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Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop (2002)

Chapter: 3. Continuing the Conversation

« Previous: 2. Symposium Activity: Forging a Common Language, Building Alliances
Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
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3

Continuing the Conversation

At the conclusion of the symposium, many participants thought that there was a real opportunity to foster improved learning via information technology. Technology has become cheaper, more powerful, and more nearly ubiquitous. Concurrently, knowledge about how people learn is much richer. And there is a national resolve to find ways to improve K-12 education. The ILIT committee can maximize this opportunity by building a community of people from the three constituencies who can become adept at working closely together.

THE ILIT COMMITTEE'S CHARGE TO THE NATION

Rapid technological advances and breakthrough research in the learning and cognitive sciences, combined with a national commitment to improve learning, have finally provided the opportunity for true cross-fertilization of ideas for improving teaching and learning through the enlightened use of information technology. Rarely have these three stakeholder communities come together to grapple seriously with how to harness the power of information technology for use in the K-12 public education system. It is the ILIT committee's hope, and its charge to these communities, that they will work together in close collaboration because only such a coordinated effort can offer the best chance for fundamentally rethinking and transforming education in the United States.

The National Academies invites others with expertise in information

Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
×

technology and computer sciences, the cognitive and learning sciences, and the practice of education to contribute to this educational revolution by guiding the committee in its further deliberations. The National Research Council's Center for Education (CFE) has established a website, <http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ilit/>, and will host workshops across the country to continue building a common vocabulary and a vision enriched by the wisdom and experience of these three vital, yet currently unconnected, communities. Interested individuals and stakeholders are encouraged to visit the website, participate in one of the meetings, and contact committee members and CFE staff to offer additional ideas about how to achieve the ILIT project goals.

NEXT STEPS

Participants were urged to discuss ways to continue the progress made during the meeting. The following ideas were offered:

  • Website. Constructing a website was considered a priority. A website would enable interested parties, symposia attendees, and others to participate. It could serve to recap activities, post important papers, and link to useful URLs and other materials that these emerging allies might find interesting. For instance, an earlier National Academies project, the Impact of Information Technology on the Future of the Research University, resulted in a professionally videotaped and edited program of four two-hour segments that were broadcast on the ResearchChannel. 1 While the target audience was not large, this is one example of a method the ILIT project could use to build the communities' common vocabulary and catalyze collaborative partnerships.

  • Emerging Technologies. One participant, recognizing a need for a better grasp on emerging technologies, thought a future meeting or workshop should include a demonstration of the emerging technologies to

    1  

    The ResearchChannel (formerly ResearchTV) was founded by a core group of research universities and corporate research divisions dedicated to broadening the access to and appreciation of the individual and collective activities, ideas, and opportunities in basic and applied research. One of the major goals of the ResearchChannel is to use content, content creation, and manipulation processes as a workbench to test materials for future analog and digital broadcast and on-demand multimedia offerings, thus providing an unusual opportunity to experiment with new methods of distribution and interaction on a global basis. More information on the ResearchChannel is available at <http://www.researchchannel.com>.

Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
×

prompt a fruitful discussion of far-reaching visions. She felt the group still lacked a concrete sense of where technology is headed.

  • Leadership Institute. Based on his experience, one participant stated that a leadership institute meeting would be useful. It would have to be designed very carefully, but he thought this model could work well in fostering dialogue with leaders and decision makers.

  • National Commission or National Summit. Educational policy is enacted at the state level. A participant suggested that some of the ideas generated at the symposium could inform a national commission or a national summit convened by governors. This summit would provide the state education leaders with background information, data, and a structure. The commission could develop a plan to help the ILIT committee scale up, using the state education communities' pertinent experiences. After the commission had completed its work, which would have a finite period, there would be a follow-up activity. He envisioned that this would be a 10-year plan with different phases. He challenged the participants to think on a grand scale if they were serious about a long-term commitment to the goals of the ILIT project.

    Another participant countered that some states, such as California and Texas, are so big that the state education commission is a small entity. Cities like New York City and Los Angeles, which educate large percentages of the nation's students, do not consider themselves part of any other governmental entity. She also mentioned that some university systems, such as the University of California and the California State University, consider themselves independent of their states; in fact, the University of California is constitutionally separate from the state government and independent in its governance and planning. This means that designers of any national plan to improve teaching and learning with IT need to fashion multiple strategies. They need to consider disparate spheres of influence, the variety of influences affecting these spheres, and the different ways that information flows.

