~A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research~
Changing the Conversation About
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 2
“What happens when computers become a significant resource in classrooms? How does a
critical mass of technology affect the way teachers teach and learners learn?” These were
the questions that were raised when the ACOT project began. For more than a decade,
researchers, practitioners, and technology developers have been able to work together to
increase our understanding of what can happen in classrooms when powerful technology
and effective instruction are joined. The lessons learned provide a rich foundation of experience and knowledge to guide current investments in technology at the local, state, and
Because of ACOT and the technology, I
continue to be enthusiastic about being a
teacher. But I am an altogether different
teacher than I was before. I am now guiding
the students. They are the masters of their
own education now, creating their own
knowledge and using their creativity to
research and explain information to others.
—Chris Stortz, ACOT Teacher,
Stevens Creek Elementary School, Cupertino, California
—Linda G. Roberts, Director, Office of Educational Technology,
U.S. Department of Education
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 3
What we observed was the reality
that multimedia and multiple layers
of information helped students more
thoroughly and more dynamically
—Robert J. Tierney, Professor and Chair,
Educational Theory and Practice,
The Ohio State University
Using technology as a motivator for change and a tool for teaching and learning,
today’s ACOT Teacher Development Centers engage teachers in the same kinds
of challenging and collaborative learning activities that they aim to provide their
students. As such, these centers are an evolving solution to the most pressing
dilemma facing education reform: how to spread the accomplished practice from
a few teachers and schools to many.
—Dr. Jane L. David,
Director, Bay Area Research Group, Palo Alto, California
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 4
The sites at Houston and Eugene
were closed in favor of adding
more classrooms at the other
The ACOT Teacher Summer
Conference gave teachers at
the ACOT sites an opportunity
to meet, share experiences,
and learn more about teaching
Additional sites were added
in Columbus, Ohio; Cupertino,
California; Houston, Texas;
and Memphis and Nashville,
First public presentations about
ACOT—at MECC and AppleFest.
The ACOT Senior Scholars
Conference, attended by a group
of distinguished researchers,
developed a research agenda
Educators at Apple initiated a
research project to answer the
question: What happens to students and teachers when they
have access to computers whenever they need it? This meant that
the technology was always available—not down the hall in a lab,
and not left behind when students went home after school.
First sites selected—one classroom each in Eugene, Oregon,
and Blue Earth, Minnesota.
ACOT supplied the computers
and trained the teachers. Our
district partners paid for staffing,
physical modifications to the
classrooms, and extra insurance.1985
1986–87: The start of longitudinal research*
We knew that changes in teachers—and in schools—happen over time. During the first two years,
we simply observed what was happening in the classrooms.
• ACOT teachers used word processing and electronic mail to send weekly reports from each site
to ACOT staff at Apple. And each teacher sent monthly audiotape journals to the researchers in
which they expressed their personal frustrations as well as their victories.
• ACOT researchers developed a database to store the information—without losing any of the
descriptive quality—and began looking at major themes.
• Eva Baker (UCLA Center for Technology Assessment) began examining the impact of the ACOT
program on students, staff, and parents.
• Robert Tierney (The Ohio State University) began a longitudinal study of the thought processes
of ninth-graders at the ACOT high school site—exploring the potential of technology as a tool to
strengthen and expand students’ thinking skills.
• Elfrieda Hiebert (University of Colorado) collaborated with an ACOT third-grade teacher to
describe and assess a computer-intensive writing curriculum.
*ACOT research reports are available on many of these topics. See “Where to get more information”
at the end of this report.
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 5
We published reports on Baker’s
two-year evaluation study and
Confrey’s development of Function
Probe and a problem-based mathematics curriculum. We also published our four-year study of the
evolution of teachers’ beliefs and
practices and our study of classroom management—both by Dwyer,
Ringstaff, and Sandholtz. And we
made presentations on several
research projects at AERA.
We focused on three sites—
Columbus, Cupertino, and
Nashville—so we could learn
more by working intensively
with fewer schools. We also continued to add classrooms so we
could follow students through
We published reports on
Hiebert’s writing research, on
the first two years of Tierney’s
longitudinal study of students’
thinking, and on Fisher’s study
of student empowerment.
We began preliminary work on
a teacher development model
at the Nashville site.
Visitors from South America and
the USSR toured ACOT sites.
ACOT was cited in articles in
USA Today, The New York
Times, Business Week, Boston
Globe, and the Japanese counterpart of PC Magazine, and
featured on NBC Nightly News.
We continued to add classrooms
at the sites.
ACOT research studies were
presented at the American
Education Research Association
(AERA), the International
Reading Association (IRA), and
the International Association of
Computing Educators (IACE).
