Integration or Transformation?

A cross-national study of information and communication technology in school education


Appendix 6.9

6.9      USA background information

6.9.1      National policy

The essence of American education is characterised by the decentralisation of its system and the allowance for diversity in instructional practice                     (Anderson, 1996, p. 445)

The USA shows extreme examples of uniformity (all classes have between 19 and 27 students) and disparity (some States spend up to three times more per pupil than others) (Anderson, 1996, p. 445). Ten percent of students go to non-public schools, and boards of the 15,000 local school districts make policy for the remainder in public schools. These boards are mainly democratically elected rather than appointed, and largely independent of State control (Barham, Coyle, & Garrou, 2002, p. 23).


Anderson (1996, pp. 460-462) reported four curriculum models for the use of computers in schools, although he said “it would be questionable to suggest that the United States has a computer curriculum” at that time. The four models he observed were:

·      Programming or problem solving

·      Computer literacy

·      Computer as tool

·      Technology integration.


As with any innovation issue, the stresses and strains in the normal administrative framework are exacerbated for decision-makers by new principles and personal unfamiliarity with information technology. Therefore some imaginative ways of introducing computers into schools have been adopted in the US as well as other countries. One such scheme has been to recycle obsolete computers from business or government into schools, which has also been done in Australia (Tasmanian Department of Premier and Cabinet, 1999). In the case of computers which have had their hard-drive wiped for security or commercial confidentiality reasons before this transaction, operating system and educational software has to be alternatively sourced to make them operational again. Diane Frank describes Federal government assistance to shore up this breach as an example of maximising the benefits of public monies (Frank, 1998). The 1998 national data for the USA indicated there was a student-computer ratio of about six public school students per computer, with variations favouring small schools in rural locations (US Department of Education, 2000). 


The US Census Bureau reported that 49.7 percent of school students had home access to computers in 1997, with children over the age of 12 having greater access. Use and access depended to a great degree upon parental income and educational achievement. More children used a computer at school than at home, though no analysis was provided of the duration for either setting. Games had given way to educational activities as the most frequent home computer use between 1993 and the 1997 surveys. One fifth of children with a computer at home also had Internet access (Newburger, 1999).


An important point in national policy was reached on 23rd January 1996, when President Clinton included in his “State of the Union” address the call for every classroom to be connected to the Internet (the ‘information superhighway’). This was followed on 15th February 1996 by the launch of the Technology Literacy Challenge, and shortly thereafter, in June 1996, the nation’s first national educational technology plan, Getting America’s Students Ready for the 21st Century: Meeting the Technology Literacy Challenge (Office of Educational Technology, 1996). This plan was under review at the time of writing, with the year-long revision due to be completed by the northern hemisphere Autumn (approximately November 2000). Some of the products of this process are discussed at the end of the chapter.


6.9.2      The significance of national strategies

At the APEC Workshop in Canada (3-6 December 1999) the delegate from the United States Education Department revealed that the Federal government has traditionally been able to affect only a small part of the public education process. This was because its contribution to funding amounts to only about six percent of the total. The supporting data for this assertion were later posted on the web-site reporting the Workshop as shown in Table 21.


Table 21: Education funding in the USA by level of government (1998)

Source of funds by government level

Billions of dollars











All Other



(US Department of Education, 2000)


However, the delegate maintained that the total Federal funding for information technology in education amounted to 25 percent of the total spending for ICT in schools, illustrating the perceived need to facilitate rapid change. This funding at four times the normal level of support was directed into information technology by a variety of processes, including special education funding. This quadrupled proportion of resourcing for ICT allowed the Federal Government a much more significant role. White (1997) reports an analysis done by New York-based management firm McKinesey & Co. Inc. which stated that the remaining 75 percent for ICT in schools came from state governments (20 percent), local school districts (40 percent) and private sources (15 percent). This suggests that the extra funding provided by the Federal government has been required to compensate for deficiencies at the State legislature level.


