Where's the Byte?

Gus Gillespie

Educational Leadership Program

UNC-Chapel Hill


One of the biggest buzzwords in education today is the use of technology and computers in the classroom. Many see computers as the wave of the future that will propel students into the 21st century. However, if computers are to play this role they must be integrated better than they are now.

Tom Loveless (1996) argues that computers are capable of improving schools; however, it is quite obvious at this time that they are not making much of an impact at all. Why? The computer and technology industry has ignored the most important aspect of computers in the classroom-how they should be used.

Loveless. describes the principle problem as one of underuse. Even though there are 5.8 million computers in the public schools (one computer for every nine students), 70% of eighth graders have never used a computer in the school (p. 451).

This is largely due to the way computers are made "available." Most computers are in labs, thus reinforcing the idea that computers are not central to learning, and are to be used only for special occasions. The infrastructure of schools rarely allows for enough electrical outlets, much less modems, and air conditioners, for computers to truly be integrated into the classroom.

To maximize the use of computers in schools, Loveless suggests three initiatives. Schools need a strong technical infrastructure, computers should be employed to make teachers' work easier, and the goal of using computers in the classroom should be to increase student academic achievement, not totally revamp it.


Integrating computers into the classroom curriculum must be a high priority goal if we are going to maximize student learning. Unfortunately, no one, especially computer makers, has taken the time to study how computers can make the greatest impact upon education. Because of the current underuse and misuse of computers, it is possible that technology budgets may be reduced in the future for lack of "results." Educators and administrators need to demand the training and support that would make computers a vital and integral part of the classroom. Computers need to be available in the classrooms to students and teachers, and curriculum and policy changes need to make computer use a central focus. If these problems are allowed to fester, the computer may become the electronic pencil that continues to support 18th century didactic instruction.

Loveless, Tom. (1995). Why aren't computers used more in schools? Educational Policy, 10, 448-467.