During the final decade of the twentieth century, schools in many countries spent huge sums running cables and buying computers to connect classrooms to the Internet.
For this investment to pay dividends - to dramatically strengthen the skills with which students read, write and learn about their world - schools must offset this spending on equipment with two critical elements: 1) a clear focus upon program goals and 2) the provision of extensive professional development opportunities for all teachers.
Now that many schools are placing networked computers in all classrooms, we should be asking which strategies are most likely to convert these new technologies into tools that are welcomed and embraced by all classroom teachers. We should be asking how we can maximize the benefits for all of our students.
This book is about the search for successful strategies and the answers found during two decades of trying to integrate electronic technologies into classrooms.
The first section of the book is devoted to questions of purpose. We have evidence that many teachers are reluctant to use new technologies until we can show them how these tools will help them to deliver on their primary missions (teaching math, reading, science, etc.)
We know that more teachers will agree to learn and use new technologies if they can expect to see improved student performance as a result of their efforts. Many teachers are skeptical about the rush to network schools and think of this effort as one more in a long series of bandwagons that have passed across the educational landscape during the past three decades.
The second section of the book outlines an approach to the design of adult learning experiences intended to reach a broad spectrum of teachers. During the first two decades of introducing new technologies, we have focused too narrowly upon software and pioneering teachers. We have done much training but devoted little time to adult learning concepts. We have failed to reach the late adopting and reluctant teachers who make up the majority of our faculties.
We can do much better.
The next decade may bring a dramatic shift as schools and teachers place greater emphasis upon thinking, questioning and information skills, recognizing that networks make possible what the Australians have called information literate school communities.
With the right program goals and matching professional development opportunities, we can create a generation of young people capable of wrestling thoughtfully and skillfully with difficult questions, problems and decisions.