ACOT was featured in a report
on the use of technology in
American schools published by
the U.S. Office of Technology
1988–89:Continuation of longitudinal research
We introduced multimedia at the sites and continued our observations, finding themes that
we wanted to address more fully.
• Recognizing that teachers’ practice was becoming more learner centered, we began focusing our staff development sessions to encourage a constructivist approach to teaching.
• We started an investigation of the interrelationships among learning, computers,
• We realized the limitations of traditional assessment measures for capturing the changes
we saw in the ACOT students.
• We also discovered that the students were developing a variety of new competencies not
• We began developing a common language to help teachers collaborate more effectively.
1988–89: Expansion of research collaboration
We began funding the work of researchers at other institutions whose projects addressed
issues and themes we had found in the observational research.
• In alternative assessment, we began working with Allan Collins (Northwestern University)
and Jan Hawkins (Center for Children and Technology) and continued our relationships
with Tierney and Baker.
• In writing, we began collaborating on a language arts assessment tool with Midian
Kurland (Educational Development Center) as well as on telecommunications-based
writing workshops for teachers.
• In task design, we began working with Charles Fisher (University of Colorado) on creating
projects that empowered students and on the associated needs for staff development.
• In staff development, we worked with Jean Marsh ( Vanderbilt University) on a new staff
development model for ACOT teachers.
1990–95: Amplifying our voice
Realizing that more people needed to hear what we’d learned about teaching and learning with technology—
especially about the need for new forms of assessment and new approaches to staff development—we increased
our speaking engagements beyond the community of educational researchers. We also began responding to
requests for information from state and national policymakers.
1990– 93: Developing integrated environments
Realizing that technology—and especially wireless technology—could have
an especially strong impact in the areas of collaboration, communication,
and the construction and expression of knowledge, we used the results of
our research to create specific learning environments that demonstrated
the integration of these areas. Then we produced short videos to document
• The project known as “Wireless Coyote” explored the use of mobile, networked, and multirepresetational technology—as well as the effects of
a constructivist environment—during a science field trip for middle
• The project known as “Cloud Forest Classroom” replicated Wireless
Coyote in another location and with other students. For this study, we
developed and tested an integrated data collection, data analysis, and
messaging environment to support collaborative field activities.
• The project known as MediaFusion involved an integrated environment
that allows developers to make conventional TV broadcasts explorable
by computer. It gave teachers, students, researchers, and our partners at
the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) a view of how interactive TV might
someday be used for learning.
•Presentations to the U.S.
Department of Education,
President’s National Education
Goals Committee, National
Education Commission of the
States, National Center for
Education and the Economy,
Fortune 500 Magazine
Education Summit, Federal
and Smithsonian Computerworld program
•Presentations at regional and
national conferences including
the American Education
Research Association, American
National Education Computing
Reading Association, American
Association of Physics Teachers,
American Math Society, National
Science Teachers Association,
and the Cognitive Science Society
•Article in Educational
Leadership on changes in
teachers’ beliefs and practices
1990–95: Developing additional partnerships
• With the National Science Foundation, we established ACOT Teacher Development Centers at three sites in order to
investigate more fully the effectiveness of this new approach to professional development.
• With the National Alliance for Restructuring Education, we created a network of Teacher Development Centers in
participating schools. This allows us to work in environments in which restructuring is already under way and also
to see how the staff development model can be replicated on a larger scale.
• With the San Francisco Exploratorium and a local school district, we are investigating how elementary school teachers
can use a multimedia messaging system and a media-rich environment to enhance communication, collaboration,
1989–92: Encouraging new uses of technology
Technological advances now allowed developers to create tools that represented ideas in multiple formats—text, images,
video, graphics, tables, and charts. We began collaborating with researchers who were developing multirepresentational
tools that could aid in knowledge construction. The product list included Function Probe, Science for Living, Geometry
Tutor, Physics Tutor, Digital Image Processing, and TableTop.
We also began working with researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education on CSILE, a computer-supported
collaborative learning environment for children.
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 6
• Presentations at meetings of the
American Education Research
Psychological Association, and
the California Business
• Presentations to the commis
sioners of education and their
staffs for Kentucky, Vermont,
New York, Indiana, and Ohio
• Presentations to 11 Soviet
Republic Ministers of Education
• Presentations to the U.S. Office of
Technology Assessment and the
Council of Great City Schools
• Presentations to a variety of
educational reform groups,
including the New America
Schools governing board,
National Alliance for Restructuring Education, ATLAS
project, and the Coalition for
• Presentations to ministries of
education for New Zealand,
Singapore, and the European
• Article in Educational
Leadership on lessons from
• Distribution of ACOT research
summaries to 40,000 educators
• Presentations to ministries
of education in Denmark,
Sweden, India, Bolivia,
Scotland, Great Britain, Chile,
Australia, and New Zealand
• Meetings with the commissioner for education of the
• Participation in a PBS series
We published Stuebing’s report on
physical environments for learning
with technology; Ringstaff, Wilmore,
and Yocam’s reports on the pilot
program and first year of the ACOT
Teacher Development Centers project; Sandholtz and Ringstaff ’s
report on student engagement;
and a report on the MediaFusion
project. We made presentations
on ACOT-related research at
conferences in London, Boston,
St. Petersburg, and San Francisco.
