Vol 5 . . . No 4 . . . December, 1995
Why Bother? What's the Pay-Off?Assessment may assist schools and teachers with the challenge of Making the Connection between classroom practice and new technologies. Assessment may help schools replace the heroics of a few with a more broadly based adoption of sound practice.
In all too many places, as OTA's "Making the Connection" confirms, the daily realities of technology programs are quite different from the published goals and plans. Many teachers simply avoid technology and refuse to consider its possibilities. (Go by the Web to check out Steven Hodas' excellent article on Technology Refusal). It is rare to find a system or a school where technology is comfortably blended into the daily life of all classrooms. The most one can hope for is heroics.
With sound assessment in place, any gap between goals and practice becomes quite evident and may inspire a school staff to ponder the following questions:
- Is there a gap?
- Are we surprised?
- Why is there a gap?
- What could we do differently to close the gap?
- Who are the key players?
- How do we bring everybody on board?
- What resources will we need to make progress?
- What can we learn from other schools and districts?
Unfortunately, denial provides fertile ground for technology refusal. As long as nobody takes notice of how many hours the computers are being used, as long as nobody measures what the students are capable of doing and as long as everybody maintains "a separate peace," the prospects for Making the Connection are limited.
As "Crossing the Great Divide: Adult Learning for Integrative and Innovative Use of Technologies with Students," the September, 1995 issue of From Now On argued:
Time has come to cross the Great Divide. We need adult learning experiences which will enable teachers to move beyond what Mandinach and the ACOT researchers have called the Survival and Mastery stages (where the task is learning the equipment and the software) through the Impact and Innovation stages (where the task is employing such tools to restructure the learning environment to support student investigation, problem-solving and decision-making.
As we move forward with our technology initiatives, staff development in the broadest sense (organizational development and cultural change) will be the deciding factor in whether our projects are real or virtual. These adult learning experiences must include deep and authentic assessment of programs underway. Classic training models tend to fixate on technology skills or the learning of applications rather than how to make use of these technologies to promote and support student learning. (Go to "Skills Fixation" FNO-Oct93). They also leave intact the cultural divisions which gridlock the school in a conflict between pioneers and sages. (Go to "Staff Balkanization" FNO-Sept93) Assessment sets in motion a different kind of learning - an experimental approach intent upon finding effective strategies.
The Sad and Sorry State of Technology Program Assessment---Hypotheses for the Sad and Sorry State---Why Bother? What's the Pay-Off?---The Centrality of Clear Goals and Outcome Statements---Assessment for Navigation---Self-Assessment Instruments---Performance Assessment Instruments---When all is said and done---Resources
Return to December, 1995
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