AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
November 7, 1998
Technology and Training
The discussions of the Technology and Training groups in many ways overlapped. The following note summarizes these discussions and elaborates upon several points that might offer links to other "break-out" groups (such as Research, and Communication). Moreover, the discussions produced ideas that might very well assist in further articulating the mission of UEF21.
Understandably, much of the technological implications discussed in the meetings focused upon information communication (and, primarily, the roleof the computer). Nonetheless, physical plant (HVAC), maintenance, and security were also discussed as vital components to be addressed by UEF21 "case studies" and training recommendations.
Two central questions sparked discussion:
With regard to the objectives of UEF21, technology may be perceived in (at least) two ways. First, the technology of "How." A significant part of the discussed mission of UEF21 has been to provide a "clearing house" of data concerning educational facilities. How do we gather and communicate this data? To this end, technology represents the methods (and media) of exchanging this information with other empathetic groups (for example, the United Federation of Teachers, among many others). The forging of new associations through the medium of the Internet - via networking "agents" such as Design Share - will assist UEF21 considerably in both disseminating and apprehending new data from a variety of constituencies.
Secondly, the technology of "How + What." A defining characteristic ofUEF21 might very well be "How do advances in technology (physical plant as well as communications) impact educational facilities?" AND "What do we then do with this information?"
Technology (in particular, computer technology) impacts schools in (at least) three ways: physical plant, classroom dynamics, and school-wide instructional hierarchies.
Physical plant raises questions of how technology is brought into the school. Is it an old or new school? Who provides the technology(alliances with corporations)? Who "wires" the school (parents, community,professionals)? It will be crucial to develop a resource of case studies gathered nation- and worldwide (from members of UEF21, CEFPI, or any organizations with whom ideas are exchanged). These case studies would then provide a database for informing/training citizens, school administrators, and politicians on subjects such as "How to wire your school." Moreover, if desired, this database could also serve to train members of UEF21 as a (potential) consultancy group for educational projects. Once the technology has entered the school, there is immediate impact upon classroom dynamics. For example, depending upon how computers are introduced, (x number for each classroom, or the "command central" approach) the traditional techniques of class instruction and scheduling are brought into question. As more computers are integrated into each classroom, multiple activities may occur simultaneously, changing the ways in which the teacher might/must facilitate learning. Again, the development of case studies may help define UEF21's vitality [which are the multiple activity "zones" of the new classroom? how might teachers best utilize them - alone? with assistants? (and who might these assistants be? older students? community members?.)]. "Training" for the classroom integration of technology regards the teacher, their in-class assistants, and possibly, personal student advocates from the community at-large. Inevitably, new technologies impact the school-wide hierarchies of instruction. For example, the integration of technology and the consequent multidimensionality of classroom use might offer (or demand) new "types" of projects which are elastic in nature, providing both small-group breakdown within the classroom, as well as cooperation across individual classes, and even grade levels.
As evident in certain convivial ("project-based") learning exercises such as the construction of an "ideal city" - the integration of the computer as a tool of information retrieval, design, and presentation, can cause the formation of student "facilitator groups." These groups then serve the school as a vital in-house resource to instruct not only other students,but also their teachers, on technologies that in most cases were not available to the teachers during their own training. The unceasing advances in computer technology creates an unprecedented resource group - the students themselves. It is impossible to demand that teachers continually reacquaint themselves to technologies that are already passe by the time they are brought into the school. It is vital that students - who acquire new information and habits at a much faster rate - be fostered as special agents who assist in the constant transformation of the school. In doing so, students become teachers, a well-recognized technique of enhancing the learning process.
As such, the dilemma of training and retraining the hierarchical pyramid from the top-down, is resolved by using projects and technologies as mechanisms that transform the multiple challenges to an educational facility into the multiple intelligences of an integrated, self-educating body. Administrators and Teachers then become pivotal agents to facilitate the ever-changing needs of this incorporated body, which regards classes, grade levels, and unique concerns (special education, bilingual) as provisional groupings for problem solving, as opposed to groups with separate problems.
A potential, highly significant role of UEF21 within this shifting climate might very well be to accumulate, organize, and disseminate case-study information from the spectrum of technological scenarios encountered by educational facilities around the world. Models might then be abstracted from the spectrum of scenarios, which would provide an open database resource for educational entities worldwide. Furthermore, UEF21 could then develop a training program or consultancy by which to tailor these models, or assist others to tailor these models to fit their own unique context and challenges.