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Principals Talk Tech: How Is Technology Integration Going?

Are all your teachers aboard the tech integration express? Did a few miss the train? This week, the Education World "Principal Files" principals share their perspectives on how tech integration is going. For some, the obstacles loom large. Others are using special incentives to motivate teachers to join the technology team. Included: Tips for making technology integration happen in your school!


If the Education World Principal Files principals are any indicator, about half of all classroom teachers use technology in valuable ways. Generally speaking, schools are doing a good job of integrating technology.

However, a close look at the grades principals gave to their tech integration efforts reveals that although some principals give their schools an A, too many principals have rated their schools' efforts as C or D.

Why do schools technology grades vary so widely? We asked our P-Files principals to share their views about the keys and the obstacles to technology integration success.

"The key to our success has been the hiring of an outstanding media specialist who is very collaborative and innovative in her thinking," says principal Dr. Lolli Haws of Avery Elementary School in Webster Groves, Missouri. "Our media specialist and technology aide have enthusiasm, skills, and a collegial approach that has, over two years, fully engaged all teachers and their students in meaningful, challenging learning projects with technology."

The media specialist works closely with all teachers to design projects that employ video, slide shows and photo-editing software, and Internet searches, Hawes tells Education World. The specialist also helps teachers use digital camera technology to burn CDs that become student portfolios for various projects. In addition, the art and music teachers burn CDs of student art and singing that will be kept throughout their years at Webster Groves; at the end of their stay, they will have a digital portfolio that demonstrates their growth in the arts.

"Another key has been that we never use technology for games or rewards," adds Hawes. "It is used only for meaningful work directly tied to academic curriculum."

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND MODELING

In some schools, the responsibility for professional development in the area of technology integration falls to the media or technology specialist. Other schools, such as Roselawn Condon Elementary School in Cincinnati, use a combination of in-house and outside trainers. "We have a full-time technology specialist who helps teachers and offers beginning computer classes for parents in the evening," says vice principal Bonita Henderson. "We also offer in-service training by companies from which we purchase software."

Roselawn Condon is a well-connected school. Every classroom has at least five computers, and the school has two computer labs. In an effort to make technology an integral part of every teacher's life, technology use is modeled from the top down, explains Henderson. "Our principal produces daily bulletins that are sent to all staff via e-mail, and I use e-mail to contact teachers with information, questions, and requests," she says.

All teachers at Goodwyn Junior High School in Montgomery, Alabama, also use technology on a daily basis, principal Marie Kostick tells Education World. In addition, "Every year I have teachers who are willing to experiment with new software, Web sites, or innovative ways of presentation," says Kostick, who makes time at each staff meeting for those teachers to share the results of their experimentation. "As a result of that modeling, other teachers are more receptive to trying new ideas," Kostick adds. "They know their colleagues are available to assist them."

David Christensen, principal at Wirreanda Public School in Medowie, New South Wales (Australia), credits much of his school's success to a terrific technology coordinator. In addition, we hold several technology competitions each year, he tells Education World. Those competitions model for teachers some great uses of technology and go a long way toward encouraging teachers to make more of an effort to integrate technology.

Christensen adds, "I am generous with time to enable training and development."

Principal Jon Romeo readily admits that some teachers at his school have a way to go before they are ready to integrate technology in truly valuable ways. "The best motivation is to invest in professional development," says Romeo, principal at Bradford Elementary School in Westerly, Rhode Island.

Romeo cautions, however, that professional development must be balanced with two other important things -- the acquisition of hardware and peripherals and the purchase of software to support teacher training and student instruction. "I've heard someone use a tripod analogy [to describe technology planning in schools]," says Romeo. "If any of those three areas gains too little or too much, then the tripod is not balanced. We've all been in schools where new technology is collecting dust because no one knows how to use it. Many of us have also experienced the frustration of having computer-savvy staff members who do not get the resources they need to utilize their tech talents."

Seven Tips for Tech Success

Have you seen Golden Nuggets: Seven Tips for Technology Success from the Ed World archive?

Dr. Bruce Whitehead is the principal of Hellgate Intermediate School in Missoula, Montana, and an associate professor at the University of Montana. He designed and implemented a model for classroom technology centers that earned him the National Distinguished Principals Award from the National Association of Elementary School Principals. In this article, Whitehead shares "seven golden nuggets" -- seven tips to help ensure the success of your school's technology implementation plans.

INCENTIVES BRING TEACHERS ON BOARD

In many of the schools that seem to be making headway integrating technology, at least some of that success can be attributed to special material incentives offered to teachers.

Schools in Sacramento, California, participate in the Intel Teach to the Future program. Through that program, teachers who complete a semester-long series of courses in basic computer literacy and use of Power Point software receive a computer system to take home. "The teachers are participating in strong numbers," says Lyn McCarty, coordinator of special education services. "Teachers can become more familiar with the technology at home. As a result, there is a greater chance that they will begin to use the technology in their classrooms."

At Belfry (Montana) High School, teachers continue to make tech integration progress. "Three years ago, we had four or five teachers who did not know how to turn on a computer, but today a new computer sits on every teacher's desk," says principal Jed Landsman-Yakin. "We have incentives in place to help all our teachers learn more and learn it faster than before. We reimburse certified staff members at the rate of $50 per semester credit for every technology course they take, and we bring in two presenters each semester to provide technology training."

