I have a cartoon in my office that shows two people running away from something shouting "It's coming, It's coming." When asked "What's coming?" they answer "Technology!" The cartoon is dated 1974. By now, technology has caught us and passed us by. It is moving so fast that we can't keep up.
There are three main reasons why we need technology in our schools. The first and most obvious is that today's students will be working the rest of their lives in the technology and information age. They need to develop skills to survive in a constantly changing world. Secondly, technology is providing a new way to teach math, science, social studies, foreign language and many other subjects. The motto of the district Technology Committee is "Technology, Opening Minds with a New Set of Keys." The third reason is that technology is needed to today's educators and support staff to keep up with their workloads.
At one time, communications were so slow that it could take weeks to get messages across the United States. The "Battle of New Orleans" was fought after the end of the War of 1812 because they hadn't received word of the end of the war. Compare that with the "CNN War" where TV cameras were sending live pictures of the bombings that started the Gulf War. We live in a technological and informational world. This is the world in which our students will spend the rest of their lives. They need the skills to survive in this world.
The changes in technology that our elementary children will see in their lifetime will be tremendous. We need to make our students comfortable with computers and other new technologies. We can't begin to predict what computers, phones, TVs, and information systems will be like when today's first graders enter the job market, but we want them to be able to adapt to change without being intimidated. To do this, we need to be able to make them comfortable with the technology that is available today.
We do not want to teach students computers. We want to use computers to teach, and we want students to use computers as they do their reports and projects. We teach our students to use computers for word processing and for finding information. All fourth grade students in Minot Public Schools are taught keyboarding skills. They are expected to use a computer and a word processor to do reports or other documents in the fifth and sixth grades.
Today's students are surrounded by more information coming from more sources than ever before. Students can research information by using electronic encyclopedias such as World Book or Grolier. We now have one computer in each school that has a complete encyclopedia on a CD-ROM. By typing in a word, such as Lincoln, in a matter of seconds the title of every article in the encyclopedia that contains the word will be displayed. The articles will include Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln Logs, and Lincoln, NE. This is the way that most research will be done in the coming years.
What about the "old" way of finding information in a library? Many universities do not have card catalogs. If you can't use their computer lookup stations, you won't be able to locate the information you want. In the future, college students will need to be able to use the internet to find information. We need to prepare our students for a different type of university than many of us attended.
The newest source of information is the internet. Using the internet, students would be able to receive pictures and articles about international events immediately after they happen. Pictures of fires and collapsed buildings in Kobe, Japan, were on the internet the day after the earthquake. The White House posts news articles, information about the President and his policies, and full text of his speeches on the internet. Pictures from the Hubble telescope and satellites and articles from science stations in the Antarctic are posted on computers supported by NASA.
Students can follow explorers and archeologists on a daily quest through ancient Maya cities through the internet. Students can print the full text of articles from any of ninety periodicals after searching through them by typing in a keyword. Students can have access to the Library of Congress and all the information available there. This is one of the advances in technology that we need to bring into our schools.
Information is currently being distributed by the internet, computer disks, CD-ROM discs, videodiscs, videotape, cable TV, satellite, modems, and textbooks. All the new technologies can distribute color pictures, movies and sound, as well as text information. Imagine a textbook that could display a movie while you are reading it, and could play a recording of a famous speech or let you hear the sound a robin makes. This is being done today with CD-ROM and video.
Many of our textbooks are 10-15 years out of date while information available through technology can be very current. Much of the news we see on TV is live. This internet can be updated almost immediately with text and pictures. Computer disks and CD-ROM discs can be updated monthly with text graphics, databases, and movies. Information is growing and changing rapidly, and technology can help us keep current in our classrooms.
In the future, students will be given a disc instead of a textbook at the start of the school year. Besides text information that the students will be able to read, there will be color pictures, movies, and sound. This textbook on a disc will include much more information than today's textbooks.
We are trying to use this information and technology tools to teach science, social studies, art, math, language arts, and other subjects in new and exciting ways. Students can see and hear things that could only be described before with words. We can show them pictures and movies of places that we could never take them. Videodiscs, CD-ROM, VCRs, TVs, cable TV, modems, and computers are some of the tools we use. The problem is that we don't have enough of these tools to really make a difference.
Our typical elementary school has one computer lab with 15 Apple][gs computers. Each elementary student has one modern computer with a CD-ROM, and this is usually found in the library. Some classrooms have an older computer. Since the end of the "Computers for Kids" program sponsored by Sun Mart several years ago, very few computers have been purchased for use in our classrooms. During the past several years, very little general fund money has been spent on technology. The new computers we have were purchased with federal funds, grants or fund raising projects.
A typical elementary classroom in our district shares a TV and VCR with two other classrooms. The only phones in the school are found in the office and staff room. Contrast this to the typical home in Minot. If we asked the students to bring their technology from home we would be inundated with TVs, VCRs, phones, Nintendos, cam corders, modems, and computers. We need this technology in our classrooms where students will have access to it.
Teachers, secretaries, and administrators need computers to help keep up with their workload. Most businesses understand that their employees need computers and other tools to do their work properly. We need to make sure that teachers, administrators, and secretaries are able to have the tools that they need to do their jobs properly.
The future isn't what it used to be. Like the cartoon in my office, which is now faded and antiquated, so too are our schools. We need to prepare our students for the 21st century by expanding our educational tools -- technology is our future.