Other examples of targeted grants from the Federal Government were seen in parts of the program Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to use Technology (Department of Education, 1999). This program made over 200 grants in 1999, totalling US$53,750,000, with 40 percent of those awards continuing for three years. The grants were available in three forms: capacity building, implementation and as catalyst grants for large-scale development or certification projects.


6.9.3      Curriculum development

The NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) Project was an initiative sponsored and run by ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education, 1998). The project flowed from the Society's involvement in national teacher accreditation work, but was given a structure that went beyond this when funding appeared to be available from a variety of partners including Apple Computer Inc., The Milken Exchange on Education Technology, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the US Department of Education. The overall shape of the project is given in Table 22.


Table 22: National Educational Technology Standards project plan

Standards for school implementation

standards for students

Cross-curriculum standards for enhancing student learning with technology

connecting curriculum and technology

Providing curriculum provided examples of effective use of technology in teaching and learning.

educational technology support standards

Projected to describe standards for professional development, systems, access, and support services essential to support effective use of technology

standards for student assessment and evaluation of technology use

Projected to describe various means of assessing student progress and evaluating the use of technology in learning and teaching

Standards developed with NCATE (National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education)

pre-service standards

Standards for accreditation of teacher preparation programs for specialisation in educational computing and technology,

Unit guidelines describing essential conditions needed to support technology use in teacher preparation programs

General standards for providing a foundation in technology for all teachers


The Standards for students were particularly relevant to this study, and these are described in detail in Table 23. They provided evidence of a national impetus towards the Phase 2 outcomes proposed in the broad aims of this study. A judgement of these nationally produced standards could be used to make an assessment of the general level of expectations for information technology in school classroom.


Table 23: National Educational Technology Standards for Students

Basic operations and concepts

Students demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology systems.

Students are proficient in the use of technology.

Social, ethical, and human issues


Students understand the ethical, cultural, and societal issues related to technology.

Students practice responsible use of technology systems, information, and software.

Students develop positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity.

Technology productivity tools

Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.

Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, preparing publications, and producing other creative works.

Technology communications tools


Students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences.

Students use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.

Technology research tools


Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.

Students use technology tools to process data and report results.

Students evaluate and select new information resources and technological innovations based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.

Technology problem solving and decision-making tools

Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions.

Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.

(International Society for Technology in Education, 1998)


These six areas for students aligned very well with other national frameworks of similar intention, with the main points of basic operational skills, a standard set of computer learning modes and a section on social impact. The last section was not found universally, although it was common in the curricula of other countries.  There seemed to be some debate as to whether the impact of computers on society was a particular element of study within the ICT curriculum or whether it should be addressed in the general social issue areas of the school. As social studies staff might be untrained to include this relatively new area of concerns in their teaching, the option of assigning them the task of teaching about the impact of computers might not be appropriate. However, this author has seen the issues covered in the context of a religious education program with a focus on harmonious living which embraced a gamut of social concerns from nuclear power to genetic engineering. Information technology was placed in a relative context alongside these other topics.  Texas

Most states of the USA have their own standards for the absorption of information technology (usually just referred to as ‘technology’) into school education. Texas has a set of objectives for learning in most curriculum areas called TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). A subset of these is called Technology Applications, and the exposition by the Texas Center for Educational Technology makes it clear that:

The Technology Applications TEKS strands are designed so that connections can be made easily with other content areas. It is important that the Technology Applications TEKS are connected with learning in other areas and not seen as isolated knowledge and skills.  
                                                      (Texas Center for Educational Technology, 1999)

Within this scheme, presented in the legislation as a separate course, but with this cross-layering intention, there are four main strands, as shown in Table 24.


Table 24: Texas TEKS technology applications strands (1999)



Through the study of Technology Applications foundations, including technology-related terms, concepts, and data input strategies, students learn to make informed decisions about technologies and their applications.


Information Acquisition:

The efficient acquisition of information includes the identification of task requirements; the plan for using search strategies; and the use of technology to access, analyse, and evaluate the acquired information.


