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THE TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGES IN BUSINESS EDUCATION
 

Background

Since the invention of the typewriter in 1868, the business education curriculum has gone through tremendous changes. However, these changes did not occur overnight. For example, during the period from 1868 to 1971- over 100 years - the traditional equipment and goals remained the same for most business education curriculums. Not until the early 1980s, when the personal computer and telecommunications dominated office automation has business education been challenged by such drastic changes in its curriculum.

The progression of technology on the business education program has swept through the country in only a short time. In only 20 years, the microchip has completely revolutionized the world and with it the business education program. Today courses in typing and shorthand are being replaced with electronic mail, desktop publishing, and telecommunication classes. Growth in educational technology has been dramatic in the past year as seen from the following graph:

Figure 1

In one year, the increase in computer networks in schools across the nation has jumped 64 percent. This graph also shows that the increase in satellites has been 87 percent for this past year. These increases depict how education across the nation has reshaped many goals and programs to meet the needs of the next generation.

Business educators have a unique opportunity to broaden and improve their program. The basic goals of business education have not changed. Only the equipment used. Students still need to input, edit, print, file, reproduce, organize, manipulate, and use information to make sound business decisions. As one author put it:

“During the 1990’s, business educators will either manage the decline of their discipline or oversee a fundamental structural change in the discipline. If changes are not made in response to new economic conditions and workplace requirements, business education will witness an exodus of students from its programs.”1
 


Problem Statement

This research report will examine changes in business education caused by the rapid advancements of technology.

Scope

The scope of this research report covers a variety of issues affecting business education. Specifically, this research report will review how the progression of technology has impacted students, teachers, and schools.

Limitations

One limitation for this research paper came from missing resource materials from the Georgia State Library.
 


Methodology

The research for this report came from both primary and secondary sources. The primary sources were from one phone interview and two personal interviews. The secondary sources were from The Georgia State Library, The West Georgia College Library and The Business Education Library at West Georgia College.

THE TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGES IN BUSINESS EDUCATION

It is predicted that “all the technological knowledge we work with today will represent only 1 percent of the knowledge that will be available in 2050.”2 Current studies show there were only 386,000 computers in schools in 1983-84 school year. However, the same research shows there were 2.5 million computers in schools in the 1990-91 school year; a 600 percent increase.

Figure 2

Issues facing Teachers

Teachers are faced with many challenges due to the changes caused by technology. Their philosophy of education must include these new changes in society. Their teaching strategies and training must be enhanced, and many of their courses must be altered or changed completely.

Philosophy of Business Education
The issues facing teachers are complex and many. The most important challenge is for teachers to accept society’s entrance into the information age. Currently, knowledge workers make up approximately 70 percent of America’s work force.3 Since the role of business educators is to prepare knowledge workers, the changes in the business education program have not shrunken the demand for business education but enlarged it. In fact, since business educators prepare workers in every phase of the information cycle, business education has the greatest potential for growth since its beginning.

One way to target this growth is for business teachers to focus on all students as its constituents. As one educator has stated, “we must stop thinking in terms of teaching only a narrow range of traditional office skills.”4 Future physicians should be introduced to telecommunications; authors should be taught skills using desktop publishing; and all students need keyboarding skills. With every aspect of society being touched by technology, now is the chance to shape a new and more relevant curriculum. It is the educator’s response to these changes that is critical to the growth and success of business education.

Changes in Keyboarding
Traditionally, keyboarding has been the primary course taught by business education programs at the secondary level. Because of the computer, keyboarding is seen by many as a basic skill needed by all students. In fact, author J. E. Toppe refers to keyboarding as an “enabling skill- a tool needed by almost every American worker in all types of companies and at every level in the hierarchy of these companies.”5 In addition, because of the wide-spread prolific use of computers by younger students, the need for keyboarding has spread to the middle and even the elementary schools. This presents even more challenges to the business education program.

Keyboarding classes in high school must be reevaluated and adapted to the changes in society. Many business education teachers fear their jobs will be taken if their typing course is changed or eliminated. However, many leaders such as the superintendent of the District of Columbia Public Schools believe that “business teachers are going to be the key to implementing this early keyboarding training.”6 Business teachers acknowledge their expertise in this area but realize students need formal training at an earlier time than high school. Everyone involved with the issue agree on at least one thing- change is necessary.