• Presentations to several state
boards of education and
• Briefings to educators and
policy makers from the United
Kingdom, Singapore, Japan,
Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia,
Turkey, Portugal, Poland,
United Arab Emirates,
Hungary, and France
• More than 25 national and
magazines, and TV stations—
including the Wall Street
Journal, The New York Times,
Forbes Magazine, and
Education Week—cited ACOT
as a reference.
1990–95: Amplifying our voice
Realizing that more people needed to hear what we’d learned about teaching and learning with technology—especially about the need for new forms of assessment and new approaches to staff development—we
increased our speaking engagements beyond the community of educational researchers. We also began responding to requests for information from state and national policymakers.
1990– 93: Developing integrated environments
Realizing that technology—and especially wireless technology—could have an especially
strong impact in the areas of collaboration, communication, and the construction and
expression of knowledge, we used the results of our research to create specific learning
environments that demonstrated the integration of these areas. Then we produced short
videos to document the projects.
• The project known as “Wireless Coyote” explored the use of mobile, net-worked, and multi
represetational technology—as well as the effects of a constructivist environment—during
a science field trip for middle school students.
• The project known as “Cloud Forest Classroom” replicated Wireless Coyote in another
location and with other students. For this study, we developed and tested an integrated
data collection, data analysis, and messaging environment to support collaborative
• The project known as MediaFusion involved an integrated environment that allows
developers to make conventional TV broadcasts explorable by computer. It gave teachers,
students, researchers, and our partners at the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) a view of
how interactive TV might someday be used for learning.
1990–95: Developing additional partnerships
• With the National Science Foundation, we established ACOT Teacher Development Centers at three sites in order to investigate more fully the effectiveness of this new approach to professional development.
• With the National Alliance for Restructuring Education, we created a network of Teacher Development Centers in participating schools. This allows us to work in environments in which restructuring is
already under way and also to see how the staff development model can be replicated on a larger scale.
• With the San Francisco Exploratorium and a local school district, we are investigating how elementary school teachers can use a multimedia messaging system and a media-rich environment to enhance
communication, collaboration, and inquiry.
We published a report on five
years of Tierney’s longitudinal
study of the influence of high computer access on students’ thinking,
learning, and interactions. We
also published reports by Ringstaff,
Sandholtz, and Dwyer on the
relationship between technological innovation and collegial
interaction and on the classroom
results of teachers using students’
technology expertise. We published
a report on the school-universitybusiness partnerships that make
up ACOT, as well as a report on
a second-grade multimedia-composing project.
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 7
For the past 10 years, Apple has sponsored a research project called
Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) that is investigating the relationship
between technology and education. The ACOT experience has been unique
for us. The research is exploratory and open-ended. And, over the years,
it has brought us into partnership with students, educators, and researchers
throughout the nation.
We’d like to use what we’ve learned in ACOT to change the conversation
about technology and education. Instead of talking about computers, for
example, we talk about learning. We describe what happens when students
use technology as a tool for building their own knowledge—and examine the
impact on the kinds of skills they develop. We discuss how teachers can use
technology to create more challenging learning environments—and suggest
a staff development process that can facilitate that. And we explore ways to
deepen our understanding of how technology can be used as a tool for
This is a work in progress. The following report presents some of the
ACOT findings and suggests the implications they have for education. But
there’s always more to be learned.
David C. Dwyer, Ph.D.
Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow
Initiating ACOT 2000
At the beginning of ACOT’s 1996
second decade, we’re both
expanding our current work
into new arenas and continuing
to ask new questions about
teaching and learning with
• What happens when students
have a learning environment
in which technology resources
are available wherever they’re
needed—unlike most classrooms, which use desks and
• What are the effects of bringing
highly innovative math and
science curricula into studentcentered, constructivist ACOT
• Can we apply the ACOT principles to a global study of the use
of technology for learning?
with a question:
It all started
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 8
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 9
During the mid-1980s, a time of great excitement about using technology
to enhance education, educators at Apple proposed a simple experiment.
They would create environments in which technology was used as
routinely as paper and books—and then observe the effects on teaching
Working with partner districts, they selected schools and classrooms, and they gave two computers to each student and teacher—one
for school and one for home. (In those days of bulky equipment, this
was the only way to provide immediate and routine access.)