Solving Problems:

By using technology as a tool that supports the work of individuals and groups in solving problems, students will select the technology appropriate for the task, synthesise knowledge, create a solution, and evaluate the results.



Students communicate information in different formats and to diverse audiences. A variety of technologies will be used. Students will analyse and evaluate the results.


In reporting the reaction of pre-service educators to these technology applications TEKS, Salinas (2000) found them keen to integrate this issue with others they had been exposed to. As one student teacher expressed it: “So important are the multi-intelligence activities and responding to the needs with multiple intelligences. I think technology can help us to address those needs”. This feeling that technology can and will provide an extra dimension to teaching, and an ability to cope with a multiplicity of learning needs in a single classroom can be common for supporters of IT. It may have some justification in fact, for as Cuban (1999) asserted, many studies have shown “computer-assisted instruction does increase test scores, particularly if its aimed at reading and math and certain levels of skills”.  Ohio

The Ohio SchoolNet Learner Technology Profiles were modelled fairly strictly on the ISTE National Educational Technology Standards for Students (see Table 25).


Table 25: Ohio SchoolNet Learner Technology profiles

Basic operations and concepts

Social, ethical, and human issues

Technology productivity tools

Technology communications tools

Technology research tools

Technology Problem Solving and decision-making tools

(Ohio SchoolNet, 1999)


Having established the profiles for students, the organisation went on to produce a learning matrix for teachers which closely follows them. This high degree of alignment between curriculum intentions for students and training outcomes for teachers is a notable feature of this set of policies. Both sets of outcomes also align strongly with the ISTE/NETS standards, and this has been identified in Table 26.


Table 26: Paraphrase of the Ohio SchoolNet technology learning matrix for teachers










traditional teaching





multi-media presentations



searching and collaboration

teaching resources from Internet

policy formulation, electronic resource recommendation


project planning, desktop publishing

e-group management, software evaluation

problem solving

development of digital teaching materials



Aligns with ISTE/NETS

Basic operations and concepts  & Technology productivity tools

Technology communications tools & Technology research tools

Technology research tools  & Technology Problem Solving and decision-making tools

Integrates other skills into a framework to facilitate teaching and learning.

(Ohio SchoolNet, 1999)


It is clear from this example that even in a large federated country such as the USA, the constituent autonomous regions can quickly adopt nationally established standards. The mechanism by which this adoption can take place varies, but in the case of the USA, targeted central funding, tied to the adoption of nationally agreed standards, has been quite effective. Whether or not these standards represent the ideal level of attainment is another question, which was examined by some of the professionals interviewed in the study.


6.9.4      Teacher training and professional development

In 1999 there were 1248 schools, colleges and departments of education providing teacher education. In the US the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accredited many of these through a voluntary process, although state accreditation is generally mandatory. These institutions were surveyed to find how they were preparing new teachers to use information technology in their work (Moursund & Bielefeldt, 1999). The survey analysis revealed four reasonably discrete factors: facilities, integration, application skills and field experience. About one-third of the surveyed sample felt their programs were limited because of deficiencies in their IT facilities. This meant that staff could not adequately model skills (which both they and students possessed), leading to lower integration of IT use into courses. However, the best predictor of integration was basic technology proficiency, as represented by scores in the application factor.


The authors of the survey recommended that IT instruction be integrated into other courses, and that faculty staff should be rewarded and motivated to do this, once sufficient IT infrastructure capacity was available. An area of concern was the lack of opportunity for students to practice IT integration skills in the field under the supervision of competent staff, and this would perhaps require external changes before it could be fully resolved.


The survey made no recommendations relating to the significance of application skills in determining integration, except to suggest that mature-age entrants to teacher education programs be offered stand-alone IT skills courses to give them the same level of expertise found in recent school-leavers. A more methodical approach might be to assess all entrants to the course for technology-specific and local ICT infrastructure-specific skills, and to remediate these when found deficient. It was thought possible that technology update training might be required for all students during the course, since technical advances are proceeding so rapidly that initial skills would become obsolete during a 4-year teacher education course.