Teacher Training
As equipment and technology change, so must the training and staff development also change for business education. Business teachers must be ready to begin a constant retraining process as well as teach these new technologies to other staff members.


Figure 3

Sandy Iverson, business teacher at Brookwood High School in Gwinnett, estimates her time spent relearning new technology each year at 35 percent of her time. Her retraining 10 years ago consumed only approximately 5 percent of her time (see figure 3 on previous page).7

According to Kathy Jones, an 18 year business education veteran, “one of my biggest challenges in the past 18 years has been the constant training on equipment and software I have gone through.”8 Because of business teachers’ knowledge and skills, they are a valuable key to training other staff members.

Mrs. Jones is chairperson of the business education department at Parkview High School in Gwinnett County where she and eight other business teachers use the latest hardware and software. For instance, her department offers courses in Lotus 123, Microsoft Works, Express Publisher, PageMaker, LinkWay, Hypercard, WordPerfect, Computer Accounting, SuperPaint, and Pascal. Even her keyboarding classes use a computer software program. All business education teachers have to constantly keep up with software version updates and changes in hardware and software. They are also consistently reviewing new technological changes for the following year.9

Teaching Strategies
The constant changes in technology brings new challenges in teaching strategies for educators. It took over one hundred years for the typewriter to adapt into the word processor. However, it only took a fraction of the time for technologies such as the fax, laser, networking, and desktop publishing to enhance the computer. Changes in technologies are occurring faster than students can be trained. In fact a recent report done by the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education, and Commerce has concluded the gap between what business needs and the qualification of entry-level workers in technologically oriented workplaces is widening.10

As one author put it, “our role as business educators is to prepare students to succeed in a work environment where change is continuous and adaptability is an essential employee attribute.”11 Employers are spending $30 billion a year for continuously training their employees to adapt to changing technology.12 Along with this and the fact that changes in software are occurring in 6 to 18-month cycles, business teachers must not result to teaching button pushing but rather the conceptual approach. Concepts will transfer easily in technology; however, specific commands rarely transfer.

It may be easier to teach a procedural or “buttons” approach, but that method is too quickly outdated. It is too apparent that businesses need employees that can quickly and easily adapt to technological changes in the workplace.

It has been estimated that during the 1950’s changing from one type of equipment or technology to another took about 10 to 12 years. However, technological changes in 1992-95 are predicted to take place every three to six months.13 Workers of the next generation must be taught a broad set of skills that include adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to learn new technologies. One author put it this way, “we must teach for transferability of skills; emphasis should be on technologies as tools- means to an end rather than an end in itself.14

Issues Facing Students

Students are faced with many areas of concern due to the changes in technology. Students are realizing that job trends are greatly affected by technology and student access to labs will also grow proportionately with these trends in the work force.

Job Trends
According to the National Center for Education and the Economy, “70 percent of jobs at the turn of the century will not require a baccalaureate- even though most jobs will require a significantly greater amount of training.15 This technological training will be a very important passport for students entering into the job market. The current job trends in America reflect a demand for skills and training. While most hands-on training will occur in business education classes on campus, internships in local industry will also provide valuable training for students. According to one educator, “technology is an indispensable tool, as integral a part of the workplace as the people who work with it. Students who can work successfully with technology will be employable as well as promotable.”16 Students must realize that no matter what career they choose, technology will likely have a significant role in their daily routines.

New technologies available to students
Never before have students been given such access to equipment and software that can directly increase their employability in almost any field of study. There are very few fields of study that will not use some type of technology. As already stated, students who are experienced with some of these technologies will be employable as well as promotable.

At Parkview High School in Georgia, second semester accounting students are trained using an accounting software program. Students in the second semester of the Computer Applications class use a desktop publishing software called Aldus PageMaker software. Lab equipment for student use at Parkview include color digital scanners, laser printers,CD-ROMs, and computer modems. Students are producing more creative and higher order thought skills using new technologies according to Mrs. Jones, business education teacher.17 Students are gaining valuable experience and training on many of the latest technologies. At Trickum Middle School, computer labs are continually used and students are constantly requesting more time to use the computer labs.18

Only ten years ago students at Parkview High School did not have the technology they afford today. According to estimates by Kathy Jones, ten years ago technology classes in Parkview’s business education program made up only 15 percent of all business education classes. However, that statistic has dramatically changed in ten years. Today she estimates 95 percent of all business education classes use or teach technology in some way.19

Figure 4

 

Issues Facing Schools

Schools have a significant role to play in the development and growth of the business education program. Without the support of local and central school leadership, business teachers will have a difficult time producing a thriving business education program for the future.