From the outset, the investigation team was composed of university-based researchers, ACOT staff members, and teachers—who played an
important role in describing classroom changes. With electronic mail and
audiotape for communication, and encouragement to reflect on their
experiences, the teachers flooded the ACOT staff at Apple with their
observations. As the volume of communication grew, the ACOT researchers developed a database for the anecdotal data and began investigating
themes relating to technology and change. Research-ers from other
institutions also began to conduct investigations in the ACOT settings.
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 10
By the end of the first year, students’ behavior and attendance improved, along
with their attitude toward themselves and toward learning. Performance also
improved in several ways:
• Test scores indicated that, despite time spent learning
to use the technology, students were performing well—
and some were clearly performing better.
• The students wrote more, more effectively, and with
• Some classes finished whole units of study far more
quickly than in past years.
Dispelling widespread myths, the researchers found that instead of
isolating students, access to technology actually encouraged them to
collaborate more than in traditional classrooms. And instead of becoming
boring with use, technology was even more interesting to students as they
began using it for creating and communicating.
Over time, independent researchers found that students in ACOT
classrooms not only continued to perform well on standardized tests but
were also developing a variety of competencies not usually measured. ACOT
students did the following:
• Explored and represented information dynamically
and in many forms.
• Became socially aware and more confident.
• Communicated effectively about complex processes.
• Used technology routinely and appropriately.
• Became independent learners and self-starters.
• Knew their areas of expertise and shared that
• Worked well collaboratively.
• Developed a positive orientation to the future.
“The students don’t
get tired of working
on the computer. They
actually ask for things
to do. In all of my
years of teaching, I
never had anyone ask
for another ditto.”
Dodson Elementary School,
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 11
ACOT has revitalized
the teaching process
tremendously. It has
also been the catalyst
for a transition from
blackboards and textbooks to a method
of instruction where
students can explore,
discover, and construct
their own knowledge.
—Barry Stebbins, Science Teacher,
West High School, Columbus, Ohio
These findings suggested the need for more research, both in
the area of assessment and in ways to develop similar environments for
learning in other schools.
As ACOT teachers became comfortable with the technology, they
reported they were enjoying their work more and feeling more successful with their students. Over time, they also reported that they interacted
differently with their students—more as guides or mentors and less like
lecturers. In fact, their personal efforts to make technology an integral
part of their classrooms caused them to rethink their most basic beliefs
about education and opened them to the possibilities of redefining
how they went about providing opportunities
for students to learn. This suggested
the need to explore professional
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 12
Not surprisingly, teachers and researchers found that an array of tools
for acquiring information and for thinking and communicating allows
more children more ways to become successful learners. But they
also found that the technology itself is a catalyst for change—encouraging
fundamentally different forms of interactions among students and between
students and teachers, engaging students systematically in higher-order
cognitive tasks, and prompting teachers to question old assumptions
about instruction and learning.
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 13
The ACOT classrooms have become a model for interdisciplinary
studies, team teaching, and addressing individual learning styles.
These are all concepts that have been around for many years, but
that are not easily put into practice. Introducing technology into
the classroom provides a catalyst to actually put these concepts
into practice and helps both students and teachers to succeed
in dramatic ways. —Jane Pratt, Supervisor,
Department of Instructional Technology,
Columbus Public Schools, Columbus, Ohio
The chart below shows the shift that occurred in classrooms
as the ACOT teachers extended their traditional views of teaching and
learning—from instruction to knowledge construction.
Traditional (instruction) Extended (knowledge construction)
Activity Teacher-centered and didactic Learner-centered and interactive
Teacher role Fact teller and expert Collaborator and sometimes learner
Student role Listener and learner Collaborator and sometimes expert
Learning emphasis Facts and replication Relationships and inquiry
Concept of knowledge Accumulation Transformation
Demonstration of success Quantity Quality
Assessment Norm-referenced and Criterion-referenced and
multiple guess performance portfolios
Technology use Seat work Communication, collaboration,
information access, and expression
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 14
What’s important to know
for today’s schools?
Early on, we found that with powerful, multipurpose tools and a learning
environment that balances the appropriate use of direct instruction with
a collaborative, inquiry-driven, knowledge-construction approach, students
can achieve far beyond today’s expectations. We also discovered that teachers
are the key to creating such learning environments. And we found that they
need broad administrative support both to create these environments and
to sustain them.
Although few schools offer the degree of technology access found in
ACOT classrooms, our research raises some important points for today’s
discussions about education. These ideas, though powerful, are also so simple that we sometimes refer to them as “the cutting edge of common sense.”