  • Partners. One symposium attendee thought that partnering with the Education Commission of the States (ECS) on a mutual effort would be productive. ECS is a bipartisan commission that is directed by a governor and includes state legislators who often control what happens in education.

Another participant commented that there already are a number of case studies that exemplify coordination of the different communities, but they are community based rather than professional-society based. And yet

Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
×

each of the sectors represented at this symposium has one or more professional societies, the goals of which are to provide leadership and cohesion (e.g., the Software & Information Industry Association, National School Board Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, and TechNet). He suggested that the ILIT committee discover how best to work with these organizations. He concluded that there was probably a short list of groups that could offer policy leverage points for addressing the many issues identified during the symposium.

To follow up on this issue, one participant commented that he was worried about the current disconnect between political and popular pressures to solve what is perceived as the “education problem.” He asked whether the National Academies could construct a briefing team to be available to speak to various groups. Wulf responded that the National Academies often will convene a group of people to brief congressional staffers, agency personnel, and other interested parties about its reports. However, the National Academies must be extremely careful never to become advocates, or to be perceived as such, because they would lose their special credibility. Nevertheless, he did think briefings at professional society meetings on these issues are possible.

One participant recalled that the National Academies had convened representatives from “smoke-stack industries” several years ago to meet Academy members and discuss science, technology, and economic policy. She suggested that it might be worthwhile for the Academies to revive this practice and include representatives of the high-tech industry. She recommended some kind of mechanism to convene a meeting for the purpose of talking with leading scientists who can challenge conventional thinking.

  • Additional Meetings/Symposia. Many participants were eager to continue the conversation through these “face-to-face” meetings. As Wulf admitted, even he felt that technology cannot yet make people who live in different places and do not know each other personally feel that they are part of a community. But he also hoped that the Web discussion site would facilitate continuing the conversation.

    One participant suggested that if the National Academies sponsors further convocations, they should build on previous work. For instance, another meeting could concentrate on current technology and how to use it in ways that are unfamiliar to teachers. Another meeting could address tracking more of what students know and do.

    She reminded the other participants that all education is local. Nationally aware and attuned groups like those at this symposium tend to

Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
×

think and speak in general terms and to attract “the usual suspects.” She thought the ILIT committee should use the results of its conversation and community-building efforts to conduct state-oriented meetings.

Another participant added that the goal would be to interconnect all these strategies. For example, the local meetings could be advertised ahead of time with radio interviews and other outreach activities, and they could then be supported on the website with continuing discussions.

  • Emphasizing Education Supported by Technology Versus Skills Acquisition. One participant offered a corollary point to the above suggestion. He commented that it was refreshing at this meeting to focus exclusively on education supported by technology. But in many communities, the educational focus in K-12 technology is almost entirely on skills acquisition. Industry and even state representatives talk about the skills gap, which translates into students' ability to use the Office tool suite and related applications. Technology in science is equated with the ability to compose PowerPoint presentations or to program in Visual Basic. He encouraged continued efforts to focus on how technology can transform teaching and learning in positive ways.

  • The Changing Nature of Knowledge. One participant noted that the National Science Education Standards exist as one way of encouraging the changing nature of knowledge, but he commented that if people start thinking seriously about incorporating technology in all aspects of education, the Standards will have to evolve. This speaker, a professor, administrator, and technologist, thought it would be natural for the National Academies to undertake any revision process, particularly if the practices of science and engineering and the roles of mathematics in science and engineering are evolving. The National Academies can convey the idea that the technologies are part of the change methodology of the profession. This, in turn, would elevate the public discourse about what science and mathematics education is.

  • Keep It Simple Initially. One participant remarked that he thought there was a huge amount of educational improvement to be made without relying on killer applications or “rocket science.” This comment aligns with the prevailing sentiment that the nation needs to make progress fairly rapidly in education. He offered the following example to illustrate his point: The state government of Washington has done a good job of putting electronic services online. Each state agency wanted to use 10 percent of the applications that affect 90 percent of the work (as opposed to 90 percent of the applications that affect only 10 percent of the work).

Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
×

Discipline was imposed in getting state agencies to focus on electronic services that actually touched large numbers of citizens without relying on cutting-edge advances (and their inherent costliness). That could happen in the educational domain as well.

