1993; Hmelo and Williams, 1998; Kafai, 1995; Schwartz et al., 1999). The new technologies can also help people visualize difficult-to-understand concepts, such as differentiating heat from temperature (Linn et al., 1996). Students can work with visualization and modeling software that is similar to the tools used in nonschool environments, increasing their understanding and the likelihood of transfer from school to nonschool settings (see Chapter 3). These technologies also provide access to a vast array of information, including digital libraries, data for analysis, and other people who provide information, feedback, and inspiration. They can enhance the learning of teachers and administrators, as well as that of students, and increase connections between schools and the communities, including homes.

In this chapter we explore how new technologies can be used in five ways:

  • bringing exciting curricula based on real-world problems into the classroom;

  • providing scaffolds and tools to enhance learning;

  • giving students and teachers more opportunities for feedback, reflection, and revision;

  • building local and global communities that include teachers, administrators, students, parents, practicing scientists, and other interested people; and

  • expanding opportunities for teacher learning.


An important use of technology is its capacity to create new opportunities for curriculum and instruction by bringing real-world problems into the classroom for students to explore and solve; see Box 9.1. Technology can help to create an active environment in which students not only solve problems, but also find their own problems. This approach to learning is very different from the typical school classrooms, in which students spend most of their time learning facts from a lecture or text and doing the problems at the end of the chapter.

Learning through real-world contexts is not a new idea. For a long time, schools have made sporadic efforts to give students concrete experiences through field trips, laboratories, and work-study programs. But these activities have seldom been at the heart of academic instruction, and they have not been easily incorporated into schools because of logistical constraints and the amount of subject material to be covered. Technology offers powerful tools for addressing these constraints, from video-based problems and computer simulations to electronic communications systems that connect

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