Guest Blogger PostOn March 9, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton announced via Twitter that Memphis was filing an application for Google Fiber for Communities.  This initial tweet was followed with a post on the mayor’s blog From the Mayor’s Desk. In his blog post, Wharton asks you to “Imagine a promising inner-city 7th-grader collaborating with classmates around the world while watching a live university lecture.” Wharton is asking his readers to imagine e-learning in our K-12 classrooms. This call to imagine e-learning in Memphis classrooms comes less than a week after the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology released a draft of their National Educational Technology Plan 2010 titled “Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology“. This plan calls for readers to embrace the use of e-learning as the catalyst that will propel our schools through the 21st century. With this political focus being put on e-learning, let’s explore how this will look in the K-12 classroom. First we will define e-learning, next we will look at a few of its benefits, then we will note a few barriers to its implementation.

E-learning Defined

From the local to the national level, there is a focus on e-learning in K-12 education. E-learning is the promotion of learning through the delivery of instruction via a computer or the Web (Clark & Mayer, 2003; Mayer, 2003). But what does this really look like? How will this change K-12 education? Perhaps it is easier to start by noting what it doesn’t look like. Embracing e-learning does not equate to a rejection of the formal classroom setting. The computer is only one mode of delivery for instruction. It is not necessarily the best mode for a given situation. While in some circumstances it is, there are times when teachers, peers, or other media are more appropriate for delivery of instruction (Alessi & Trollip, 2001). It also should be noted that e-learning is not about the technology, it is about the learning. Kleiman (2000) addresses myths associated with using technology in the K-12 classroom. He states in his article, “the value of a computer, like that of any tool, depends upon what purposes it serves and how well it is used” (p. 3).

Benefits of E-learning

If the technology is just a tool and learning can take place without the technology, then why such a push for e-learning in the schools? The Office of Educational Technology (2010) posits, “Just as technology is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work, we must leverage it to provide engaging and powerful learning experiences, content, and resources and assessments that measure student achievement in more complete, authentic, and meaningful ways” (p. v). So this is the picture we should envision when imagining e-learning in our classrooms: opportunities that are “limitless, borderless, and instantaneous (p. vi).

Creating these opportunities can happen in several ways. Embracing e-learning can include the adoption of virtual schools or virtual courses, ubiquitous computing, and using e-learning in the classroom to support the curriculum. Although some virtual schools have had great success (Florida Virtual School, Virtual High School); incorporating e-learning does not mean that brick-and-mortar schools will go away. E-learning can offer many benefits to students who attend traditional schools. These benefits include taking a course online that the school cannot afford to offer, catching up on lost credits, and taking classes with students from across the city or world. E-learning can also be used in the classroom to enhance the curriculum. This may include a virtual field trip or the modeling of a science experiment.

Barriers to E-learning

It is obvious that e-learning has benefits. There is often funding available through organizations and grants to implement e-learning in schools. So why aren’t more schools incorporating e-learning? Kleiman (2004) suggests two reasons: teachers are unprepared and technology support staff are lacking. Toby Philpott has created a Mindomo concept map outlining the barriers he sees to implementing e-learning. These barriers include motivation, literacy, cultural differences, accessibility, economics, and freedom of information. So, before we can see our imagined 7th grader collaborating with classmates around the world, we have some work to do.

With the push for e-learning and a broadband infrastructure coming from the US Department of Education and the prospect of Google Fiber coming to Memphis, I would like to start a conversation on how we see e-learning changing K-12 education. What do you believe the impact will be? What are obstacles to its successful implementation?

References

Alessi, S.M. & Trollip, S.R. (2001). Multimedia for learning: Methods and development (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2003). E-learning and the science of instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kleiman, G. M. (2000). Myths and realities about technology in K-12 schools. In the Harvard Education Letter report, The digital classroom: How technology is changing the way we teach and learn. Retrieved March 18, 2010 from http://www.edtechleaders.org/documents/myths.pdf

Kleiman, G.M. (2004). Myths and realities about technology in k-12 schools: Five years later. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 4(2), 248-253.