ISTE was involved in devising ICT standards for pre-service teacher education with the Foundation Standards reflecting professional studies in education that provide fundamental concepts and skills for applying information technology in educational settings. It was recommended that all candidates seeking initial certification or endorsements in teacher preparation programs should have opportunities to meet the educational technology foundations standards. These NCATE standards for teachers are listed in Table 27:


Table 27: NCATE-approved standards in technology for all teacher trainees

A. Basic Computer/Technology Operations and Concepts. Candidates will use computer systems-run software to access, generate and manipulate data, and to publish results. They will also evaluate performance of hardware and software components of computer systems and apply basic troubleshooting strategies as needed.

1. operate a multimedia computer system with related peripheral devices to successfully install and use a variety of software packages.

2. use terminology related to computers and technology appropriately in written and oral communications.

3. describe and implement basic troubleshooting techniques for multimedia computer systems with related peripheral devices.

4. use imaging devices such as scanners, digital cameras, and/or video cameras with computer systems and software.

5. demonstrate knowledge of uses of computers and technology in business, industry, and society.

B. Personal and Professional Use of Technology. Candidates will apply tools for enhancing their own professional growth and productivity. They will use technology in communicating, collaborating, conducting research and solving problems. In addition, they will plan and participate in activities that encourage lifelong learning and will promote equitable, ethical and legal use of computer/technology resources.

1. use productivity tools for word processing, database management and spreadsheet applications.

2. apply productivity tools for creating multimedia presentations.

3. use computer-based technologies including telecommunications to access information and enhance personal and professional productivity.

4. use computers to support problem solving, data collection, information management, communications, presentations and decision making.

5. demonstrate awareness of resources for adaptive assistive devices for student with special needs.

6. demonstrate knowledge of equity, ethics, legal and human issues concerning use of computers and technology.

7. identify computer and related technology resources for facilitating lifelong learning and emerging roles of the learner and the educator.

8. observe demonstrations or uses of broadcast instruction, audio/video conferencing and other distance learning applications.

C. Application of Technology in Instruction. Candidates will apply computers and related technologies to support instruction in their grade level and subject areas. They must plan and deliver instructional units that integrate a variety of software, applications and learning tools. Lessons developed must reflect effective grouping and assessment strategies for diverse populations.

1. explore, evaluate and use computer/technology resources including applications, tools, educational software and associated documentation.

2. describe current instructional principles, research, and appropriate assessment practices as related to the use of computers and technology resources in the curriculum.

3. design, deliver and assess student learning activities that integrate computers/technology for a variety of student group strategies and for diverse student populations.

4. design student learning activities that foster equitable, ethical, and legal use of technology by students.

5. practice responsible, ethical and legal use of technology, information and software resources.

(International Society for Technology in Education, 1996)

6.9.5      School programs

The development of programs in schools was dependent upon both local needs and national or state directives. These needs did not lie solely in the direction of educational advancement, and some inventive ways were devised to both justify expenditure and to derive income. A particularly inventive program was reported in a group of ten Michigan middle schools that served needy inner city and rural school areas. Informed by FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) data showing teenage school students were at most risk of committing violent acts and being victims between 3 and 6pm, after-school community care centres were equipped with computer clubhouses. The program has seen the emergence of a unique youth culture based on ideas of freedom to learn, respect for one another, and a healthy attitude toward cooperative learning and shared knowledge[1]. The project focused on language arts, social studies, science and mathematics, and aimed to help improve communication and critical thinking skills (Girod & Zhao, 2000).


