The Role of Technology in Education Today and Tomorrow: Part Two of An
Interview with Kenneth Green
James L Morrison
Kenneth C. (Casey) Green is the founder/director of the Campus Computing Project. Begun in 1990, the Campus Computing Project is the largest continuing study of the role of information technology in American higher education. Additionally, Green is a visiting scholar at Claremont Graduate University, a member of the Claremont College Consortium in Claremont, CA. A senior associate of the TLT Group based in Washington DC, Green is the author, co-author, or editor of more than a dozen books and published research reports and more than two dozen articles which have appeared in academic and professional journals. He is a leading authority on where we are in integrating technology in educational organizations. In this interview, an extension of an earlier interview (Morrison, 1998), we capture his view of where we are and where we are going.
James Morrison: Casey, one of the pressing issues in education today is the integration of information technology tools into instruction. How can such tools enhance student learning?
Casey Green: Without question, both the education community and the broader public community have long held great expectations for the role of technology in teaching, learning, and instruction. Each new wave of technologyfilm following the Second World War, television from the 1950s onward, mainframe computers in the 1960s and 1970s, desktop computers in the 1980s, and the Internet and World Wide Web currentlyhas fostered great hopes of educational promise among educators and others in public life. Indeed, at the turn of the last century, Thomas Edison was convinced that film would supplant books as the primary mode of instruction by the end of the 1930s.
Much of the value of technology stems from the content it brings to the learning experience. Think back to the introduction of film in the wake of Sputnik. Film brought amazing, engaging content into the classroom, content that served as a critical catalyst for learning. Moreover, it delivered content that our teachers could not provide on their own. Today, the World Wide Web occupies that same position: it is a rich resource that provides supplemental content to enhance teaching, learning, and instruction. Ideally, students should experience the serendipity of both wandering the library stacks and surfing the Web; both offer opportunities for discovery and engagement.
Technology can also enhance the opportunities for communication and community within education. E-mail is a wonderful alternative to "phone tag" and a useful supplement to office hours. Chat and online discussion groups encourage voices and perspectives that may not emerge in the classroom. Plus, the Internet expands opportunities for students and faculty to create a community. Students can use e-mail to send direct questions to the authors of materials they read in class. Faculty can develop and maintain professional relationships with colleagues across the state, the nation, or almost anywhere in the world.
Finally, in addition to offering new kinds of learning experiences, the Internet and WWW offer access to postsecondary educational opportunities for new types of students and new kinds of institutional clientele. We are still in the early stages of an explosion in technology-assisted distance learning. Campuses and corporations will be competing for an audience.
JM: What evidence is there that information technology tools enhance learning?
CG: We need to be honest about the gap between aspirations and performance. And being honest requires that we acknowledge we don't yet have clear, compelling evidence about the impact of information technology on student learning and educational outcomes. But there is viable evidence about the impact of technology as it relates to many of the process and experiential aspects of teaching, learning, and instruction. Perhaps the best review of these issues is by Robert Kozma and Jerome Johnson in their recent paper "The Technology Revolution Comes to the Classroom" (1992). Their work is based on a well-designed assessment of the use of instructional technology in colleges and universities, across several disciplines and across different types of campuses. Although their paper precedes the Internet and WWW by several years, the key, IT-driven process and experiential issues Kozma and Johnson identify are absolutely at the core of what information technology can and does bring to the educational experienceengagement, exploration, real world simulation, opportunities to explore the meaning of data, and opportunities to move from simple exposure to real mastery of concepts and skills.
Admittedly, infusing technology into the educational experiencein K-12 and in higher educationis not like a surgical or pharmaceutical intervention. To date there is no magic pill, no "killer app" or content, no definitive technology that consistently and reliably improves academic achievement and learning outcomes. Moreover, technology costs moneyreal, recurring expenditures for hardware, software, networks, content, user training and support, and other things.
JM: If we don't have hard evidence that using information technology tools really increases student learning, why should educational organizations devote so much of their scarce resources to fund more hardware, software, and professional development activities?
CG: Even as hard evidence about learning outcomes continues to elude us, we retain great hopesand we should! The evidence does document other kinds of significant benefits: individualized instruction, asynchronous learning, enhanced content, and information-rich resources that are not limited to one physical copy that resides in only one location. Given the role of information technology in the global economy, we in academia would be foolish to reduce all investment in IT-based learning resources and the IT infrastructure. Today, students of all ages need to learn about technology (i.e., acquire IT skills) and learn with technology (i.e., use IT resources to enhance their learning experiences and opportunities).
JM: Most of your work focuses on what point postsecondary institutions have reached in using information technology tools for administration and teaching. Where are we vis-a-vis college faculty members using technology to enhance on-campus instruction?
CG: In the mid-1980s there was a great deal of campus and public discussion about the "computer revolution" in higher education. It was a popular phrase which lent itself to the title of books and professional papers, conference themes, and the opening paragraph of hundreds of grant proposals submitted to federal agencies, private foundations, and technology companies. Yet with almost perfect hindsight we now know, indeed we have known for many years, that there has been no revolution. Rather, for almost two decades we have experienced the slow migration of a broad array of information technologies and resources into instruction and learning. Using the "diffusion of innovation" curve first proposed by Everett Rodgers more than two decades ago, it's probably safe to say we are now moving from the early to the late majority phase [Explain this please: what are the early and late majority phases? Do you have a reference for Rodgers?].
Data from the 1997 Campus Computing Survey reveal that more than half of all faculty members have a computer in their office. The survey also reveals that the proportion of courses using some form of IT resource has been growing dramatically in recent years. [can we change the date to 1998?] (Editor's Note: A summary of the 1998 Campus Computing Survey appears on the WWW at the AskERIC Web site <http:///ericir.syr.edu/Projects/Campus_computing/>, sponsored by the US Department of Education.) It's taken a long time to get to this point on the implementation curve. The vast majority of faculty members across all disciplines and institutions have had to learn new IT skills over the past 10-15 years. For many of us, these were not a de facto component of our graduate training as research methods, foreign language, and statistics were. Moreover, this has not been a one-time learning experience: each new wave of technology (e.g., the transition from DOS to Macintosh, the migration from DOS to Windows 3x to Windows 95, the arrival of the Internet and World Wide Web) has required that we, like our students, acquire new software skills (word processing, spreadsheets, graphics), learn about new ways of doing old tasks (e-mail, library searches), and learn still new skills to do newer things with technology (surf the WWW).JM: Casey, you have addressed the issues and challenges currently facing us as we seek to integrate technology into teaching and into adminstration. What is your vision of how these issues will play out in the next five years?
JM: Many thanks, Casey, for providing us with up-to-date information as to the state of affairs in using information technology tools in higher education. Your campus survey is an important barometer for us all.
Robert Kozma and Jerome Johnson titled "The Technology Revolution Comes to the Classroom" (Change, Jan/Feb, 1992).