Educational Models
Because of the changes occurring in business education, schools themselves are having to also adjust. One way schools must adjust is in the courses offered by business education programs. Many schools are developing curriculum models similar to a model developed by the Business Education Unit of the California Department of Education (see figure 5).20

Figure 5
Source: The Balance Sheet, September/October, 1992.

The key to this model is that materials are developed and expanded upon rather than repeated. This model also includes a curriculum plan for the elementary and middle school levels. Because of the structure built into this model, students are taught from a strong business foundation which is carefully built upon year after year.

Hardware Costs
The cost to update a computer lab or install a new one is tremendous for a local school. These costs are a major issue for future growth in business education programs. No one knows these cost better than Trickum Middle School. In the past three years, Trickum has purchased two computer labs. Next year Trickum has budgeted a third computer lab. Each lab consists of 27 computers networked by one file server. Both labs consist of one laser and three ImageWriter printers. Each lab has a scanner, LCD panel, modem, CD-ROM, and several multi-disciplinary software programs. Without the help of the PTA fund raising efforts and county matching funds, Trickum could not have purchased either of its two computer labs. The community support of technology has been the primary contributing factor for Trickum’s technology buildup.21

Theses new technologies are seen with great importance by many school communities. According to L. Joyce Arntson, professor of business at Irvine Valley College, “technology is as important to the future of education as good teachers. It is a commodity without which we cannot deliver quality education.”22 Because business education cannot remain effective and credible without the use of current technology, schools will have to make hard budget decisions now and in the future.

Many schools are assisted by business partners for financial contributions to purchase technology. These types of partnerships have developed rapidly with great success. A good example of a successful partnership is with Trickum Middle School in Georgia. Trickum’s business partner, Apple Computer Inc., uses Trickum as a model test site while Trickum receives valuable technology each year.23

At Parkview High School, each of the computer labs in the business education department are networked and have similar features as Trickum’s. According to Mrs. Jones, another large cost to schools is personnel. In fact, administration officials at Parkview have limited the number of course offerings for her department due to lack of funds for teachers. Even though the equipment is available, administrators are unable to provide additional teachers for her department.24 Schools must address these issues immediately with creativity and community support.
 


FINDINGS

Below are some of the findings based on the research of this paper:
1. Technology has grown at an enormous rate since the invention of the microprocessor in 1971.

2. Educational technology has grown at a constant rate for the past 10 years.

3. Basic goals of the business education have not changed.

4. The role of business education is to prepare knowledge workers.

5. Keyboarding skills are growing rapidly as a basic skill needed by a large percentage of workers.

6. Retraining is a necessary requirement for the business educators teaching in the information age.

7. Students are not being adequately prepared for job assignments in technology.

8. Students are producing more creative and higher order thought skills using new technologies.

9. Schools have a significant role to play in the development and growth of the business education program.

10. The cost to update a computer lab or install a new one is a tremendous cost to local schools.
 
 

CONCLUSIONS

The following is a list of conclusions after careful research of this subject:
1. Due to the rapid advancements in technology, business education has been greatly affected.

2. Business educators currently have the greatest potential for growth by exploiting the improvements in technological advancements.

3. All students need keyboarding skills due to the prolific use of the computer.

4. The future business educator will have to constantly keep updated on new products and technologies to stay prepared.

5. Students who are exposed to technologies are better thinkers and more creative than those who do not get the same technological training.

6. A large factor in the use of technology is the cost to schools.
 


RECOMMENDATIONS

After reviewing the findings and conclusions, here is a list of recommendations:
1. School officials and/or national business organizations should develop a strategic action plan aimed at restructuring business education programs for the next century’s society.

2. Business teachers should write more articles on ways to fund technology in schools.

3. New certification requirements for future business education teachers should require adequate technology training.

4. New budget items should be developed for technology purchases and in school training development.

5. Teachers should be provided with extra professional leave time for visiting other business education programs and conducting and developing community technology training workshops.

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for the primary purpose of assisting other Computer & Business Education Teachers..
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