Using Computers in
for the Humanities Preps Schools for New Millennium
are often praised as educational miracle workers, as cures for whatever
ails Americaís classrooms. If only it were that simple.
While the technology
is out there, schools are still figuring out how to use it effectively
and wisely. The good news, according to a recent study, is that
Internet access in public schools increased from 35 to 78 percent
over the last four years. The bad news is that there is no systematic,
nationwide plan to show teachers the wealth of instructional materials
available by computer and how to use them in their day-to-day teaching.
More than 90 percent of the nationís teachers believe that using
the Internet boosts student achievement, but 60 percent of the teachers
want help in using the computer for instructional purposes.
for a New Millennium
Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is addressing that need. Through
a new initiative called "Schools for a New Millennium,"
NEH has awarded grants to 20 schools nationwide to develop them
into models of how to use computer technology to enrich teaching
of the humanities. At these schools, teachers are working with consultants
to integrate high-tech resources, including computers, CDs, cable
TV and more, into the humanities curriculum.
Each of the
20 schools has its own special emphasis. Teachers at Booker T. Washington
High School in Memphis, Tenn., for example, have their students
researching the Internetís resources on the civil rights movement,
using that information to do oral history interviews with local
folks who lived through that period, and posting their interviews
electronically for anyone to access.
School in Fresno, Calif., is overhauling its humanities curriculum,
including schoolwide training for teachers in the resources of the
Internet and weaving of those resources into the lesson plans for
teaching Californiaís immigrant experience and Hispanic culture.
Regional Middle and High School in Deerfield, Mass., is forming
a three-way partnership with the University of Massachusetts at
Amherst and a local museum, which has 31,000 objects documenting
the history of western Massachusetts, to put museum material on
a Web site so it can be used by the school.
NEH has funded
similar projects at schools in Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland,
Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Texas,
Washington and Wisconsin. We are committed to developing the use
of the computer as a major educational tool in the humanities, and
we will be announcing more grants to develop additional Millennium
Schools this summer.
cannot replace the close study of texts that lies at the heart of
humanities education, but computer-accessible teaching aids can
support teachers in ways that help students learn and boost their
achievement. It is exciting to know that NEHís Millennium Schools,
through their efforts today, will become tomorrowís exemplars of
excellence in the educational use of information technology.
EDSITEment, a gateway Web site http://edsitement.neh.gov
that provides links to 49 sites carefully selected for
their quality of educational content and design. Instead of having
to sift through more than 65,000 humanities-related sites on the
Web, anyone seeking the best humanities education materials on the
Internet can easily find and access them through EDSITEment. Each
site comes with lesson plans offering suggestions on how to use
the materials effectively in the classroom.
For more information,
call NEH at (202) 606-8671.
R. Ferris is chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.