Exploring computing in Indiana classrooms. How can we best use technology dollars to promote achievement?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Background of INaccess

This is background. These thoughts and others that played a role in developing the INaccess program will be the highlights of the next few posts.

The technology model that is used in most schools - general purpose labs plus several computers in each classroom - has been the "way to proceed" for many years. This model developed naturally from the days when it was considered an advancement to have
one computer in each classroom. Logically, if one is good, two is better, three is even better, four is wonderful, and five computers in each classroom borders on nirvana.

In addition to giving classrooms a "modern" appearance, increasing numbers of computers anywhere in the building helped school throughout Indiana to achieve a lower student/computer ratio. Just like computers in the classrooms, if an overall ratio of 8 students to one computer was good, then a 7:1 ratio was better, 5:1 ranked even better, and 3.2:1, where we stand today, is wonderful. Indiana ranks in the top five states according to those who measure this magical ratio of students to computers.

Somewhere along the line, the people who decided on the stuent/computer ratio measurement as the metric for success in technology apparently turned a blind eye at how the computers were being used. In many cases, teachers report that the computers in the classrooms are used primarily by early finishers and occasionally for special projects. Few report that the smattering of computers in a classroom is used as an integral part of the core curriculum of the class. On the other hand, lab computers stay so busy that it is rare when a class is scheduled more than once a week. If it is true that most students are scheduled into a lab once a week, and that computers in the classrooms are not often used, then if a class period is 45 minutes, and a student makes it to the lab once a week, it is hard to conceive that most students get more than 35-40 minutes a week using the technology in school. Observation validates this assumption. Other states have done more formal assessments on this issue, one finding that its students were receiving only 22 minutes a week with ready access to a computer.

While it is clear we have made tremendous advances in technology use in schools, it seems we could do better. We probably could spend the better part of what is left of 2005 talking about how we got here. Financial constraints, personnel limitations, planning issues tied to insufficient budgets, and other issues out of our immediate control all have played a part.

Instead of praising (and cursing) the winds that have swept us here, our time may be better spent in constructing a new paradigm for using technology in schools. If we can take the many lessons we have learned and put them to use in building a new model – one that more closely approximates the one used by businesses - we can make significant progress.

When is the last time a business bragged about having slightly over three (3) employees per computer?


  • At 2:17 PM, Blogger Ron said…

    Your comments on a kind of bean-counter mentality in bringing computers into schools struck a chord with me.

    I came away from reading Larry Cohen's "Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom" with a sense of the gulf between bringing computers into schools and embedding computers in the best processes of teaching and learning.

    I have fought several battles in the Boston School System with trying to invert the planning process from bringing in technology, as Cohen recommends, so that pedagogy, best practice, and end users define the process, not technology defining and constricting them.

    Although I am no longer in the Boston schools, it's an area of continued interest for me. I recently wrote a post on Web 2.0 and School 2.0 that's looking for a bridge between the two - a merger between pedagogy and technology. If you're interested, it's at

    I think you're on the right track.


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