At Eltham Primary School in Melbourne, Victoria (Australia), principal Julie Askew has hired a hands-on technician who is very enthusiastic. "I have also given extra preparation time to one staff member who is a tech whiz," adds Askew. "She uses that time to troubleshoot. The staff feels very comfortable with her, so I've asked her to survey the staff informally. Staff members might feel bashful about saying what they don't know, understand, or feel comfortable with in a more formal setting."

In some states, teachers' technology skills are measured, and there are school-wide incentives to develop those skills. For example, in Idaho, all teachers must receive a Technology Competency Certification. "Any school that does not have 90 percent of its staff technology certified cannot be accredited with merit," explains Ralph Lowe, principal at Kellogg High School. "Almost every school in our district has reached the 90 percent mark or higher."

Idaho is also attempting to make technology certification a requirement for a teaching endorsement. "It is just a matter of time," adds Lowe. "Nearly all our recent education graduates are receiving that certification before graduation."

Most Idaho schools are well equipped when it comes to technology, notes Lowe. The J. A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation "has poured millions of dollars into our schools, and much of that money was used for technology training and hardware," he explains.

WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES?

In spite of technology integration successes, principals in many schools recognize the obstacles to true technology integration. Those obstacles include the following:

TIME

Tony Pallija, principal at Max Hayes Vocational High School in Cleveland, Ohio, says time is one of the biggest obstacles. "Most in-service training after school is wasted on a tired staff," he says. "We try to get grants to pay for substitutes to cover classes while teachers train in comfort and quiet."

Lolli Haws agreed that time can be an obstacle. "The biggest obstacle for us is the time it takes for teachers to learn the technology skills, the time it takes to fully integrate technology into the curriculum the way it could be, and the time to share what we are doing so we can learn and get new ideas from each other," she says.

MONEY

Computers in Canberra

robinson

By Greg Robinson, principal, Melrose High School, Canberra (Australian Capital Territory), Australia

In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), there is a ready acceptance that using technology is the way to improve curriculum. We deny our students so many opportunities if we do not provide state-of-the-art technology. Our school system has done a number of things to integrate technology:

* Each teacher in our system has an up-to-date computer for use at school.
* Our department offers regular professional development courses for teachers and administrators.
* Each Year 10 student is expected to complete 15 competencies in Information Communication Technology.
* My school has a special lap top program. [Click on Special Programs, then Computer Notebook Program.)
* Our school policy calls for purchasing extra computers for student use whenever funds become available. We now have 120 computers.
* Each student has her or his own e-mail address linked to a student network.
* We have employed a specialist IT technician.
* Wherever possible, technology is used in the administrative aspects of the school. All student reports are computer generated; the school newsletter is generated entirely on our network; professional development course registration is done through the network; and staff daily notices are on the network.
* We use digital cameras to record all aspects of school activities and communicate reports of those activities to parents and the rest of the school.

"The biggest obstacle has to be the funds needed to purchase up-to-date software and hardware," says Larry Davis, principal at Doctors Inlet Elementary School in Middleburg, Florida.

"Funding is always an issue," adds Marie Kostick. "Our technology allocation is very limited, and teachers have expensive requests. We must resort to holding fund-raisers, begging from our education partners in the community and the PTSA..."

"Education will also have a problem finding qualified people because we cannot compete with industry," according to Tony Pallija. "We can't pay the salary we need to pay to get the people who know computers best."

How technology is funded is a big concern, agrees principal Amos Kornfeld of Piermont (New Hampshire) Village School. Space is an issue too. "Where will the machines go once you have them?"

SCHOOL BOARDS

"We must convince the powers that be that spending money is a positive step to overcome ignorance," says principal Jed Landsman-Yakin. "Our conservative board has a difficult time with large chunks of money being spent without seeing immediate gains."

Principal Bob Isherwood would love to see more money spent on technology, but, he says, "When it is left up to local school boards and taxpayers, they rarely want to spend the money." Isherwood, who is principal at Pivik Elementary School in Plum Borough, Pennsylvania, would like to see a commitment made at the state level to buy every student a lap top. Pointing to the state of Maine's lap tops-for-students program, Isherwood says, "I think it takes a statewide effort to make something like that happen."

TECHNOLOGY

Hardware and software need updating on a regular basis. "It seems that the technology future is upon us daily," Larry Davis tells Education World. "With adequate funding, we can keep up to date with technology innovation, ideas, and resources for our teachers.

"We have to realize that chasing the updates in technology is like chasing the wind," adds Davis. "We can never seem to catch up."

"Things break down," continues Amos Kornfeld. "Technology is not like a book or a chalkboard. There's a reliability factor."

TEACHERS' FEARS

"It isn't easy to motivate teachers to get out of their "comfort zone," says principal Jed Landsman-Yakin. "Teachers are creatures of habit. They need to be motivated to reach out of that shell and experience the new technology."

"Some teachers don't necessarily believe more computer integration is better," adds Amos Kornfeld.

"I don't think the age of the teacher has a lot to do with it," says Laura B. Crochet, principal at Genesis Alternative High School in Houma, Louisiana. "Two of the tech-iest teachers in my school are more than 50 years old and have more than 25 years of teaching experience."

Crochet also believes that the levels of technology integration are not necessarily tied to the level of technology that is available. Genesis is a very well-equipped school. In spite of that, Crochet thinks, the school has a way to go before its staff and 150 students make the best use of that technology.

Principal Larry Davis agrees. Even though tech integration strides are being made at his school, he says, right now technology just seems like "another piece of the curriculum plan.

"Instead," comments Davis, "it should be viewed as the glue that holds it all together."

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