Mayer, R. E. (2003). Elements of a science of e-learning. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 29(3), 297-313.

Office of Educational Technology. (2010). Transforming American education: Learning powered by technology. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.  Available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/os/technology/netp.pdf

Guest Blogger: Carmen Weaver is the project manager for the TLINC grant at the University of Memphis. She also teaches technology integration to undergraduate education majors at the University. Carmen has a background in Computer Information Systems as well as Secondary Education. She is a doctoral student in Instructional Design and Technology.

About Michael M Grant

Dr. Michael M. Grant is a passionate professor, researcher, and consultant. He works with faculty members, schools and universities, and districts to integrate technology meaningfully and improve teaching and learning. When 140 characters just won't work, then he blogs here at Viral-Notebook.com. He has a beautiful wife and three equally beautiful daughters, who will change the world.

18 Thoughts on “K-12 Education: Moving from the Schoolhouse to the Superhighway

  1. Carmen,

    Just as you describe it, it is not about technology, it’s about learning. Schools can spend time and money upgrading technology hoping for successful e-learning. However, if the purpose of use is not well-defined, if the teachers are not motivated and trained, if the administration in the school do not fully support the 21st century learning skills, if there is a lack of flexibility in the curriculum, the implementation of e-learning will not be successful. In my opinion, e-learning is more about a vision on how technology can bring learning to higher levels than about acquiring and using the latest tools.

  2. Carmen on March 23, 2010 at 9:38 am said:

    Thanks for your input, Suha. I agree that e-learning should be more about bringing learning to higher levels than about acquiring and using the latest tools. It is amazing what can be done with basic technology and a little creativity. Not having the newest, shiniest technology should not discourage schools from incorporating e-learning into the curriculum.

  3. Kristy on March 24, 2010 at 6:23 am said:

    Great post Carmen! I am definitely an advocate for increasing e-learning opportunities in our schools. As a former public high school teacher, one of my major concerns is with teachers and students having access to the tools necessary to make e-learning successful. I had to constantly fight for lab time for my students. In a school with more than 1,000 students, it was quite a struggle to find an open computer lab. When we were able to get lab time, we had to deal with machines running software and operating systems that were a minimum of 5 years old…in some cases 10 years old. That’s if the computers would boot up at all. Staff to deal with technology issues for the county was very short handed and stretched very thin. Therefore, computer repairs took quite a while.

    I’ve been out of the classroom for nearly six years now. Maybe some of these issues have been addressed. From the conversations I’ve had with friends who are still out there on the teaching front lines each day, it doesn’t sound like much has improved in the area of computer accessibilty for students and teachers within our schools.

  4. Carmen on March 24, 2010 at 9:00 am said:

    Kristy – I think most teachers have the same experience you had. What good is the technology if it is unavailable, broken, outdated, or the teachers aren’t trained to use it? I think one solution will be earmarking some technology money specifically for support and training. Also, teacher training institutions will need to make sure new teachers are ready to implement technology in their classrooms.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  5. Jeremy on March 27, 2010 at 10:29 am said:

    Great post Carmen. As a Middle School teacher I would have to agree that some of the major issues are accessibility to quality technology tools and a lack of teacher support for technology integration. When schools do decide to implement new technology into their classrooms, I often find that schools do not fully comprehend the need to support the teachers with how to implement the new technology. Many teachers simply have not had a lot of education nor experience with new technology and do not know how to appropriately integrate it into their classrooms or curriculum. In order for technology in classrooms to succeed teachers need to have consistent and ongoing support on how technology can be implemented into their classrooms.

  6. Carmen on March 30, 2010 at 6:45 pm said:

    Jeremy – Thanks for your comments! It seems that lack of support for teachers is biggest hindrance for large scale technology integration in schools. In times of budget cuts, support staff are usually the first to be let go even though most schools would boast their dedication to promoting 21st century skills. It appears that school administration will have to make the decision to support their faculty as they integrate technology into their classes. It is not enough to simply own the hardware.

