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CPSR Newsletter Winter 1997


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CPSR Education Working Group

by Robin Burke

CPSR News Volume 15, Number 1: Winter 1997


CPSR has always sought to provide a technologically informed voice on issues of public concern and policy. This mission is particularly critical now, as computer technology, particularly the Internet, reaches cultural critical mass. Who would have guessed even a few years ago that football playoff games (the ultimate mainstream American marketing venue) would feature ad campaigns for software from Lotus, IBM, and Microsoft? In other, less public venues, similar promotional campaigns are played out daily. Particularly prized by marketers is a share of the educational market.

There is a chorus of voices from businesses to parents exhorting schools to join the information age, and acquire the latest technology. As computer professionals, we are aware of the benefits that information technologies could bring to education. My own favorite Holy Grail is the sharing of expertise among teachers, many of whom have little time to reflect with colleagues about their work. A look into the decision-making processes of a typical public school can be sobering for those with such visions. Often a technologically unsophisticated school administrator must choose from vendors by consulting a pile of unintelligible specifications and a blizzard of slick presentations. Important questions about training, documentation, compatibility, upgradability, security, and reliability go unasked and unanswered.

The CPSR Education Working Group hopes to ask and answer some of the important questions about how information technology can and should be integrated into the nation's classrooms (and libraries and museums). We are a new working group within CPSR, and most of what you read here is the result of work done by members before the group came into existence. No doubt future newsletters and other CPSR forums will also feature results arrived at through group efforts.

The mission statement of the Education Working Group follows. "Communities, government, and other institutions are investing heavily in computational resources for schools, museums, libraries, and other educational institutions. We are also seeing a new wave of investment associated with computer networking and distance education. Despite its great cost, this growing commitment to information technology has met with little critical analysis of the overall benefits and side-effects of the technology, educational and otherwise. As CPSR members, our mission is to look beyond hype and technological boosterism:

  • to analyze the tasks and environments for which educational computer systems are appropriate,
  • to compare different models of educational computing in and out of the classroom, and
  • to disseminate success stories and cautionary tales relevant to those implementing or managing school-based computer systems.

"CPSR has a history of drawing on the expertise of its members to influence and guide policy. The mission of the CPSR education working group is to channel our energy into the promotion of democratic, humane and fruitful employment of information technology in education. We will nurture dialogue and analysis within the group, conduct research, convene workshops and conferences, write position papers, issue recommendations, and take other action consistent with this mission."

We welcome any CPSR member with an interest in the educational applications of computer technology to join our ranks. Simply send email to with the following body: SUBSCRIBE WG-EDUCATION-CORE <your first name> <your last name>


Return to Table of Contents, Winter 1997 CPSR Newsletter

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