From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal


Vol 8|No 1|September|1998 

 The Remedy:

"First the purpose . . . then the design!"

by Jamie McKenzie

 

 

 

When we are planning networked schools, we should agree on a clear educational purpose. We might decide, for example, to create an "information literate school community." This choice would then guide the design and development of our program.

First things first! First the purpose . . . then the design. In all too many places, the network precedes the purpose and is distantly (if ever) related. In all too many districts, the network is installed "cookie-cutter" fashion from school to school with little relationship to learning goals and process. This gap between purpose and design is a recipe for failure and waste.

When we begin with a clearly stated purpose, we can then focus our efforts. This focus produces momentum and results. Mish mash, on the other hand, leads to confusion, scatter and drift.

If we are constructing an "information literate school community," the "building blocks" fall into place.

  • The shape of professional development
  • The nature of classroom activities
  • The placement of equipment
  • The lay-out
  • The time-line
  • The assessment activities

The Pay-Off: Higher Test Scores and Stronger Reasoning

Most American states, Australian states and Canadian provinces are moving to increasingly challenging tests of mathematics and reading. What makes them more challenging is the stress upon interpretation and independent thinking. More than ever before, these tests measure information literacy . . . the ability to translate information into new meaning. These tests rarely ask questions which can be answered directly by locating a key word or sentence. Almost all of them require that students put two and two together. They must figure out the answer. They must combine clues. They must weigh evidence. They build, construct and invent an answer.

These new, more demanding tests require the inferential reasoning required when exploring essential questions or making decisions. Those students who enjoy the benefits of an information literate school community will face this new challenge with comfort and skill.

While few schools and districts have yet developed persuasive and valid measures to demonstrate the return on their technology investment, the information literate school community should look to these instruments for evidence of right doing.

Some states have moved so far as to require that students write out answers to demanding questions instead of making multiple choices.

The Illinois Department of Education distributes an eighth grade passage that describes conflict between a teenager and his recently widowed mother. She gives him very little opportunity to test his wings. The question asked of students? "How well does the title ‘Ship in a Bottle’ fit this story?" They are told to supply evidence to support their response.

In a similar fashion, Maryland requires that students demonstrate their reasoning skills in areas such as science, reading, social studies and mathematics.

    1993 MSPAP Proficiency Levels

    Grade 8 Social Studies

    Students demonstrate: An ability to define and clarify problems drawn from history and the social sciences, judge information related to problems, propose solutions and draw conclusions based on available data.

    http://www.mdk12.org/data/mspap/index.html

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Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie and Gretchen Offutt. Some were also modified with Photoshop.
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