  7. Rheanna on April 12, 2010 at 2:52 pm said:

    I love the thought of e-learning. I think it will benefit many schools and their students. I think one of the benefits is being able to interact or learn with other classes across the nation. I think this would get both of the classes interested and excited about coming to class. Unfortunately there are many teenage pregnancies in high school and maybe e-learning could help the teenage mothers who are unable to come back to school or those students who have faced unfortunate circumstances and had to drop out of school and are trying to make up hours to graduate. E-learning sounds very exciting and I hope by the time I get out into the teaching world I will be able to use some form of e-learning in my classroom.

  8. Laura Robinson on April 12, 2010 at 2:58 pm said:

    I agree with all of you, I think that incorporating technology will increase the productivity of our students, as long as the teachers know how to correctly integrate computers in the classroom. Students will be able to go beyond what textbooks teach them as well as have a true understanding of computers for the future.

  9. Erica Conrad on April 12, 2010 at 3:00 pm said:

    I agree that e-learning gives students the option of going to school while they are away, but I think that going to a traditional school is the best means for an education. Children use traditional school to develop communication and interaction skills that will help the throughout their life. Just getting a grade and not understanding why they got it wrong will not help with expanding in their knowledge, but rather bypass the difficult subjects. Yes the world is based around technology and it would prepare them for the workforce. By simply adding more technology courses can solve that problem.

  10. Emily on April 12, 2010 at 3:08 pm said:

    I think e-learning is a great idea! It would allow the students to interact with other students across the nation. It could also bring a better understanding on some of the things they are studying in the classroom and like Laura said, it would give the students a true understanding of what the computers will be in the future. I think this would be a great thing to bring into the classrooms!

  11. Nitu A. on April 12, 2010 at 3:09 pm said:

    My definition of technology integration is being able to use technology within a school to enhance each child’s educational experience. I believe that learning should not be constricted to a textbook and our students should be encouraged to use technology as much as they can. Learning can be fun! I do however agree with a lot of the previous posts – a school may be fully equipped with top-grade computers and the latest software, but there is no use to any of it if the teachers can’t find meaningful ways to integrate technology with the curriculum standards and enhance a child’s learning.

  12. Donna on April 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm said:

    As a city and a new teacher we need to give our students all the tools to wok with. But there are teachers stiil out in our schools that know very little about a computer.

  13. Deena Verner-Weathers on April 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm said:

    I wanted to answer the question that states why is there a push for e-learning? In our society today, most if not all of the learning tools are computer generated. There has to be some type of computer lesson in each classroom. There are many websites that have valuable information for all learners. This is why I believe e-learning is important.

  14. Brenda Redick on April 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm said:

    This is great idea. I think Mayor Wharton is headed somewhat in the right direction. E-learning is something for everyone to enjoy.

  15. Theresa on April 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm said:

    I believe that e learning would be a great contribution to our schools. It would help prepare the children of today for this technology advanced world.

  16. Di Di on April 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm said:

    I would love to see e-learning properly implemented in classrooms. Based on my experiences with my children’s classrooms, standardized test practice seems to be the limit of what teachers either can or will do with the technology they have available to them. I would love to see my children learning to use technology for more than gaming and test practice. The critical thinking skills that it takes to put together a meaningful presentation or the experience of collaborating with students from the UK or Japan or even California could be so much more exciting and meaningful for them.

  17. Brenda on April 12, 2010 at 4:52 pm said:

    E-learning is the way to go now a days

  18. Carmen on April 14, 2010 at 7:59 am said:

    Wow! It is great to have so many pre-service/new teachers involved in this conversation. The expertise of new teachers could be the key to some schools successfully integrating technology in the classroom. I would love to hear more about how new teachers plan to use the technology that is made available to them. Do you believe that the possibility of all students having school and home access to high-speed Internet connections will change the way you teach?

Post Navigation