When Computers Go to School

How Kent School Implements Information Technology to Enrich Teaching and Learning

by Phillip D. Devin

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There is no universal agreement on whether schools should invest in information technology for teaching and learning. It has been posited that technology can facilitate learning by enhancing students’ ability to experiment, practice, and experience the real world. It has been further posited that the ability to use information technology well will affect individuals’ personal productivity and economic well-being and, in the aggregate, the nation’s competitive position. The popularity of computers in schools suggests that these and similar arguments have resonated with educators. Some, however, have suggested that spending money on such technology is not worth it. They question whether students can cope with a richness of information resources and whether technology-mediated applications will render the curriculum banal and produce individuals of shallow intellect largely by externalizing and homogenizing thought and by eliminating introspection. In 1996, Kent School embarked on a program to integrate information technology into teaching and learning. To that end, the school installed a computer network and equipped all faculty and students with laptop computers that they could carry with them to class and connect from almost anywhere on campus to the network, which gave them access to email, shared folders, and the Internet. Core data about participants’ use of the technology and their attitudes toward it were gathered through surveys that were administered during winter term 1998 and winter term 2000. These data were illuminated by interviews with faculty and staff, focus groups with students, and observation of classes. The report addresses the question of whether information technology can be used to benefit teaching and learning and summarizes the uses and benefits of the technology that were reported by Kent faculty and students.

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The research described in this report was funded by Kent School through the generosity of an anonymous donor and was performed by RAND Education.

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