accessibility of the mathematics of change and variation, the project developed and field-tested new software and curriculum materials that incorporated interactive simulations and visualization tools. It also needed to confront resistance based on beliefs and practices regarding the nature of mathematics—who might learn it and how it might be learned—and the curriculum structures built into American education and assessment systems that the project needed to address.
The initial concept was desktop-centric, but it became clear that personal handheld devices were a better approach despite the limited programming tools for calculators available at the time. The pace of change in technology also created a tension between continuing development for the large number of older models already in place versus adopting the newest models with superior features.
Between 1993 and 1996, the SimCalc project software and instructional materials were successfully piloted with populations of inner-city and at-risk students in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, and California. This phase showed that mainstream students could learn the ideas and skills embodied in SimCalc. The project also investigated related issues of learning, component software development, interface design, and the learning differences in observing simulated motion versus observing physical motion.
The second phase of the project lasted from 1996 to 2000. It addressed several issues: how to integrate the ideas and materials generated on the first phase into grade 6-13 curricula while respecting the current accountability system in schools; how to build functional software for platforms that schools can afford; and how to build upon and expand the existing capacities of teachers, teacher-educators, schools, and districts.
The third phase, which started in 2000, consists of two efforts: developing assessment systems that provide reliable data on student learning, and developing commercial products in partnership with Texas Instruments. This phase also includes investigating the affordances and constraints of wireless networks connecting many kinds of devices, and discovering how experiences with physical devices can feed into and influence the learning of mathematical ideas.