Connie Stout, Director
The Technology Enriched Campus:
A Process rather than an End During the past ten years since the Texas State Board of Education approved the Long-Range Plan for Technology and the Texas Education Network (TENET) was formed, educators have made remarkable progress in creating a state-wide technology enriched infrastructure for their students. However, the benefits derived from a technologically enriched infrastructure have yet to reach all 7000 campuses. We still remain dependent upon the installed base of out-of-date computer hardware that remains in the campuses. Much of the hardware is not able to operate the latest multi-media software. To complicate the situation, not all educators are haven't been given the time or easy access to these technologies in order to learn how to integrate the use of the technology to support their instructional goals.
Looking at business we can see there are important lessons that we can draw from their experience introducing information technology into their business. First, businesses found that their existing assessment tools provided them with inaccurate information. Those tools were built on an old model of information flow and productivity. There were so many variables that new measurements had to be established. Secondly, benefits of their investments were only realized when technology was integrated to support the core values of the organization.
It was not an additional objective that had to be obtained outside the understood job description, rather an integral part of the core mission or job of the organization. Finally, they realized that successful integration of information technology was a multistage process that doesn't occur with the arrival of the first computer.
For the benefits of technology to be realized, we must realize that this is a multistage process that involves many complex factors. Beside access to the technology for the educators, they need the time to become familiar with these eccentric new tools and time to learn how to best fit the tool into their core educational objectives. There is a need for educators to experiment with the new inquiry based learning techniques that the technology use can force in the classroom. This will also require new assessment tools to provide an adequate means of measuring student success.
TENET, the telecommunication network, was both a dialup system and a menu driven source of text-based resources on the Internet. The dialup transport system was the means by which most Texas educators accessed the Internet.
Once connected to the TENET modem pools, educators were able to send and receive email, read newsgroups, utilize TENET resources and venture onto the Internet for many other resources. The Texas Education Agency and the Texas Parks and Wildlife were the first state agencies that provided online resources for Texas educators.
During these years the Internet itself was undergoing a transformation. The once cumbersome resource limited to research scientists and university staff; the Internet has become an important part of the telecommunication industry. The rapid spread of web-based technology most likely spurred industry acceptance. In the next few years, Internet access will be much more readily available. Today, companies involved in long distance service, local telephone service, TV cable service, satellite delivery, and even those working in the electric utility industry, are in the process of offering Internet services to their customers. While this has not reached all consumers, soon access to the Internet will be readily available throughout the state.
The value that this telecommunications initiative, TENET, brought has been to validate quality resources, provide access to those that had no access, and assist other educators to find colleagues with whom they can share ideas and concerns. While the Internet contains many resources, it can be very confusing, especially to the non-technical educator who is struggling to get their email while coping with computers, software settings, modems, and phone lines. Yes, one can sit at a computer and surf the nets but as busy professionals, not all educators have the luxury to devote to spending a couple of hours at the computer. Even if the resource is located, concerns are mounting about the validity of the some of the materials published on-line.
While the value of Internet and web publishing is that everyone can publish, there is also the concern that everyone can publish. The need for peer review or validation has become more important as web sites emerge daily. This is especially a concern as these materials are used in classrooms.
Now there is a need for quality resources and training for the Internet to be accepted as a part of mainstream education. This is critically important as more schools are obtaining Internet access and becoming tired. The focus needs shifted from wiring to, what do we do with Internet access now? New web-based services enable Texas educators to participate in discussion forums with other educators, access web resources that illustrate how Internet resources correlate to the new state standards, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. This makes it important as non-technical educators search to access and identify educationally relevant resources on the Internet.
Because there is a need for an understanding of the Internet and how to best utilize those resources within staff development offerings has become more important. Educators need to have staff development in order to learn to support and train their colleagues in exploring the Internet and integrating the use of Internet resources in their curriculum. While web publishing is a skill that is easily obtained, the art of developing an appropriate educational school web site is one in which school policies are understood. The staff development models need to incorporate an understanding of appropriate policy making. Schools now are entering the age of online publishing. Throughout TENET's evolution, the goal has been to provide an information service specifically tailored to the needs of Texas administrators, teachers, and their students.
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