This experience has made me take risks. I’ve decided the worst that
can happen is I make mistakes and I need to ask others for help. I think
if I show that I take risks and make mistakes in teaching, my children
will feel more comfortable doing the same in learning.
—Participant in the ACOT
Teacher Development Center program
to be meaningful.
We need to balance curriculum-based
instruction with opportunities for students
to use an inquiry-based, collaborative
approach to solve meaningful problems.
Problem-based learning lets students build
on their own knowledge and incorporate
new information with what they have
already learned. And when technology is
available to students, it not only opens up
opportunities to solve problems, it also
provides additional tools for communication and collaboration.
Examples abound of ACOT students
being engaged in meaningful learning
activities. For instance, fourth-graders
capped a semester of technology-enriched
project-based learning by initiating their
own writing project. During the last three
weeks of the school year, they designed,
wrote, and produced “how-to” handbooks
for the incoming fourth-graders—to help
the new students more easily learn how to
use ACOT’s technology-based tools.
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 15
As you work into using the computer in the classroom, you start questioning
everything you have done in the past, and wonder how you can adapt it to
the computer. Then, you start questioning the whole concept of what you
— Paula Fistick, Math Teacher, West High School, Columbus, Ohio
Students at the ACOT high school site,
engaged in an interdisciplinary study of
their city, constructed a mechanized, 12-
foot-square, scale model of the downtown
area—and honed their skills in mathematics, language arts, and robotics as well as
in critical thinking, problem solving, and
resource management. Replicating the
project the following year, the next class
added a level of complexity. After videotaping the entire process, they used the
video output to create an interactive,
computer-driven exhibit for the city’s
Technology is a
catalyst for change.
Bringing technology into the classroom
levels the playing field between teachers
and students—creating an unfamiliar
challenge for teachers. This effect is compounded when the students know more
about the technology than their teachers—
or simply learn to use it faster. Although
teachers may initially be uncomfortable in
that situation, they also discover unexpected benefits. For example, many teachers
develop more empathy for students
because they, too, are experiencing being
learners. They also develop new respect
for those students who learn enough to
become “local experts” in the technology
area, and often rely on them to help
As teachers become comfortable with a
shift in classroom roles, they may start
extending their idea of what it means to be
a teacher. If they’re supported, they may
also change their approach to teaching and
learning—from curriculum-centered to
learner-centered, from individual tasks to
collaborative work, and from passive
learning to active learning.
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 16
Teachers progress through stages
as they learn how to incorporate
technology in classroom
We observed that teachers’ approach to
the use of classroom technology evolves
through a few orderly stages: entry,
adoption, adaptation, appropriation, and
invention. And we found that certain kinds
of support help speed that evolution:
mentors who are further along in the
process, opportunities for reflection, and
encouragement to question their beliefs
about teaching and learning.
A framework for collaboration
can support teachers in the
When teachers have an opportunity to
collaborate with peers, for example in
developing or assessing classroom activities, they have a wealth of experience on
which to draw. Yet because teaching is
essentially an individual activity, teachers
are not used to this kind of collaboration.
So they usually begin with different
approaches, points of view, and vocabularies. A common language and framework for discussion makes collaboration
on classroom activities more productive
and also supports professional growth.
ACOT staff and teachers came up with
the following terms and associated questions for beginning a conversation about
Standards. What objectives are set for
learners? Why is it important for a student
to accomplish an objective? How does the
objective fit into an overall district, state,
national, or international framework?
Tasks. What is the nature of the student
work required by the teacher?
Interactions. Who talks and works with
whom? Who initiates interactions?
Situations. How are time, space, and
place—and the experience and concerns
of the learner—used to support activities?
Tools. What materials are provided to
support the representation of ideas?
As a result of my experiences at the center,
I am now allowing my
children to have more
control of the equipment. Before, I would
have the children type
on the word processor,
and I’d save it for them.
Then, in the evening, I
would print their things
for them. Now I let
them do it all.
—Participant in the
Entry Learn the basics of using the new technology.
Adoption Use new technology to support traditional instruction.
Adaptation Integrate new technology into traditional classroom practice. Here, they often focus
on increased student productivity and engagement by using word processors, spreadsheets, and graphics tools.
Appropriation Focus on cooperative, project-based, and interdisciplinary work—incorporating the
technology as needed and as one of many tools.
Invention Discover new uses for technology tools, for example, developing spreadsheet macros
for teaching algebra or designing projects that combine multiple technologies.
Stage Examples of what teachers do
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 17
Assessment. How is student learning
demonstrated? How do students, teachers,
parents, and administrators know that
productive work is accomplished—that
learning standards are met or exceeded?
Situated professional development
is a powerful agent for change.
