A traditional use of technologies in schools has been skills reinforcement; for example, students who need extra practice in reading might work individually on computers equipped with reading comprehension software. Current research on the potential of technology use for learning has unveiled a new approach, an authentic approach, in which technology is used as a tool to accomplish complex tasks. For example, students who are creating a written report might use the Internet for research, word processing software to write and format the text, and hypermedia software to add images. In other words, students “think with technology.”The emphasis is not on the individual software programs, but on using new technologies (e.g., digital cameras, multi-media platforms, video-streaming, Internet, distance learning) so that students engage in authentic, real-world problem solving.
While many technologies do support learning, the current research provides educators with a wake-up call to carefully evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each type as some can do harm. Healy (1998), for example, warns that the activities offered on software programs often require only shallow processing and do not contribute to children's real learning. She notes that the act of watching a screen and making selections from limited options is “a poor substitute for real mental activity.” Reading a book as compared to reading on an electronic screen notes some problems. Reading from a screen is slower, more fatiguing, less accurate, and more subject to information overload than standard reading. In several studies, students tested for comprehension after reading from a screen demonstrated less understanding and poorer memory than getting the same information from a book (Wood, 2000).
In lieu of current information, District 109 will use an informed, data-driven approach to technology integration. A technology review committee will evaluate new programs based on what is most sound and up-to-date research, not on what is most popular. The following questions in regards to research and practice will be raised as we consider integrating technology: