New book rethinks how computers are used in a classroom

Daniel Bott

Computers are presently available to almost anyone, at any time in any place. Any place except for schools.

Karen Swan, Research Center for Educational Technology professor, described the technological advancements in the world. She also said if schools did not catch up with the rest of society, soon they would be in real trouble.

Swan and Mark van ‘t Hooft, technology specialist/researcher at the Research Center for Educational Technology, have co-edited a book called Ubiquitous Computing in Education: Invisible Technology, Visible Impact, which was released Sunday.

The book details how the concept of ubiquitous computing should be applied to the current U.S. education system.

The concept behind ubiquitous computing is that technology is always available, but not the focus of learning.

“The book is the first of its kind,” van ‘t Hooft said. “It talks about the effect technology has on teaching and learning.”

Swan said they are “anticipating an ‘it’s about time someone did this’ response.”

She said in a ubiquitous computing environment, computers are simply part of the learning environment the same way that pencils, chalk and books are.

“I would be aiming for the abolition of computer class,” she said. “We don’t have pencil class. We don’t have a how-to-read-a-text-book class. Those things are integrated into the learning of other subjects.”

Although Swan said ubiquitous computing did not mean that every child had a computer, van ‘t Hooft made the point that the idea of sharing computers in other environments, for example the work place, was a thing of the past.

Swan, van ‘t Hooft and Dale Cook, director of the Research Center for Educational Technology, agreed economic factors were obstacles to making computers a more permanent part of the teaching and learning experience.

He said the professional development of teachers needs to be rethought.

“We have to rethink the way teachers teach and the way kids learn given the technologies that are available,” he said.

Cook said the professional training for teachers, in regards to technology, was not always adequate. This has not been just an obstacle to having more technology in schools, but an obstacle in the use of existing technology.

“A lot of computers are unused or used ineffectively,” he said.

Sophomore exploratory major Andrew White described the computing skills of his high school teachers as “mediocre, they didn’t grasp a lot of stuff.” White went to West Geauga High School and said they were still using computers from 1995.

Freshman psychology major Julie Kaveshnikov described the computing skills of teachers at Richmond Heights High School as better.

“Most of them knew what they were doing,” she said.

Contact technology reporter Daniel Bott at [email protected].