When teachers see other teachers and
students in the day-to-day challenges of real
school, they begin to say “I can do this.” So,
for example, they are most willing to adopt
new ideas about learning and technology
when their observation and work is “situated” in real classrooms where students are
successfully engaged in the routine use
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 18
In 1985, when ACOT staff began exploring
ways to help teachers use technology
effectively in their classrooms, they tried
various teacher development approaches.
Over the years, they found that those that
had the most impact did the following:
• Involved small-group collaborations
• Took place in working classrooms
• Built on teachers’ existing knowledge
about curriculum and practice
• Provided opportunities to experiment
and reflect on new experiences
• Provided ongoing support to help
implement change and innovation
Visitors to ACOT sites remarked on
the differences they observed between
traditional teacher roles and what they
saw in the ACOT classrooms, and they
often asked how the ACOT teachers
learned the instructional techniques
In 1988, in response to frequent
requests for a “recipe for technology staff
development,” the teachers and staff at the
Nashville ACOT site designed a professional development program that would
provide opportunities for teachers to learn
about integrating technology within the
context of classroom practice.
By 1989, two-teacher teams from local
schools began attending three-day programs at the ACOT site. During that time,
the participants observed accomplished
ACOT teachers and discussed the approach
to teaching and learning that the ACOT
teachers had adopted. They also had
hands-on experiences with technology,
discussed their goals for technology
integration, and developed a proposal
for an effective instructional use of technology
in their own classroom. Overall, the three-day
program not only provided
them with new
information, but also
encouraged them to
think about creating
environments. The ACOT
coordinator provided ongoing follow-up support,
visiting each school to talk
with the teachers about their
efforts to use technology as well as to
change their role in the classroom.
Following two years of positive
response to this pilot program, the
ACOT Teacher Development Centers
project was funded by the National
Science Foundation—in partnership
with ACOT and the participating school
districts. The project began in
The ACOT Teacher
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 19
The biggest benefit of the
Centers is that secondary
teachers see first-hand
what dramatic improvements can be made with
instructional methods other
than “lecture, recitation,
seat work.” They can
see that it is possible
to implement positive
changes with technology
as a catalyst.
ACOT Teacher Development Center
Coordinator, Columbus, Ohio
Characteristics of Successful Staff Development
Constructivist learning environment.
Although some teachers are initially
uncomfortable in the learner-centered
environment of the ACOT Teacher
Development Centers, most quickly adapt,
taking advantage of the opportunity for
exploration and discovery to construct
their own knowledge about the role of
technology in instruction.
Situated staff development. Working
in real classrooms with real students makes
staff development participants better able
to see that what they are learning can
be useful in their own classrooms. The
classroom observations not only provide
participants with models of teaching
strategies, new ideas, and validation for
what they were already doing, they also
stimulate discussions of educational issues.
Time for reflection. When teachers
experience a different kind of learning
environment, such as that found in the
ACOT Teacher Development Centers, they
need time to think about the new information they’re getting. Personal reflection,
while participating in a group discussion or
writing in a personal journal, helps teachers to question their own beliefs and to
begin the process of change.
Specific plans for change. To structure
their observations and experiences, and
to facilitate the transfer of new ideas into
their own classrooms, participants at the
ACOT Teacher Development Centers plan
a project that they will implement upon
returning to their schools. The major purpose of the project is to get teachers to
use their existing resources.
Immediate and ongoing follow-up
support. Because new skills need to be
reinforced with practice and supported
with feedback, the teacher development
program includes a two-part follow-up
component. First, the centers require
that teachers attend in teams, so they can
provide each other with both practical and
emotional support when they return to
their schools. In addition, the project coordinators provide frequent feedback to the
participants about the implementation
of their projects, and they encourage an
ongoing conversation about instructional
Development Centers Project
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 20
Just as the original “What happens when...?” question prompted a variety
of other questions, so, too, the ACOT research divided into several strands.
The longitudinal, site-based strand that grew out of the original question
has evolved into a professional development project—the ACOT Teacher
Development Centers. Another strand focused on the development of
cutting-edge technologies that integrated new ideas about teaching and
learning. To facilitate the necessary collaboration among researchers,
teachers, and students, ACOT established additional short-term research
sites in dozens of other classrooms nationwide.
Here are some of the major themes of the research and the directions
it has taken.( Note: For the most part, the prototype software used in these
projects is not commercially available.)
Looking at 10 years of
ACOT research... Collaboration. We know that using
technology both encourages students
to collaborate and aids in collaborative
work. What kinds of collaborative
environments and tools are most helpful?
• Marlene Scardamalia and Carl Bereiter
(Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) created a computer-based environment that supports
students in the manipulation and construction of
information as they collaborate on projects.
