Technology Counts 2001: The New Divides

Education Week's annual assessment of technology and education holds few surprises, but it does highlight an interesting shift in the terms of the education technology debate, from an emphasis on how many computers can be found in each classroom to how well (and for what) they are being used. No longer does the issue of access separate the technology haves and have-nots; today, poor classrooms are nearly as likely to be wired as wealthier classrooms. Today's inequities are more apt to arise from the way in which technology is incorporated into the curriculum. The report's analysts found that many students--especially the poor, girls, low achievers, the disabled, children in rural areas, children learning English, and minorities--are not benefiting much from their classroom computers. The machines are only as good as the programs, technical support, and training that accompany them, and too often, these children are being taught by teachers who have not mastered the technology themselves, using outdated or broken equipment and basic skills-based software instead of the more sophisticated computers and programs used elsewhere. A student survey found that computers are often used in ways that add little value to lesson plans, something policymakers would be wise to note before adding tons more resources to this endeavor. The good news is that many states are beginning to rethink and improve their handling of technology in the classroom, instituting incentives for teachers and administrators to incorporate it more adroitly into their curricula. That's great as long as learning doesn't take a back seat to technological savvy. For a look at the report's findings as well as comparative data and profiles of each state's technology initiatives, order a copy for $6 at http://www.edweek.org. (Call 800-346-1834 to receive a discount on orders of 10 or more copies.)

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