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Dr. Bruce Whitehead is the principal of Hellgate Intermediate School 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. This article is reprinted by permission of Bruce Whitehead.
I remember vividly my days as an elementary school principal trying to get my technology program off the ground. I also remember trying desperately to get reluctant staff members to accept and use networked computers in their classrooms as well as find the dollars to fund the program.
Through trial and error -- actually more error than trial -- I learned hard and fast lessons that I call "The Seven Golden Nuggets." These are tips I developed during the planning and implementation of a program that helped my school, Hellgate Elementary in Missoula, Montana, become a National Blue Ribbon School and a national demonstration site for the effective use of classroom technology.
The first lesson is that technology should not drive curriculum but just the opposite -- curriculum should drive technology. We work to make technology transparent and fit our existing curriculum, in which teachers use computers, LCD projectors, scanners, and other technology, much as they would an overhead or a VCR.
Second, I came to realize that the key to using technology successfully is the teacher. Only teachers can make technology happen effectively in the classroom.
Third, I find that money follows success. Our district makes technology a major funding priority and has technology as a line item in the budget, which represents at least 5 percent of the general fund. This provides a stable source of revenue for technology each year and helps to ensure success.
Fourth, I decided to put at least five high-speed networked computers with a printer in each classroom and more if necessary to achieve a student-computer ratio of 5 to 1. This enhances a cooperative learning environment for each classroom, where students and teachers have access to computers and the Internet all day.
Fifth, I formulate strategies on how to reach the "reluctants" -- those teachers having difficulty fully integrating technology into their classrooms. I now use a mentor program, whereby I pair a teacher having difficulty using technology with a master technology teacher. I send both, as a team, to conferences and schedule their prep periods together in order for them to practice computer applications. I believe in providing staff development via "teachers teaching teachers" and in using a combination of student early outs, rotation of substitute teachers, and extended teacher contracts to build in time for professional development.
Sixth, I find that it is easy to measure and evaluate success with technology by monitoring the amount and quality of student writing; enhancement of cooperative learning; awareness of student learning styles; application of student technical tutoring; and the level of e-mail communication among teachers, parents, and administrators.
Finally, I have found that an effective public relations program develops community awareness. When parents and community leaders understand why classroom technology is so important to the future of their children, they are more willing to support it.
If these golden nuggets can work for a rural school in Montana, like ours, they can work for just about any school across the country.
Article by Dr. Bruce Whitehead
Copyright © 2007 Education World