Educators have used computers and other information technologies as tools to increase student learning in America's elementary and secondary schools for over 30 years. The 1960s brought computer-assisted instruction (CAI) to schools. CAI was developed to help students acquire basic skills, practice them, and measure learning gains.
With the development and increased availability of lower-cost personal computers, the use of technology in schools broadened in the early 1980s to encompass the use of general-purpose tools such as word processors and spreadsheets. Technology that allowed classes to be given by remote teachers via two-way audio and video, known as "distance learning," also first appeared in schools in the early 1980s and has become widespread. Distance learning programming, transmitted via cables, fiber optics, and satellites, expands access to instruction for students, particularly for those in remote regions of the nation and in underserved communities.
As we approach the 21st century, several new, more powerful technologies are just beginning to make their way into classrooms across the nation. For example, new personal computers support "multimedia" educational software that employs both sound and video to teach students facts and concepts. Advances in telecommunications technologies have spurred access to the Internet, allowing students and teachers to communicate with people from around the world via electronic mail, or "e-mail" as it is commonly known. New ways of obtaining and presenting information have given students powerful new ways of analyzing and understanding the world around them.
In fact, not only are new technologies more powerful, but they are easier to use and more accessible. Modified keyboards, joysticks, and head pointers allow students with physical disabilities to use computers.6 Synthesized speech lets those with speech impairments "talk" by typing their words into a computer. And speech-to text translators transfer...
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