Teachers often come under fire for their failure to fully integrate technology into their classrooms. Until recently, however, very little has been said about the role of school administrators in technology integration. This month, the Education World Tech Team discusses how they think principals and other administrators can optimize technology use in their schools.
"The most effective way school administrators can promote technology use is to themselves be knowledgeable and effective users of technology," says Betty Kistler, computer technology coordinator at Tuckahoe School in Southampton, New York.
"Principals play a big role in setting the climate of a building," agrees Cathy Chamberlain, a technology consultant in the Oswego (New York) City School District. "Teachers who are on the fence -- or think they don't have time to get involved with technology -- think twice when they sense a positive attitude on the part of the administration.
"I work in five elementary schools," Chamberlain explains. "In my experience, technology integration is highest in buildings in which the principal is involved and excited about technology and its possibilities and is lowest in buildings in which the principal doesn't demonstrate technology use while encouraging others to use it too. Modeling technology usage is key if administrators want teachers to play an active role in technology integration."
John Simeone, Webmaster at Beach Street Middle School in West Islip, New York, adds, "Staff members are more apt to use technology if administrators feel strongly about technology use for reasons that are based in fact -- not merely on the assumption that they need to 'keep up' with other schools or districts."
"Administrators need to model, model, model," stresses Marcia Reed, media center coordinator at St. Pius X School in Toledo, Ohio. "They can do that by using technology for administrative functions and by knowing how to use the hardware and software they expect teachers to use."
Mary Kreul, a technology specialist at Richards Elementary School in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, agrees. "Weekly memos to staff members, schedule changes, meeting minutes, and so on, can all be handled via e-mail. School news can be broadcast over the school cable system. Attendance records, grading, and reporting can be technology-based -- with a system that's intuitive, practical, and accessible. A school Web page can feature administrators providing brief descriptions of the school and its mission, school highlights, or upcoming events."
"Principals can encourage the use of technology in their schools in other ways as well," says Caroline Salerno, a fifth-grade teacher and Internet trainer at Bretton Woods Elementary School in Hauppauge, New York. "They can
"District administrators need to do their jobs as well," Salerno adds, "by providing technology training for principals!"
School administrators, according to Fred Holmes, Webmaster at Osceola (Nebraska) Public Schools, can easily promote technology integration. They can encourage teachers' curiosity about what can be done using technology, provide incentives for teachers to attend workshops and conferences, persuade teachers who use technology in the classroom to model that use for others, set up a mentoring system so teachers have someone to go to for help and ideas, and provide time for teachers to experiment with technology. "Administrators can't give teachers computers a week before school starts and say, 'Here they are. Use them!'" Holmes says.
Providing opportunities for staff development is an important part of the administrator's role, agrees Patrick Greene, a professor of education at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida. "There's a two-step process to integrating technology into the curriculum," Greene explains. "First, teachers must learn the hardware and software; then they must learn to integrate it. Administrators should institute weekly training sessions for all teachers. The training should inculcate an understanding level for each piece of software in a teacher's virtual toolkit, including a word processor; spreadsheet, database, and presentation software; organization software; a Web editor; and Internet tools. The culminating activity should be the development of a comprehensive plan that each teacher writes for implementing technology-enhanced lessons in his or her own classroom. When the training is complete, then -- and only then -- should teachers be given computers for their classroom."
"There must be a strong focus on staff development, on helping teachers learn to use technology as a tool for teaching and learning," agrees Mary Kreul. "Technology courses should not simply provide hardware or software training, but should help teachers learn how to use technology in the classroom to support students and extend learning opportunities. A technology integrator should be available in each building to train and support teachers as they learn to use technology effectively in the classrooms."
In addition, Kreul notes, "administrators should make budget and personnel decisions that ensure that the school's technology is up-to-date and in good working condition. They should make sure that the focus of technology is to enhance student learning and that technology decisions are made by teachers who use technology, know the curriculum, and are cognizant of the needs of the students."
"Assuming hardware, software, networking, and training needs have been met," adds Art Lader, Webmaster at Aiken (South Carolina) High School, "principals can promote technology integration by providing time for planning, collaboration, and implementation of technology-based activities. In the end, it's often a lack of time that prevents good ideas from being realized as valuable activities," Lader notes.
Jennifer Wagner, technology coordinator at Crossroads Christian School in Corona, California, best summed up the comments of all the Tech Team members. In response to the question, "What do school administrators need to know, do, and provide to promote technology integration among their staff and students?" Wagner replies
What do they need to know?
What they need to do?
What do they need to provide?
The Education World Tech Team includes 40 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. Stay tuned in the months ahead as members of the Tech Team share their thoughts on a wide variety of topics.
Article by Linda Starr
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