• Brian Reilly (UC/Berkeley, now at Apple)
designed a HyperCard stack that manages
student work in a portfolio format and allows
teachers and students to add comments.
Communication. When learners in the past
encountered problems, they had access to only
the teacher’s knowledge and information from
textbooks and the library. What happens when
students have access to other experts, on-line
sources of information, and colleagues?
• With the Technical Education Research Center
(TERC) and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS)
we created MediaFusion, a project that combined
the capabilities of television (timely stories) with
computers (interactivity) to create environments
where students explore important issues and
discuss their discoveries with students in other
• Karla Kelly (Lucasfilm) developed an interdisciplinary curriculum—based on the Foxfire model—
that motivates middleschool students to explore
their own cultural heritage and to create interactive projects that reflect their life experiences.
There’s been a significant increase in the body of knowledge about
how people use technology for teaching and learning, and ACOT
researchers have made valuable contributions. But countless questions
are still unanswered, and untold more have yet to be asked. This is a
work in progress. Stay tuned.
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 21
• With the San Francisco Exploratorium and a
local school district, we are investigating how
elementary school teachers can use a mediarich environment to enhance communication,
collaboration, and inquiry.
Multiple representation of ideas. What
kind of learning tools can we develop that
take advantage of the computer’s power
to represent ideas in multiple forms?
• Jere Confrey (Cornell) developed a tool to aid
in the discovery approach to teaching calculus.
Function Probe allows students to construct relationships between tables, graphs, and equations
easily and interactively—and to work with functions in a concrete rather than an abstract way.
• Barbara Buckley (Stanford) created an interactive multimedia simulation to give high school
students a deeper understanding of physiology.
• Roy Pea and Christina Allen (Institute for
Research on Learning) created MediaWorks, a
multimedia database and composing tool that
allows students to research, create, analyze, and
synthesize a wide array of information.
Intelligent applications and modeling.
What are some of the ways to use computing
power to support students when they’re solving
• John Anderson (Carnegie Mellon University)
created an intelligent computer tutor for geometry that provides a visual toolkit for developing
geometric proofs and gives feedback at each
• Bowen Loftin (University of Houston) developed Intelligent Physics Tutor, a physics-tutoring
environment that “observes” each student solving problems and “learns” how best to respond
to his or her errors and how to provide useful
guidance through the curriculum.
Information analysis. What happens to
learning and motivation when we give
students access to the very tools, or the same
kinds of tools, that are used by professional
• Chris Hancock (Technical Education Research
Center) explored the use of technology to help
teach middle school students how to use data to
solve real problems. He used TableTop, a visual
database environment for young students, and
developed interdisciplinary, inquiry-based
• Richard Greenberg (University of Arizona)
taught teachers how their students could use
digital image processing tools to derive
information from satellite photos—thus gaining
authentic science experiences.
• Gene Stanley (Boston University) created
hands-on activities and simulations so that high
school math and science students could be
“doing real science” as they learn about probability and random processes in nature—specifically
by studying fractals.
• Karen Price (Harvard) developed a video
manipulation tool that allowed teachers and
students to use video to explore the context in
which language occurs.
Assessment. We know that students and
teachers are developing new competencies,
many of which are not measured by current
tests. How can we identify them accurately
and measure them objectively?
• Eva Baker (UCLA) examined the effectiveness
of traditional measures of student achievement
and student self-concept at capturing changes in
ACOT students over time. She also explored
objective ways to do portfolio assessment.
• Robert Tierney (The Ohio State University)
conducted longitudinal observations of ACOT
high school students, focusing on the way they
write, organize their work, and attack new
problems. He also examined students’ selfassessment.
• Allan Collins (Northwestern University) and
Jan Hawkins (Center for Teaching and Learning)
investigated the use of video in performance
assessment of complex learning, such as in
• Midian Kurland (Education Development
Center, now at Apple) examined the use of
TextBrowser, a technology-based language arts
assessment tool that teachers could also use
to generate activities based on the students’
• Roy Pea and Jeremy Roschelle (Institute for
Research on Learning) created VideoNoter, a
software tool that supports researchers in their
efforts to analyze videotapes of classroom learning situations. Using this tool, researchers can
annotate and later search and gather video
segments on a common theme.
... as a work in progress
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 22
Where to get more information
The ACOT Research Portfolio—1994
includes these reports:
• Creating an Alternative Context for
Teacher Development: ACOT’s Twoyear Pilot Project
• Creating an Alternative Context for
Teacher Development: The ACOT
Teacher Development Centers
• Environments That Support New
Modes of Learning: The Results of
Two Interactive Design Workshops
• MediaFusion: A Tool That Supports
Learning Through Experience,
Reflection, and Collaboration
• Student Engagement Revisited: Views
from Technology-Rich Classrooms
Part number: L00804/A Cost: $7.75
Two-page summaries of many of the
research reports are available free, either
by fax or electronically on the Internet. To
order by fax, call Apple Education at 1-800-
800-APPL (2775) and choose the fax
option. Then follow the instructions to
order a catalog of available documents.
