PART IV: Application and Practical Steps


Boris had really enjoyed his class with Dr. Highton on marine and estuarine invertebrates, Zool 481. The only problem with class was that it was wowfully behind in terms of Dr. Highton's use of instructional technology. He was still struggling with 35 mm slide projectors and transcribing notes onto the blackboard. The students were a bit frustrated with not having access to the visuals when they were studying. The lectures were excellent, but students had to write notes furiously and sketch drawings frantically hoping that they would be able to decode them later. Boris had seen an announcement of a Digital Studies course, World 301, specifically for undergraduates who were interested in generating electronic materials for courses in their majors. Boris asked if Dr. Highton would be interested in this, hoping not to offend him by implying that his teaching was not up to snuff. In fact, Dr. Highton was thrilled. He told Boris that he had wanted to do something like this for a while but didn't know where to start.

The next semester Boris signed up for the course and arranged to sit in on Zool 481 again. During the first two weeks of World 301 the instructor gave a crash course on getting started with scanners, how to work with the materials and the instructor, and the use of templates to host materials on their World Wide Web server. Boris met with Dr. Highton just 15 minutes a week to pick up and return slides, notes, and reference articles and to get his approval on materials hosted on the WWW.

Initially. Dr. Highton had no idea what to expect. He had never used a Web browser before. During the first month he was amazed and impressed that all of this information could be viewed and made accessible to the students. During the second month, he started to become more critical about the quality of the images and how they were organized and annotated. He started to write additional notes and explanations. He found a number of additional images that he wanted to include in his materials. He asked Boris to change a number of things about the interface and he even wanted to develop his own look and feel for Zool 301 instead of using the templates supplied in World 301. Boris was ready for this at this point in the semester. His instructor in World 301 had warned the students that this would happen. But by this point in the semester they had learned enough to be able to go back over previous material and make these changes.

During the semester the new materials were made available to the students in Zool 481 on a provisional basis with no guarantee of accuracy or timeliness. Nevertheless, about 60% of the students regularly accessed the materials accroding to the server logs. In addition, Boris talked with a number of students about the materials informally. They had a number of suggestions about additional materials and information that they wanted to see posted. Boris let Dr. Highton know about their requests and tried to supply as much of this information as he could.

By the end of the semester, Boris has accomplished exactly what he had wanted. He had converted all slides and lecture materials and hosted them in an easy to access interface. Dr. Highton was extremely pleased with the materials and for the first time in five years had significantly added to and revised his course. He had plans to continue development during the next semester. He noticed that students seemed to do much better during this semester than in previous ones. Students rating the materials on a standard from from World 301, indicated that they were very satisfied with the materials. Boris got an "A" in the course.

This scenario represents some of the practical aspects of moving into the switched-on classroom. It may not be as easy as this story suggests, but it will be inevitable.

The previous sections have discussed the theoretical potential of the switched-on classroom, the concepts necessary for implementing electronic educational environments, and a working prototype called "HyperCourseware." Little has been said about practical issues of switching on an entire the educational system or the bottom line question, "Is it worth the investment?" This last section addresses these issues. First, we will survey some of the empirical studies on the efficacy of multimedia and interactive materials in the classroom and the broader issue of what we are trying to measure when we take about success. Second, we will look at the issue of spanning the grade levels and disciplines with the same switched-on educational environment and what works best at different levels and with different subjects. Third, we will have to contend not only with the students, but with a more formidable group, the teachers, and find out what it takes to transition the faculty into the switched-on classroom. Fourth, we will have to broaden our horizons far beyond the physical classroom and the school campus and consider the edu-globe and eventually the edu-verse on the World Wide Web. This will bring us full circle to consider a rethinking of what we are about in education.

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