HOME | Arts | Health | Language Arts | Math/Science | Social Studies | World Languages | Glossary
The Alaska Technology Standards emphasize the need for Alaskan students to both use technology and to understand its impact on individuals and society. Teachers can meet both the technology standards and the social studies (and other subject area) standards by providing integrative learning opportunities for students which make use of technology to enhance content area learning.
But before buying your ticket for a ride on the "Information
Highway," ask what "technology" means in the context of the
classroom. Examine your technology resources and articulate a plan
for using the technology available and acquiring additional
technology components. Build in a plan for staff development. Then
consider some specific examples of technology applications.
What is Technology?
Teachers already use a great deal of technology and technological products. Maps, magazines, textbooks, photographs, telephones, copiers, overhead projectors, TVs, and VCRs are examples of communications technology already commonly found in schools. To these have been added FAX machines, computers, modems, scanners, photo and video digitizing, sound digitizing, CD-ROM, laser discs, E-mail, the Internet, and other devices and services.
The use of familiar ("old") technology is known as low
tech, while the latest innovations are called high tech.
There is a tendency to believe that only high tech approaches will
enable students to survive and thrive in the next century. To some
extent this may be true, but teachers cannot wait for high tech
solutions to arrive; they must make a beginning with the technology
available to them.
Technology Resources: Assessment and Planning
The teacher remains the most important technology resource in the classroom. Most educators can cite many examples of technology purchased but left untouched because teachers did not know how to use it. Teachers who wish to make better use of modern technology must first make themselves familiar and proficient with what is available.
Creative use of low tech equipment (such as cassette sound recorders, video camcorders and VCRs) introduces students to the elements of project planning and implementation that characterize cooperative learning. These skills transfer easily as students, teachers, and classrooms become increasingly high tech.
In moving to the next step, teachers should make use of all opportunities to further their technology skills, including help from technology-wise colleagues, in-services, Alaska Society for Technology in Education conference workshops, University of Alaska summer and distance-delivery courses, Alaska Staff Development Network offerings, as well as membership in professional organizations such as the Alaska Council for the Social Studies, and the Alaska Geographic Alliance.
Effective and willing use of existing technology in classrooms begets support from parents and administrators. This in turn translates into support for the purchase of additional technology pieces and services. The key words here are effective use, which implies thoughtful planning and implementation. Teachers should involve themselves with site or district technology planning efforts, or develop a personal technology plan for themselves and their classrooms.
Two words of caution:
Teachers find seven types of computer-based applications most useful. These include:
Simulations: Computer simulation games offer opportunities at nearly all grade levels for teachers to involve individual students or groups of students in activities directly related to content and to decision-making skills. Some simulations originated as board games, then evolved into games on floppy disks, and have now become more elaborate and available on CD-ROM.
Data Bases: Data bases allow users to sort, change, and update data, search for specific information, delete and add information, and publish the data in a variety of formats. Atlas programs, for example, are data base applications Teachers may use a data base to organize and store information about students; grading programs are data base applications. Students may use data base applications as a tool to collate data in research.
Networks: The revolution in telecommunications brings new opportunities for global communication via computer and in other ways. Effective network use requires careful planning to align network design with immediate and long term goals. Building-level and district-wide E-mail networks for all staff provide an excellent way for teachers to gain skills and comfort with network use. This in turn translates readily into instructional use. Teachers will need have individual desktop computers linked with a network to make use of this option.
Desktop Publishing: Students and teachers do not need the latest high-end publishing software to publish within the classroom from the desktop. Virtually all word processing programs can be tweaked for classroom publishing, including those designed for primary grade use. Publishing programs become more powerful with each upgrade, allowing for increasingly more sophisticated work.
Presentations: Presentation software and hardware has become easier to use and cheaper to buy in the recent past, making it more attractive for use by students and teachers. Color LCD panels and TV interfaces allow presentations to include computer graphics as well as digitized sound and video. Students and teachers can combine multimedia software and hardware with computer applications to create projects nearly as sophisticated as those produced and sold commercially for classroom use.
Hypermedia/Interactive Multimedia: Hypermedia application
programs allow nonsequential organization and retrieval of text and
other information. Text, sound, film clips, photographs, and other
graphics are linked together via nonsequential paths that allow the
user to control the route taken. The resulting multimedia projects
offer incredible opportunities for social studies teachers to involve
students in projects that integrate visual aids (digitized video
clips and photographs, and graphics) with sound and written text.
