Proposal Elements:
Bridging the Gap - Best Use of Technology (BUT)

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Best Use of Technology (BUT):

Technology use within an engaged learning project becomes an integral component when used as a resource to allow students to solve tasks and refocus their learning. Used effectively, it becomes their conduit to the rest of the world, allowing them to work outside the four classroom walls by communicating and collaborating with people that have different geography, cultural perspective, data, knowledge, or skills than is available locally.

To help you in identifying and creating projects which utilize BUT, look at the following examples. Examples of poor uses of technology are shown on the left. On the right are examples illustrating BUT. Read through them and see if you can determine why each poorly written item is just that, "poorly written" or "poorly developed." Following the table you will see some reasons listed why the item(s) may deserve a "poor" rating. But remember: these are just some of the more common reasons. You may come up with many other reasons why the item is poor and ways to transform it into a good element for use within an engaged learning proposal.

Best Use of Technology: Bridging the Gap

 Poorly Written
 Well Written
1-a) A class of teachers taking a professional development course on effective discipline gather articles to research on innovative practices. They then create a PowerPoint slide show to present before class. 1-b) Participants in a professional development course for teachers on effective discipline form teams to look for new and changing information on the Internet about innovative practices. They contact educators/experts in other school districts, communities, universities, government and professional organizations in order to gain a deeper understanding of the issues. They will communicate using the online communication tools available to them and post their findings online to share with their colleagues in their district and other districts.
2-a) Third-grade students have noticed that the river that runs past their school no longer has fish swimming in it. They decide to collect data along their river and send the data via e-mail to the sixth grade class in their building for analysis. 2-b) Third-grade students have noticed that the river that runs past their school no longer has fish swimming in it. They decide to collaborate with the sixth-grade class in their building to collect data along their river and post it to the Internet. They trace the river to its beginning and to where it empties into the ocean and contact schools all along its length to ask for them to participate in the collection of like data at their location in order to figure out where the problem may be. All data will then be analyzed and posted to their Web site.
3-a) Students set up pen pals with students in Japan so that they can write letters back and forth each week. They will keep a notebook of the letters they receive to share on open house night. 3-b) Students will compare and contrast how historical events are taught and portrayed by the media in different cultures. In the process, students will communicate with experts and other students of the target culture using technology such as e-mail and Internet discussion forums and online chat. The final result of what they found will be displayed in the method of their choice such as play, performance or Web page. The display will be presented at the annual Foreign Language Festival in the spring.


1-a) In this situation, the technology is being used as an encyclopedia to gather information. When they do use it to communicate, it is only one-way communication to a small audience.

2-a) Here, a wonderful technological communication tool is being used to communicate to the class "next door." The same task could be accomplished as effectively by walking next door and talking to the other class.

3-a) Once again, a wonderful technological communication tool is being misused. While it is great to be able to communicate to diverse cultures in far-off places, the activity needs to be tied to an authentic task and relevant hook in order to justify the communication and become engaged learning.

Now it is your turn to apply your skill at identifying BUT. Look at the following technology uses and decide which ones illustrate BUT and which ones do not. Be prepared to answer, "Why?" or "Why not?" If your answer is a "thumbs-down," try to rewrite the scenario into a form that would receive a "thumbs-up." Ask yourself the following questions as you determine "thumbs-up" or "thumbs-down": How does technology support the learning? Is the technology a critical component of this project? Could the project be done as effectively without the use of the Internet?

BUT - Thumbs-Up or Thumbs-Down

1) Fifth grade students are studying carnivores in North America. They use the Internet to find pictures to include in their research papers along with species characteristics and life cycles.
2) Due to poor sales of certain video games in the U.S., several top companies have merged together to make one giant company: Mega Game Inc. They have hired students at XYZ school to conduct a study to find the top ten video games in the United States. The students form teams to choose states, find schools, and survey sixth-grade classes. Additionally, the Internet and e-mail will be used to contact major manufacturers and distributors of video games. The results will be tabulated and analyzed and then posted to the Internet for feedback in a Web site report suggesting designs for new video games. This collectively written report will then be submitted to the manufacturer.
3) Students in Illinois have learned that new biological techniques in corn production have resulted in milkweed contamination. The larvae of migrating monarch butterflies are being poisoned when eating the one food source, milkweed, they need for survival. Since this is such a new topic, students decide to use the Internet to investigate this phenomenon and contact experts for collaboration on the problem. They also decide to contact schools within the migratory flight patterns to exchange data on the monarchs in their migratory flight.

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