The Pros and Cons of Technology in the Classroom. A Debate between Dr. Roy Pea and Dr. Larry Cuban, Palo Alto, CA February 5, 1998.  Can be retrieved from http://tappedin.org/archive/peacuban/ 

Pea Speech 

First of all, I liked how much Pea stressed the importance of technology in the classroom by saying that “computers and affiliated media and communication tools have become a fact of life.”  I contend that educators need to find an effective design of technology for the classroom.  Presented in 1998, an effective design was signified but even today is still ongoing.  Of course, an effective design is easier said than done.  One difficulty that comes to mind is the range of technology skills available on school staffs, along with the varying emphasis on technology across schools.  From my own experience, I find when I start to think that the majority of teachers that are technology literate, I visit a school to volunteer with technology aspects of their school environment to find that teachers are in a more desperate situation than I anticipate.   

I was eager to read the practical questions that Pea posed on page 2: Where to seek recommended uses of technologies?; What models work?; or What motivates a teacher to do the work? And so on.  The last question is of particular interest to me since I hear this over and over again from teachers who believe that technology is more work than they need to add to an already heavy work load.  Teachers feel they often run into snags that leave them frustrated and without the support they need to carry out a rewarding technology experience with students.   

Pea goes on to explain five reasons to include computers and communication technologies into K-12 classrooms along with online examples.  They are excellent reasons and I’m sure many would agree.  However, the major problem is how to get there.  This rate is moving much slower than professional development can keep up with.  This is why I was also pleased with Pea’s following headings, “Technology as a Lever” and “Technology Concerns.”  I thought he hit the nail on the head when he discussed five levers for initiating and sustaining the kinds of reforms of education that might foster the deeper understanding for lifelong learning. 

Pea mentions planful partnerships to accommodate a major turnover of teachers in the next 10 years (then 1998).  There does need to be more practical technology courses for pre-service teachers to better prepare them for the profession of integrating technology in their classrooms.  This would make a tremendous difference.  A couple of education courses I took during my undergraduate degree integrated technology into the course contents and was an excellent introduction but not nearly enough to meet the technology demands of high school graduates today.  The section where Pea discusses “Technology Concerns” should be forwarded to the Department of Education. 

Cuban Speech 

Cuban organized his speech into three underlying questions to consider when integrating technology into the classroom.  You would think that they are questions a teacher would automatically consider but nonetheless are taken for granted.  I think teachers think about the aspects of each question Cuban discusses but are unsure of how to approach them or even if they have a place in the classroom.  For example, a teacher who uses a drill-and-practice CD-Rom of learning multiplication facts probably asks themselves if the software is an appropriate method of integrating technology.  It could be argumentative.  Perhaps it’s the only thing the teacher has found to work with that particular child on achieving this outcome?

I especially liked the point that Cuban raised about the fit between goals and strategies.  He advices to be clear about goals, the software and hardware to be used, and the kind of computer assisted, computer managed, computer enhance, or combination to meet outcomes.

For me, I thought it was effective for Cuban to write from a funder’s point of view so that schools and teachers can be sure they are spending funds (that aren’t widely available) wisely. 

For my own reference, I identified a few important aspects of each question below. 

What do you want students and teachers to achieve? 

bullet3 goals:
bulletcomputer literacy: making sure students have skills in an automated workplace
bulletbasic skills: students need to master skills including reasoning and problem solving, and acquire knowledge faster and better than before
bulletconstructivist and student-centered approach: teachers need to change teaching approach

         3 strategies:

bulletcomputer-assisted instruction (CAI):

-         research shows that CAI does increase test scores

-         late 1960s – mid 1980s

-         often referred to as “tutorials”

bulletcomputer-managed instruction (CMI):

-         software diagnoses what student can do, guides through next steps, records progress

-         individually managed system

-         deemphasizes role of teacher

-         1970s

bulletcomputer-enhanced instruction (CEI):

-         less structured program

-         open-ended

-         1990s 

Can you reach the same goals at less cost? 

bulletCost effectiveness (be cognizant of the underlying assumption about the “economic importance of information technologies”)
bulletConsider alternatives that have been overshadowed by the hype over classroom technologies (e.g., age grade at school, reducing class size)

What configuration of technology would best meet your goals? 

·        Think through consequences before following through on decisions

o       Consider implementation issues when putting stuff in labs, classrooms, etc.

·        Hardware, software, and Internet connections should be configured to best suit your goals and projected use of computers

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