CD-ROM disks and laser disks offer a wealth of resources available
for even the most remote classroom, and the camcorder has become an
extension of the desktop computer.
Color Printing: Ink-jet color printers offer color printing
at a relatively low cost, and when combined with desktop publishing
offer a way for students and teachers to duplicate on paper final
drafts of the color work done on computer.
Evaluating and Selecting Computer Software
Even without the aid of computer experts, the classroom teacher can (and is often asked to) select software for use in the classroom. There are two basic steps in the process: deciding what you need, and determining which programs can supply that need. In brief, the selection process consists of the following steps:
I. Determine what you need
A. Determine which types of software you need
1. Drill and practice
3. Interaction/multimedia development
4. Utilities (word processing, data base, spreadsheet, etc.)
5. Reference materials
6. Telecommunications kits
B. Determine the pertinent unit with which to use the software
1. Subject area
2. Skills you wish to emphasize
3. Level of the students
C. Match the software with your instructional approach
1. Learning centers, cooperative groups
2. Computer lab set-up (e.g., one computer per student or one per classroom?)
3. Students' needs (project-oriented? skill oriented? remediation?)
II. Determine what products are available
A. Keep aware of new software
1. Catalogues (beware; they're selling their products)
2. Software reviews, available in free journals, teacher magazines, colleagues' recommendations
B. Know your machine capabilities
1. Amount of RAM, hard drive space
2. Peripherals and hardware available (e.g., CD-ROM, modem, scanners, etc.)
C. Preview the software
1. Identify yourself as the technical consultant from your state, explain your reasons for the preview
2. Know the terms: 30-day net vs. free preview
a. 30-day net is generally available from Scholastic, Sunburst, Tom Snyder; software must be returned within 30 days to avoid the fee
b. Free preview is generally available from Optilearn (laser disc only), Karol Media
III. Techniques of Previewing Software
A. Read some of the manual
1. Make sure it fits your machine
2. Learn the installation, commands and general procedures for use
B. Try the software and take notes on the pros and cons
1. As an A student who will take time to figure it out
2. As an F student who is trying to make it crash or drive your crazy with attention-getting tricks but would not try to figure it out
3. As a C student who wants to make it work but doesn't have the skills or experiences necessary to read the manual and needs help from the menu bar, help screens, or error messages
C. Be sensitive to biases
D. Be critical of its authenticity, content and technical qualities
E. Evaluate whether it fits your needs, teaching style and situation
F. Evaluate the publisher's level of support (a 1-800 phone number, free upgrades, help)
IV. Sources of funding and grant-writing tips
1. District grants
2. Alaska Geographic Alliance or National Geographic Society, Alaska Humanities Forum
3. Businesses, foundations, local service organizations
B. Always have a want-list for whenever money is available
Technology and Civic Responsibility in a Republic
Communications technology is having a profound effect on individual participation in public affairs. Changes in election laws reflect these changes, as governments embrace new ways to involve the electorate. The technology exists to permit individuals to vote via modem from any place at any time. This could increase participation by the electorate in the process of selecting representatives in government. It may also alter the way representative government works by making it possible for individuals to vote on all issues - direct democracy on a very large scale. Those who see republican democracy as a less pure form of government than direct democracy may see today's telecommunications technology as ideal, while those who view republican democracy as the preferred form may feel uneasy about the changes.
Regardless of perspective, most Americans see that these changes
are upon us today; they are not just in the future. Elected
representatives already use technology to monitor perceptions of
their performance among those whom they represent, and well organized
groups use communications technology to lobby their agendas. It may
already be the case that those with access via technology have
disproportionately more influence on the processes of government. If
this is true today, then the unforeseen technologies and their
effects tomorrow make it even more requisite for educators and
educational institutions to ensure technological literacy in their
students, and to prepare them to encounter both the effects and the
implications of communications technology on the workings of
government. Technology affects both the content of the social studies
and how the social studies are taught.
Almost any creative learning experience may be enhanced by the use of technology, low- or high-tech. The differences in technology found between schools and in classrooms within schools, compounded by the differences in technology skills among teachers, affect the degree of technology integration and the way technology is integrated.
Individual teachers are the key to successful integration of
technology into the learning opportunities of children. Teachers need
the support of good technology planning and staff development
opportunities to stimulate and enhance the use of technology in their
classrooms and to build a foundation for successful mastery of
technology for themselves and their students.