  • Increased Accountability. A principal from a large urban school district reminded the participants of the country's increased demand for accountability. She commented that there were some important things to keep in mind under the current political agenda with calls for accountability and improving test scores: How can stakeholders convert that data collection into a strategy that enables educators, learning scientists, and technologists to show how IT is making crucial differences to teaching and learning? How can technology's power for data collection be turned into an answer to critics seeking documentable proof about the efficacy of technology in improving education?

  • A Megaversity. One participant commented that, in California, there has been an emerging effort to wire all nonprofits and educational institutions to foster a kind of “megaversity.” He thought that NAS member Larry Smarr at the University of California, San Diego was a driving force behind this effort. He suggested that ILIT members contact him for his view of this issue.

  • Online Journal. One participant suggested building an online journal from the grassroots up. This journal would include both pedagogical and content articles of interest to all the relevant communities.

  • Meta-reflection on the ILIT Challenge. One participant commented that he had heard two processes being discussed at the symposium. The first concerned the convergence of social challenges and opportunities, technological challenges and opportunities, and new knowledge about how we learn. The question before the participants was what to do about that convergence and that opportunity. In the course of the discussions, participants learned that a lot is already being done. One process goal, therefore, is to augment specific successful exemplars—automating their functions and making the systems faster, better, and cheaper, thereby generating greater distribution and greater use. This strategy would encourage incremental successes or progress along a trajectory toward the bigger goal.

    The other process is the challenge to move toward a more profound vision—that is, a deeper understanding of how to do new things in new ways with new processes. Participants also considered the need for better understanding of assessment or progress and the science and art of imple-

Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
×

menting strategies in a complex, multidisciplinary environment within the vagaries of political winds. Building further on this idea, another participant mentioned that there are different time lines of change in the systems that the groups discussed. Technology is changing very rapidly. Students are adapting quickly to a fast-paced world, thanks in large measure to the influence of the entertainment industry. Teachers are changing more slowly, schools more slowly yet. On what time line is implementation expected?

  • Concluding Remarks. One participant concluded that he had rarely come to a conference where he was able to see that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. The symposium proposed the question: Is there value in community among these three isolated groups? For many participants, the answer was an emphatic “yes.” The collective efforts to address the design problems proved this to him. He encouraged the National Academies to build on this momentum.

SOLICITATIONS AND REQUESTS

This final conversation also netted concrete needs to continue the work begun at this symposium.

  • Solicitation for Funding Partners. Wulf solicited suggestions of potential funding partners to sponsor additional symposia.

  • Solicitation for Local Symposium Hosts. Wulf challenged participants to consider asking their communities to sponsor a local version of this national symposium.

  • Solicitation for References. ILIT staff requested links to important documents and relevant organizations to share what ILIT is doing and to construct alliances. One participant commented that the National Academy of Education was undertaking a project on teacher education and should be contacted. Another mentioned that the North Central Regional Educational Lab was hosting a national panel and conference on emerging technologies in education.

Another person suggested linking to some of the research reports, such as the recent E-Learning report; the online report of the Congressional Commission on Web-based Education, which held regional hearings on this issue; and the fourth stage of the report for the CEO Forum on Education and Technology. She stated that these key reports support much of the ILIT symposium discussion and also provide a forward direction.

Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
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Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
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Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
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Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
×
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Suggested Citation:"3. Continuing the Conversation." National Research Council. 2002. Improving Learning with Information Technology: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10352.
×
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In spring 2000, representatives from the U.S. Department of Education (DOEd) and senior staff at the National Research Council (NRC) recognized a common frustration: that the potential of information technology to transform K-12 education remains unrealized. In fall 2000 the U.S. DOEd formally requested that the National Academies undertake an interdisciplinary project called Improving Learning with Information Technology (ILIT). The project was launched with a symposium on January 24-25, 2001. This report summarizes the proceedings of the symposium and is intended for people interested in considering better strategies for using information technology in the educational arena. While it offers insights from the presenters on both the challenges to and the opportunities for forging a better dialogue among learning scientists, technologists, and educators, it does not contain conclusions or recommendations. Rather, it highlights issues to consider, constituents to engage, and strategies to employ in the effort to build a coalition to harness the power of information technologies for the improvement of American education. Every effort has been made to convey the speakers' content and viewpoints accurately. Recognizing the speculative nature of many of the speaker contributions, most attributions identify a speaker by area of expertise rather than by name. The report reflects the proceedings of the workshop and is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all the issues involved in the project to improve learning with information technology.

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