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By James D. Torr
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A Tennessee study discovered that students’ attitudes toward computers changed the more they used them. Over a three-year period, students’ enjoyment of the technology declined steadily, confirming that the novelty of using any technology plays a significant role in learning. In addition, the older students were generally less enthusiastic about computers than younger students, and the girls’ responses were consistently more negative than the boys’. The novelty effect is one reason why so many people believe that computers can motivate students and thereby improve their academic performance—motivation is a critical factor in determining how well children perform in school.
The only exception was found in schools serving low-income students, where there was a stronger association between achievement and technology investment. The significance of the Mercury News study, however, lies not just in its results, but also in the type of test that produced them. Despite being controversial (it has since been discontinued for political reasons), the CLAS was regarded as an improvement over other standardized tests in that it attempted to measure the quality of students’ thinking and their achievement across the curriculum, rather than their ability merely to memorize facts, fill in the blanks, or select the correct answers to multiplechoice questions.
They need time to learn: time to reflect, absorb discoveries, and adapt practices. • They need collegial advisers rather than supervisors; advising is a partnership. Internet-based communities of teachers are becoming an increasingly important tool for overcoming teachers’ sense of isolation. They also provide avenues for geographically dispersed teachers who are participating in the same kinds of innovations to exchange information and offer support to each other. Examples of these communities include the LabNet Project, which involves over 1,000 physics teachers; Bank Street College’s Mathematics Learning project; the QUILL network for Alaskan teachers of writing; and the HumBio Project, in which teachers are developing biology curricula over the network.