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5 Ways Technology Can Be Used

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5 Ways Technology can be used


Newer technologies have overcome some of the constraints of traditional arrangements. In addition to traditional interactions with classroom teachers, learners now have the possibility of gaining information from many other sources. For example, they may receive Web-based instruction from a teacher located hundreds of miles away from the learner. Although learners can continue to receive this instruction in a traditional classroom setting, it is no longer necessary. The technological capability is available for the information to be delivered to learners at home or in numerous other settings (p290)

Expanding Course Offerings

Schools in many parts of the country today use modern communication technologies to bring instruction to learners that, in prior years, could not be delivered. For example, electronic video and audio connections make it possible for courses in such specialized subjects as advanced calculus to be delivered to learners attending small schools where such subjects are not available. Individual small schools often cannot provide classes in specialty areas that would draw only small numbers of enrollees. Today, an instructor from a single location can serve many learners in isolated locations by electronically linking them together using modern video and audio technologies.

One variant of electronically based distance learning features complete courses that are offered over the World Wide Web. In many designs of this type, learners may "log on" to the courses they are taking whenever they are free to do so. In addition to promoting wide geographic dispersion of instruction, Web-based courses allow learners to do assignments at times that are convenient for them. In some places, learners take Web-based courses after normal school hours.(p293)

Simulating Real-Life Experiences

Simulations have been used in school classrooms for many years. You have participated in examples during your own years as a public-school learner. Simulations give young people opportunities for learning experiences that allow them to experience reality in ways that provide quite a credible illusion of a real-life experience. Learners make decisions that have consequences, but the simulated environment always acts to preserve their personal safety. Simulations also provide opportunities for teachers to allow learners to vicariously experience conditions experienced by people in past times.

New digital technologies have greatly expanded the range of simulations available for use by public-school learners. This range in complexity from relatively simple game-like experiences that are presented to learners on computer disks to hugely ambitious, multiple-day experiences that may require use of Web sites, CD-ROMs, DVDs, televisions, e-mail, and other technologies. Simulations supported by digital technology are now available for virtually all subject areas.

Some technology-based simulations are extraordinarily sophisticated. For example, the Quest Channel, a subscription service, makes available to subscribing school districts and teachers complex "explorations" that link multiple schools and learners with a team of individuals who go to interesting world places in search of answers to intriguing questions. Participating learners use the Web and e-mail to perform background work, to exchange information with "experts" and with other young people (in their own school and in other participating schools), and to see video images provided by the field team. These simulations also provide ways for involved teachers to communicate electronically and share information about learner progress on other issues. During the fall of 2002, the focus was on Christopher Columbus, and learners were involved in such activities as comparing historical accounts of Columbus's voyages with observations of the field team, studying the history of exploration and navigation, learning about cultural groups of the Caribbean, and reading reports in both Spanish and English.

Complex simulations, such as those provided by the Quest Channel, highlight another advantage of technology-supported simulations. They provide a cost-effective way for learners to engage interesting and motivating content. Few, if any, public schools could afford to send an entire class on a trip replicating Columbus's route to the New World. Many can find the money to support a Quest Channel subscription that will allow young people to participate on a highly engaging simulated version of the journey.(p294-295)

Helping Learners with Special Problems

Various technologies have long been used to provide assistance to learners who have characteristics that can interfere with their ability to learn. For example, for many years devices called braillers or braille-writers that allow users to take notes and produce other prose materials in Braille have been available to learners with severe visual limitations. Learners who are not proficient readers sometimes have had access to audio recordings of important sections of course texts. In some places, enrichment experiences have been provided to bright young people through videocassettes and special computer software available for checking out and working with at home.

Until recently, educators have followed this general sequence in identifying support technologies to use: (1) the general demands of the existing curriculum were examined to identify potential problems that certain categories of learners might face, and (2) technologies were identified that might allow those



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