To find the summaries (and some of
the full reports) on eWorld, located on the
World Wide Web, look in the Learning
ACOT research reports, along with videotapes that document three ACOT projects,
are available through Apple’s StartingLine
materials distribution program. Call 1-800-
825-2145 for more information or to place
The ACOT Research Portfolio—1990
includes these reports:
• ACOT Evaluation Study: First- and
• Teacher Beliefs and Practices Part I:
Patterns of Change
• Teacher Beliefs and Practices Part II:
Support for Change
• Teaching in High-Tech Environments:
Classroom Management Revisited
• Development of Teacher Knowledge
and Implementation of a Problembased Mathematics Curriculum
Part number: LO1561A Cost: $5.00
The ACOT Research Portfolio—1992
includes these reports:
• Computer Acquisition: A Longitudinal
Study of the Influence of High Computer Access on Students’ Thinking,
Learning, and Interactions
• The Negotiations of Group Authorship
Among Second-Graders Using
Multimedia Composing Software
• Partnerships for Change
• The Relationship Between Technological Innovation and Collegial
• Trading Places: When Teachers Utilize
Student Expertise in TechnologyIntensive Classrooms
Part number: L0328LL/A Cost: $5.00
“Wireless Coyote” is a videotape that
follows middle school students on a science field trip into the Arizona desert.
The students use wireless communications
and mobile computers to collect and
analyze data and to share their findings
with colleagues at other locations.
Part number: APL 870 Cost: $8.00
“Cloud Forest Classroom: An Investigation into Wireless Collaboration” is
a videotape that shows how students
on a biology field trip to Costa Rica’s
Monteverde Cloud Forest used Macintosh
PowerBook computers connected by
radio frequency modems to inquire
Part number: APL 882 Cost: $8.00
Collaboration” is a videotape that shows
how junior high students on opposite
coasts of the United States share thoughts
and theories about global warming. Using
Macintosh computers, the students compose QuickTime movies with embedded
graphs that support their positions. Then
they exchange these messages via satellite
with their peers across the country.
Part number: APL 883 Cost: $8.00
For information about Apple Education products, programs, and
services, call1-800-800-APPL (2775).
Apple Education information can also be located on the Internet:
A Report on 10 Years of ACOT Research 23
We couldn’t have done it without you...
...and the thousands of ACOT students and their families.
Thanks for joining us in this first decade of discovery.
Mary Ann Brilleslyper
Yvette del Prado
Marge des Groseilliers
Mary Jo Graziano
Mark L. Miller
Suzanne Morro De
Santee Ruffin, Jr.
John Seely Brown
Jim St. Lawrence
Chris St. Lawrence
Mary Ann Tormey
Adele Van Deren
D. Lee Wisniewski
Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT) is a 10-year-old research and development collaboration that unites public
schools, universities, research agencies, and Apple Computer, Inc. In ACOT classrooms, students and teachers have immediate
access to a wide range of technologies, including computers, videodisc players, video cameras, scanners, CD-ROM drives, modems,
and on-line communications services. In addition, students can use an assortment of software programs and tools, including word
processors, databases, spreadsheets, and graphics packages. In ACOT classrooms, technology is viewed as a tool for learning and
a medium for thinking, collaborating, and communicating.
ACOT research has demonstrated that the introduction of technology to classrooms can significantly increase the
potential for learning, especially when it is used to support collaboration, information access, and the expression and representation of students’ thoughts and ideas. Realizing this opportunity for all students, however, requires a broadly conceived approach to
educational change that integrates new technologies and curricula with new ideas about learning and teaching, as well as with
authentic forms of assessment.
Apple Computer, Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, California 95014
ACOT has been a pioneer in providing a national
test bed for innovation in advanced educational
technologies and in education research. It has
fostered new models of uses for technology in
education and inspired teachers, researchers,
and industry alike.
Dean of the School of Education and Social Policy
and John Evans Professor of Education and the
Learning Sciences, Northwestern University
© 1995 Apple Computer, Inc. All rights reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, HyperCard, Macintosh, PowerBook, and QuickTime are trademarks of Apple Computer, Inc.,
registered in the U.S.A. and other countries. eWorld is a trademark of Apple Computer, Inc. ACOT is a service mark of Apple Computer, Inc. Permission to reproduce
for nonprofit use is granted, provided that this publication is credited.
Printed in the U.S.A. 9/95 MP/TM 20K L01567A