Computers in Education
Endowment for the Humanities Preps Schools for New Millennium
William R. Ferris
are often praised as educational miracle workers, as cures for
whatever ails America’s classrooms. If only it were that simple.
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 nation’s 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
National 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
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 Internet’s 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.
High 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 California’s immigrant experience and Hispanic culture.
Frontier 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.
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.
computer 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 NEH’s Millennium
Schools, through their efforts today, will become tomorrow’s exemplars
of excellence in the educational use of information technology.
Also Maintains EDSITEment
maintains 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.
more information, call NEH at (202) 606-8671.
R. Ferris is chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.