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Technology: a catalyst for educational change

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In explaining the demise of `open education', Westbury (1973 ) identified how the demands and constraints of the conventional classroom context led most teachers attempting open methods to return to whole-class, recitation methods as coping strategies, often against their better judgement. In this paper we draw parallels between the innovations of open education in the 1960s and constructionism in the 1990s. There are considerable similarities between the educational benefits claimed for open education then and constructionism now. Our research examines a situation where constructionism and independent learning combine to form the philosophical base of a school. However, at the same time that the school embraced this philosophy, it also made an extensive commitment to computer technology. This was not by chance: the computers were seen as strongly resourcing the change and were a central component of the innovation. Here we examine whether computers have enhanced teachers' capacity to meet the demands inherent in classroom settings. Are computers freeing teachers and students from the constraints traditional classrooms have placed on their opportunities to pursue more independent and meaningful modes of learning?

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 1997

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