Essential Conditions

Students in a Chicago elementary school recently used technology to explore the history of Ice Age animals in Illinois. Using the Internet, they "traveled" to the Illinois State Museum (200 miles away) and to the Brookfield Zoo (10 miles away) to gather information and talk with experts via two-way video. Then they constructed an electronic database to organize and analyze their data and shared their findings with other students outside their own school in multimedia reports posted on a Web site entitled "Mastadons in Our Own Back Yard".

Successful learning activities such as this depend on more than just the technology. Certain conditions are necessary for schools to effectively use technology for learning, teaching, and educational management. Physical, human, financial, and policy decisions greatly affect the success of technology use in schools.

A combination of essential conditions is required to create learning environments conducive to powerful uses of technology, including:

  • Vision with support and proactive leadership from the education system
  • Educators skilled in the use of the technology for learning
  • Content standards and curriculum resources
  • Student-centered approaches to learning
  • Assessment of the effectiveness of technology for learning
  • Access to contemporary technologies, software, and telecommunications networks
  • Technical assistance for maintaining and using technology resources
  • Community partners who provide expertise, support, and real-life interactions
  • Ongoing financial support for sustained technology use
  • Policies and standards supporting new learning environments

This document is designed to provide teachers, technology planners, teacher preparation institutions, and educational decision-makers with frameworks and standards to guide them in establishing enriched learning environments supported by technology.

The resulting learning environments provide opportunities for students to use technology to find and apply current information and resources, and to apply their academic skills for solving real-world problems. These environments engage students in activities that have educational technology skills and relevant curricular content interwoven.

Traditional educational practices no longer provide students with all the necessary skills for economic survival in todays workplace. Students must apply strategies for solving problems and use appropriate tools for learning, collaborating, and communicating. Todays learning environments must incorporate strategies and tools that prepare students for their futures. The following chart lists characteristics representing traditional approaches to learning and corresponding strategies often associated with new learning environments.


Incorporating New Strategies

Traditional Learning

New Learning

Teacher-centered instruction Student-centered learning
Single sense stimulation Multisensory stimulation
Single path progression Multipath progression
Single media Multimedia
Isolated work Collaborative work
Information delivery Student-centered learning
Passive learning Information exchange
Factual, knowledge-based, literal thinking Active/exploratory/inquiry-based learning
Reactive response Proactive/planned action
Isolated, artificial context Authentic, real-world context

The most effective learning environments meld traditional approaches and new approaches to facilitate learning of relevant content while addressing individual needs. The resulting learning environments should prepare students to:

  • Communicate using a variety of media and formats
  • Access and exchange information in a variety of ways
  • Compile, organize, analyze, and synthesize information
  • Draw conclusions and make generalizations based on information gathered
  • Use information and select appropriate tools to solve problems
  • Know content and be able to locate additional information as needed
  • Become self-directed learners
  • Collaborate and cooperate in team efforts
  • Interact with others in ethical and appropriate ways

Teachers know that the wise use of technology can enrich learning environments and enable students to achieve marketable skills. It is still critical that educators analyze the potential benefits of technology for learning and employ it appropriately.