In 2000, the Benton Foundation and CCT received additional funding from the Joyce Foundation to continue analyzing the impact of the federal E-Rate program on large, urban school districts by conducting research on ways to implement evaluation and research findings through public educational policy. The research and implementation project included the following objectives:
- Increase local capacity for evaluation of educational technology's impact on student learning in two school districts;
- Educate policy makers about the evaluation process related to educational technology;
- Design a decision tree to assist policy makers in making strategic educational technology investments;
- Develop evaluation tools that could be used in other districts.
This project built on a previous collaboration, also funded by the Joyce Foundation. This effort produced a report on the impact of the E-Rate on four large urban school districts (see 'The E-Rate in America: A Tale of Four Cities,' March, 2000, link located in our Further Reading section).
In this followup project, CCT collaborated with two schools in each of two large urban school districts--Milwaukee and Chicago--to develop a framework for assessing the particular role that technological tools are playing in supporting student learning. Our goal was to create a toolkit for classroom teachers that will support them in assessing how and whether the kinds of technological tools they use commonly with students are contributing to their students' learning. In turn, we also produced versions of these assessment materials to share with a broader audience of local, state and national policymakers to inform their thinking about the roles that technology can play in supporting and extending student learning.
Our emphasis was on technology-rich projects that students are currently and commonly engaging in in schools with adequate technology resources. This is because there is a great need for broadly applicable tools for assessing student technology use. Teachers vary widely in their level of comfort with and use of technology, and individuals at all levels on this continuum are in the early stages of identifying and articulating the unique benefits technology offers their students - an essential step if we are to effectively assess whether those benefits are having an impact on learning. Therefore, we studied student projects that represent the most common uses of technology currently taking place in schools - work with tools such as Internet browsers, spreadsheet programs and multimedia presentation tools. Our goals were to:
- Develop a conceptual framework for understanding the development of technology skills and media literacy over time;
- Produce tools for gauging where students are situated within that framework at various times and;
- Help teachers learn how to use those tools in the development of technology-rich activities in order to target particular student learning needs.