The school board in a rather wealthy county on the west coast met to discuss plans for a new high school. The board members were very aware of the new wave of instructional technology and hoped to incorporate electronic classrooms, computer labs, and digital libraries into their plans. Mr. Walters just suggested that allocate one million dollars for instructional technology. Mrs. Snyder objected to the idea of writing a check not knowing how it would be spent. She had heard of a number of cases that in which counties had thrown money at some educational program that turned out to be a bust. She wanted to know how instructional technology would be incorporated in the curriculum; what type of classrooms and labs would be constructed; and how they would be staffed and maintained. The board tended to agree with Mrs. Snyder and the chairman suggested that they set up a study committee to learn more about the use of instructional technology in high schools. The committee was to be co-chaired by Mrs. Snyder and Mr. Walters and was given funds to hire a consultant on instructional technology.
Two months latter the committee reported back to the school board on their findings. To the surprise of the other board members Mrs. Snyder began by proposing that the board increase the allocation of funds for instructional technology to two million dollars. Mr. Walters then presented a detailed budget and plan for implementation. The plan included an integrated computer system and network for the high school with two electronic classrooms, two computer labs, and network connections into most of the remaining classrooms.
Waren was given the task of designing, procuring, and over seeing the construction of a new electronic classroom by the director of the computer science center at the state university. He was thrilled with the challenge and opportunity to build such a facility but in all honesty was teriffied by the task. Where would he start? What should be in an electronic classroom? What examples existed that he could learn from? What were the expectations by the faculty and administrators? The risks seemed tremendous in terms of mistakes and failures. Yet the potential for creativity and innovation were encouraging.
Waren immediately scheduled visits to three electronic classrooms that he had heard about. To his shock they were very different from each other in type of hardware, room design, and philosophy of instruction. Should he pick one and build a replica of it? Should he try to mix a better synthesis? Should he try something quite different? The design choices seemed overwhelming with the types of computers, local area networks, servers, displays, desks, room arrangement, etc. He decided to draw up several tennative plans and run them by an ad hoc committee selected by the director of the computer science center from the faculty in a number of departments. The committee turned out to have some very strong perferences. This helped to define that archetecture of the room and left Waren with the job of selecting the best equipment from the vendors and starting the bidding process. He was much more comfortable at this level and was quickly able to configure the right equipment for the room.
The new electronic learning center had just been completed. Mr. Chin, on staff in the computer science center, was in charge of software development. While he had installed a number of off-the-shelf packages for word processing, presentation graphics, database management, and productivity tools, there was almost nothing in the way of lectureware, classroom management, collaboration, and interaction software. Not being an educator he was no sure were to begin. Meanwhile, Dr. Wilkens had applied to teach his course on ancient history in the room. Dr. Wilkens had most of his materials in electronic form; but he was concerned about how to host this material in the electronic classroom. How would he call up the material to be presented to the students during lectures and discussion? How could he copy material to their files so they could study it? How would he manage the material typed in by the students? It seemed like a nightmare of files to Dr. Wilkens.
When he first discussed these things with Mr. Chin, they immersed themselves in thoughts of batch files and directory paths. Both Mr. Chin and Dr. Wilkens agreed that while this may be the way the computer functioned, this was not the way it should look to the students or even the faculty working with the system. It must be easy to use, transparent, and intuitive. They both knew that it would involve a lot work, prototyping, experimenting, coding, changing, and evaluating. They also knew that they needed a powerful, multimedia programming system in which to work. It would probably be some type of stackware such as HyperCard, SuperCard, ToolBook, or ObjectPlus.
Each of these scenarios highlights the design choices, the process of planning, and the painstaking implementation of instructional technology in the electronic educational environment. In each case it is extremely important to involve creative and highly motivated individuals as well as the collective wisdom of committees and consultants. Although still early in the development of instructional technology and electronic classrooms, there have been many lessons learned in prototype classrooms by both the designers and the faculty using them.
In this section we will look at the implementation of the switched-on classroom. In Chapter 4 we will consider the many design choices for the classroom infrastructure. What type of computers are required? What about the network? What about the room? In Chapter 5 we will discuss the relationship between the electronic educational environment and the process of classroom learning. Specifically, we will introduce the overarching framework of hypermedia a vehicle for creating, storing, and conveying, course material. Finally, in Chapter 6 we will begin to introduce a particular implementation called HyperCourseware. HyperCourseware is an integrated software package that pulls together all of the compelling forces outlined in the last chapter.
[Table of Contents] [Chapter 3] [Chapter 4]