|Integrating Productivity Tools in Primary and Secondary Education|
A year or so ago, the great benefactor
of the Bentonville Public Schools (Bentonville, AR), Mrs. Helen
(wife of "Mr Sam") Walton, waved the magic wand of the
Family Foundation, donating $1.5 million to our schools. This
donation made possible the purchase of computers and training
time for teachers, complete with networked Internet-ready labs
in every school and a minimum of one PC in every classroom..
Even before receiving this generous
gift, progressive principals and administrators in Bentonville
introduced the use of computer grade-keeping programs, and also
urged various departments to incorporate the use of computers
in teaching. But these individuals had little or no financial
support from state or local agencies to realize their perceptive
vision of the role of technology in the teaching of tomorrow's
Many of us resisted that brave vision
of a better and different school. We who had achieved a mastery
of print skills and who had effective oral performance strategies
did not cotton to the idea of the deconstruction of our teaching.
(The implied threat of all technology--at least our perception
of the emerging electronic global village--was the elimination
of the teacher.)
I have crossed the Great Divide.
Now, at last, I understand that the new "wired world"
makes my job much more important and interesting, and even much
more liberating than ever before. Our students need us now, more
In the year of the implementation
of the grant, the mighty marvels of the new technology advanced
step by step into our schools. We soon discovered that the wiring
of schools for Internet is no light or simple task. Much mechanical
misery came with our efforts to build the computer network. In
the beginning, the computers were erratic and highly unstable.
The fragility of the Net (or at least the link from Bentonville
High School [BHS] to the rest of the backbone) caught us by surprise.
The difficulty of finding people to run the technical side of
the computer network made our use of the Net in our teaching virtually
impossible. Many grew frustrated and ceased to try to adjust for
the new tools that technology offers educators. Fearful critics
used these problems to condemn the entire enterprise. Negative
notes abounded and students felt cheated and betrayed, because
we could not incorporate the Net into our Library or classes with
any widespread success.
As the second year begins--despite
our memories of glitches and snags, of mechanical misery, of constant
breakdowns--for some of us, change now begins to look like our
friend; we see it as an entry into the new Information Renaissance
Age so rapidly evolving around us in business, entertainment,
and our homes.
What does this mean to faculty like
me (year 23 of teaching, year 45 of life)? It means we must acknowledge
that tools of technology of the Information Age will no more go
away than did the tools of the Industrial Age, and that we must
either join the bitter "refuseniks" (anti-computer teachers)
who have left the profession, or change. Those of us who remain,
for the most part, are committed to the new era, for our kids
and for our teaching.
So it was that this summer I built
a Personal Homepage on the Web at a computer account with the
University of Arkansas. BHS is a Break-the-Mold School, which
means that much of the educational government paperwork has been
abolished and we may try all sorts of things without the laborious
intervention and approval of Arkansas state legislators or state
Education Department paper shuffling.
I could have done this quite some
time ago since I also teach for Northwest Arkansas Community College
in their night program and the faculty of that institution have
computer account privileges (at no cost) on the University of
Arkansas computer system. But I had not made the effort to learn--something
one must do--to begin building a page on the fabled World Wide
Once I began building the page, I
had to give up my Lone-Ranger style of teaching. I took my first
step over the Great Divide by searching INFOSEEK, an excellent
quick reference tool. There I found THE HTML WRITER'S GUILD, home
to a most wonderful band of web writers open to all the earnest
honest questions of the completely ignorant person, in a kind-hearted
and gentle manner. And despite my knowing absolutely nothing about
writing HTML, the Guild granted me membership, and I have worked
very hard ever since to become a more capable and worthy peer.
This alone taught me powerful lessons about teaching and my expectations
for others. I have practiced distance learning with people from
all over the globe as I have learned how to write the code that
makes my pages possible. I began to imagine a totally new kind
of class, a completely new style for my teaching. I have lost
nothing; I have gained everything.
When I built STEVE'S STUFF, I accepted
the bitter risk of failure in order that I might taste the sweet
wine of victory. I learned I can do much more than merely survive;
I can succeed and be part of the change for the better. What's
on my page? Was all this worth the hassle, the misery, the fear
for my professional future? When I look at the animated atom gif
marking arrival at my HOMEWORK HELPER page, I know that building
the page helped me cross over the mountain of change. My page
evolves daily. I have a million and one ideas for its improvement.
What will be on my page? I foresee
models, tutorials, further resources, alternative assignments,
alternative paths of learning for A-level credit. Only imagination
could limit CYBER 257: my room on the web. In that page called
MY OZARK DIARY, my life in teaching, I seek to establish a model
for the journalizing and writing I shall expect from every student
I teach. No more will a student find himself alone and without
the indirect help of models. The mailto code resides somewhere
on every page, so students can contact me immediately from the
web browser itself to ask for direct extension of the day's activities
My kids deserve a teacher who has
crossed the Great Divide. They deserve a teacher who is no more
afraid to keep on learning than they must be. My kids are able,
bright, creative, dynamic, energetic, first-class, great, helpful,
intelligent, jubilant, kinetic, loving, mindful, notable, outstanding,
proficient, questioners, reasoners, smart, teachers themselves,
underappreciated, vigorous, wonderful, (e)Xtra-special, young,
and (e)Z to teach! They deserve the electronic best that I may
learn to share with them.
I seek to make my page better daily.
I have learned the lesson of life: To live is to embrace change.
Living is all about learning new things and doing things in new
ways. Teachers were almost the last ones to find this out. In
fact I know that if I were to deconstruct R. 257, my kids would
build a Cyber 257 filled with their dynamic web documents and
pages and tremendous discoveries Gunter-guaranteed to astound
one and all who choose to visit us online anytime all the time.
C ya soon? You may reach me at [Image]
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