Internet Technology for Schools
Reviewer: Lyn Henderson, PhD
Internet Technology for Schools
This book fills a much needed niche in the market. It is timely. There are many horror stories of schools jumping too quickly onto the technology bandwagon. These schools do so after superficial examination of the complex interconnected issues involved when implementing network technology, and then suffer the economic, pedagogic, and systemic consequences. Internet Technology for Schools admirably addresses this problem. The book fulfils it promise to be a comprehensive guide for establishing policies, goals, standards, step-by-step implementation, technical specifications, sustainable enhancement, community partnerships, and leadership within a context applicable to the reader’s school or cluster of schools.
Although the book increasingly includes technical content and jargon, the emphasis is educational rather than technical. As the author admonishes, network technology is not an end in itself; “connectivity must add educational value for students” (p. 6) and the wider school community. The writing style generally succeeds in its aim to be as non-technical as possible because the author assumes that her target audience will mostly be non-technical educators and administrators.
Even though the book only considers USA audiences, its content and suggestions are either generic or readily adaptable by educators in other countries.
The book is divided into three sections, each targeting a specific audience. Part I, Educator’s Planning Guide, addresses educators who have, or elect to be involved in, an administrative and decision-making role, especially with respect to the school’s Internet technology plan. Part II, Educator’s Guide to Good Internet Practices, targets classroom teachers. Part III, Technical Guidelines, is particularly for those educators who assume responsibility for technical support.
Each chapter ends with Notes, many of which are relevant WWW sites. The Glossary is comprehensive in terms of what is discussed in the text; there are no glaring omissions, which is also the case for the Index. The short recommended reading list contains only USA references.
Part I, Educator’s Planning Guide, serves as a mini-manual for planning how to manage the process of implementing the Internet in schools. It isdivided into five chapters.
Part II, Educator’s Guide to Good Internet Practices, addresses what Ms Mambrini perceives to be the “most challenging aspect of integrating the Internet”: the enhancement and transformation of educational experiences, not the computerization of education (p. 109).
Part III, Technical Guidelines, supports the previous chapters which directed the reader to specific chapters in Part III for technical detail. The opposite happens, too, as readers are directed back to previous chapters for more indepth understanding of associated educational implications. The rationale for this section is to lessen technophobia concerning the wires and cables part of Internet technology.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The book has three major strengths. First, it is cleverly crafted with a readable style that supports those new to the technical areas of implementing Internet technology in schools. The headings and sub-headings work particularly well. Second, the author cogently argues that the reason for implementing Internet technology in a school is to enhance student and teacher outcomes. It is not an end in itself or a competition to win media kudos. This rationale is repeated throughout the book; a necessary strategy because some readers will only read the chapters they think pertinent to them. Third, the author remained faithful to the rationale provided in the introduction. She could so very easily have attempted to provide a duplication of appropriate content found in the increasing number of excellent books devoted to school Internet projects, Internet information literacy, and technical “how to” guides.
Nevertheless, it is sometimes “heavy going”. Firstly, it is so concisely written that there is much to digest in the small sub-sections of each chapter. Second, it is liberally dotted with acronyms - for instance, as early as pp. 20 and 21, there are 19 different acronyms - advice to go to the glossary if the reader has forgotten what the acronym stands for or wishes a brief description of a term, and technical definitions.. This necessitates numerous reading breaks, particularly for readers who are exploring new territory.
Concluding Impressions and Recommendations
Ms Mambrini admirably achieved the book’s stated aims.
The book has a wide audience. It is suitable as a text for pre-service and graduate teachers who can no longer avoid the issues raised in Internet Technology for Schools. It is particularly relevant for those whose major involves computer and Internet information and processing technologies. Indeed, I have recommended this as a text for such students in my institution. It is also a must for the technology teams in schools and school districts, that Ms Mambrini recommends be established. Although all should read the whole book, relevant chapters could be allocated to those on the school’s various Internet Technology Sub-committees depending on the committee’s focus, in order that some will be more expert in that area during discussion, planning, and implementation.
A second edition is recommended. Less emphasis on acronymns is pleaded as those that are no longer commonly used could be placed in an appendix if still thought necessary. Distance education-open learning contexts warrant indepth exploration and would find a hungry audience. A chapter on world issues and more non-USA examples would also enhance the second edition.
This book is a worthy addition to your bookshelf and is a recommended inclusion on the textbook list for tertiary students.