The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act was reauthorised in 1994, becoming the Improving America’s Schools Act. This included Title III, Technology for Education, which in turn included the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund (TLCF). Congress found fifteen reasons for focusing on technology for education, and allowed local flexibility in implementation. Integrated with the national technology plan, the program had four main pillars (United States Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, 1999, p. 4):

All teachers in the nation will have the training and support they need to help all students learn through computers and though the information highway;

All teachers and students will have access to modern multi-media computers in their classrooms;

Every classroom will be connected to the Information Superhighway and

Effective and engaging software and on-line learning resources will be an integral part of every school’s curriculum.

The responses of States to this initiative were mixed. On one hand, the State of Oregon was granted exemptions and invested money into technology planning, a necessary pre-requisite for many other grant schemes available. Ohio combined TLCF funds with its own programs to invest in computer resources for schools, and created the SchoolNet professional development organisation. The report highlights this wide variation, and suggested steps be taken to at least co-ordinate evaluation of state progress on the four pillars.


6.9.6      Analysis

The 1999-2000 review of the USA‘s first national educational technology plan has produced some visions for the future (Office of Educational Technology, 1999). Roger Schank used the forum to challenge ideas that schools should persist in their current form:

Instead of teaching academic subjects, teachers and schools will focus on combating the increasing social isolation that our society will face. Schools will become activity centers where students work in groups on real-world projects, go on trips, and participate in the community. While students may also use schools as locations to engage in on-line course work, this course work will be just as available at home.

This indicates a movement towards a transformation of school education. In this national review forum, such a position could be considered to have significance for the likely direction the Federal government of the country concerned may take in the future.


In terms of preparation, an on-line survey by Technology and Learning magazine found that 72 percent of teacher education colleges reported a requirement for students to complete a technology course as part of general teacher certification programs (Proftak, 1999). This indicated a widespread understanding of the importance of the issues, but, without a breakdown of the content of such courses, it was not possible to say whether this represented a general transformation.


Some hesitancy was expressed in terms of equity issues when discussing the importance of home-based computers in learning. The question of the “digital divide” was investigated by market research group Gartner (Smolenski, 2000). He concluded that access alone was an insufficient measure of this division within society, since some socio-economic groups had less experience in using the Internet, and used it for different purposes. This would seem to be a difficulty that would be overcome naturally as access increases to reach everyone in the country. Smolenski urged government to adopt policies that closed the divide, by encouraging business practices that maximised home access and use. Unusually, he suggested that students, not schools be targeted for Internet access, contrasting the relatively small amount (1 hour per week) young people were able to use it in school with the potential of home use.


Other hesitancies were expressed by groups that questioned the validity of learning experiences through computers for particular groups of students, especially the very young (Cordes & Miller, 2000). While applying the technology inappropriately would be accepted as counter-productive, their other argument about the real cost of ICT in schools was a strong one. A full costing of periodic hardware updating and teacher professional development was expected to be nearly five percent of total school budgets. However, they also comment on a government report that recommended more use of technology, since “the probability that elementary and secondary education will prove to be the one information-based industry in which computer technology does not have a natural role is far too low to spend money on investigating the matter” (President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, 1997, p. 93-4).


These reservations about the use of computers mirror the messages coming from classroom teachers and educational administrators, making a potentially insuperable combination of difficulties for innovation. The background study of the USA had shown that these difficulties were being addressed in a piecemeal fashion, with small instances of development, and remarkably little information flow from layer to layer in the educational hierarchy.


[1] There can be no doubt that computers have become rapidly popular with students (Quinn, 1998). Theories of empowerment, neuro-biology (Fluck, 2000c), and motivation have been put forward to explain this. In some cases the popularity of computers has been so great that students have used them too much. The author was present at an interesting meeting of teaching staff at a college in Tasmania in 1992 when it was argued that e-mail should be banned from the computer network. Opponents of the facility were concerned that the universal student addiction to its use was detrimental to learning, for they preferred this use of computers to the on-task activities set. A rapprochement was reached whereby this casual use of the equipment was permitted for the first and last 5 minutes of 90 minute classes, and the imposition of a 15 minute internal delay on this facility prevented extended chat-type use.