What are some best practices for technology implementation--practices that can really make or break a school's technology program? Success depends on everything from leadership to staff buy-in to quality of training. My significantly revised "Ten Pillars of Successful Technology Integration" has benefited greatly from the input of other educators. Use it as a roadmap for your school's tech success.
Pillar 1: Leadership must provide active and committed support -- financial, logistical, and moral.
A technology program is only going to succeed when school boards, school superintendents, and school principals commit to it in word and deed. That support would take the form of practical allocations in terms of all necessary release time and training for teachers and administrators. The best leadership must work to supply and maintain an "appropriate environment" that will function as fertile ground for educationally sound outcomes. The teacher is a member of the leadership team too, and should be equally committed to technology-integrated education.
Pillar 2: Selling is better than telling. Everyone needs to buy into the change that technology brings.
The best leadership establishes an environment in which expected outcomes occur spontaneously. Technology should never be forced on teachers; its use should never come as a mandate from on high. So, teachers must be given the opportunity to prepare for the kind of change that computer-based technology brings. The best leadership therefore enables teachers to become the best that they can be through consultation, collaboration, communication, support, respect, and encouragement.
Pillar 3: Invest in, and train, a core team of teacher-computerists.
Teacher-computerists are men and women who are committed to using computer-based educational technology, and who have been given the opportunity to gain a sufficiently high level of expertise to qualify them to act as role models, advisors, and trouble shooters in matters having to do with computer-based educational technology. In every school, there should be one or more teacher-computerists, the number depending on the size of the school and, of course, on the school's commitment to educational computing.
Teacher-computerists should be given adequate release time to fulfill the following roles and tasks:
Teachers are the ideal people to work with other teachers because they understand their needs. Teachers who are also computerists will be further suited to help their colleagues learn about computers because they are trained as teachers, and have experience working with computing novices. They are therefore less likely to frighten off other teachers who might be timid about getting into the technology.
Pillar 4: Recognize that technological change is fast. Keeping up-to-date is challenging and essential.
Ironically, preparation that involves computer technology puts greater demands on the teacher in terms of time than do more traditional methodologies. That is because the technology makes possible the preparation of learning materials, activities, and experiences that are rich in multimedia, "discovery-style" content. And the possibilities are limited only by the ingenuity of programmers and teachers. School districts must therefore provide teachers with every opportunity to stay abreast of advances in technology and, more importantly, must give the teachers time to integrate teaching and learning technologies into the curriculum.
Pillar 5: All teachers must receive ongoing training.
Teachers are the leaders in the classroom. How can they take advantage of the first of these secrets of successful technology integration (Active support must come from the top.) unless they have sufficient knowledge and skill to feel that they are competent in creating learning opportunities in a technology-rich learning environment? At schools such as the Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Tennessee, for example, Lorrie Jackson organizes half-hour "Tuesday Techtorials." The Techtorials, to which all teachers are invited, provide hands-on training throughout the school year.
Pillar 6: All teachers must receive ongoing technical support.
Technical support should be on site and on demand. To quote Debbie Drewien, Instructional Technology Specialist for the Blaine County School District in Idaho, USA: "I whole-heartedly support [the] view that being on-site where you can respond to teachers' needs "just-in-time" and build relationships with them so they are willing to invite you in, is so important. They will rarely call you if you are [squirreled away somewhere] at the district office. Out of "site," out of mind (if you'll pardon the pun)! Jeff Hogan, instructional technology resource teacher at the Blankner School in Orlando, Florida, puts it well when he says: "In the best possible world (which is the one I live in because I choose to make it the best) instructional technology (IT) is faculty and staff. We are a team and we do it all for the students."
Pillar 7: Use it or lose it.
Practice makes perfect, as they say. Lack of practice can easily lead to the loss of previously acquired skills. There's no point in providing training and technical support if the teachers are not ready and willing to apply newly acquired skills on a regular basis in their professional lives. Likewise, there is no point installing equipment such as a SmartBoard in a classroom if the teacher does not plan to use it with students to help them learn.
Pillar 8: Parents and students must be actively involved in the evolutionary process.
There should be continuity between home and school. That applies to all aspects of education. Parents should feel that their child's classroom is their classroom, too. Today, in the United States at least, more and more parents have an online computer for their child at home. But even when that is not the case, parents should at least be provided with feedback on the existence and effectiveness of a technology program in the child's classroom. Schools -- administration and faculty -- have to appreciate the value of getting parents directly or indirectly involved. Information has been defined as "a reduction in uncertainty" (Shannon & Weaver, 1949). Effective communication enabled by computer-based technology can help remove much of the uncertainty that surrounds many parents' perceptions of the education their children are getting in school.
Pillar 9: There must be planned and systematic financial investment in technology-integrated teaching and learning.
In times of economic adversity, school districts should resist the temptation to trim the educational technology budget. Modern computer-based instructional technologies rapidly become obsolete, so a commitment to funding technology-integrated teaching and learning is a necessity, not an option. That commitment has to be seen as long term, with careful planning to ensure that the money is well-spent.
Pillar 10: Recognize that technology is for all, and that it involves all in the process of lifelong learning.
Children today are growing up with modern computer-based technology as part and parcel of their lives. They are digital natives; they cannot imagine their lives without access to technology. Learning at school and at home can be seamless and integrated when the technology is made available in both environments. Parents, children, teachers, and administrators all need to work toward making learning something that children do not "switch off" when they leave the classroom, but rather relish whenever opportunity allows.
The ten pillars were excerpted from chapter 14 of Education for an Information Age: Teaching in the Computerized Classroom, by Bernard J. Poole with Lorrie Jackson. The entire book is available free at http://www.pitt.edu/~edindex/InfoAge4index.html.