By Dixie Connor
Much has been written about how to use technology to increase student achievement. In most cases, the advice is limited to technology integration techniques -- methods of using technology in the classroom to support curriculum. Technology, however, has much more to offer educators than WebQuests, virtual field trips, and online lessons and games. Appropriate district-wide use of technology for planning, assessment, professional development, and communication can contribute immeasurably to teacher effectiveness and student academic success. This week, technology-planning expert Dixie Conner explains how technology coordinators, by extending the use of technology beyond the classroom, can increase students opportunities to reach -- and surpass -- today's stringent education standards. Included: Ten tips on using technology to maximize student achievement.
Get Everyone On Board
An all-inclusive team can create positive change. Make teachers, administrators, parents, community members, board members, staff, and students aware of how technology-integration can increase student achievement, and encourage members of all those groups to become involved in the planning process. Schedule regular technology planning meetings; if possible arrange for release time or other incentives to encourage teachers to attend.
Learn from Others
Learn from those who have demonstrated success. Contact other districts to learn more about hardware, software, and networking standards, and to find out what additional technical information and equipment might be available from industry leaders, non-profit organizations, and other community resources. Arrange for release time to allow teachers to visit exemplary classrooms. Encourage other technology committee members to visit districts that have implemented successful planning projects.
Utilize Assessment Tools
Work with teachers, administrators and other members of the technology committee to investigate, review, and select the most appropriate standards-based assessment tools. Use those tools to determine students current level of achievement and to identify specific learning problems. Consider utilizing multiple measures including student portfolios, writing samples, interviews, oral presentations, and so on to measure student progress.
Determine and Provide Professional Development Needs
Extrapolate from test scores subjects that are -- and are not -- being taught effectively. Design and provide ongoing, sustained professional development for teachers based on test score data. For example, if students are performing poorly in math, you might invite an exemplary math teacher to demonstrate effective teaching techniques. Videotape the instruction and add it to the resource library. Utilize online professional development opportunities whenever possible.
Establish Curriculum Objectives
Work with teachers and administrators to compile and analyze data from assessment scores. Identify specific objectives, determine curriculum needs, and develop lesson plans based on the specific needs and interests of each student. Plan for differentiated instruction that will challenge each student to reach his or her highest potential. Detailed monitoring of students' progress can assist teachers in developing individualized learning plans in each subject area.
Explore Researched-Based Instruction
Utilize the technology committee to investigate a variety of approaches to instruction. Provide regular, ongoing reports on what works -- and what doesn't. Help teachers implement scientifically-proven approaches by conducting regular classroom observations, modeling successful strategies and techniques, and providing advice and assistance when needed.
Encourage Parental Involvement
Kids learn best when parents take an active role in their education. Using technology effectively can lead to increased communication between parents, teachers, and administrators. Assign an e-mail address to all district staff and encourage the use of e-mail to correspond with parents. Post school information -- including curriculum standards, homework assignments, exemplary student work, Acceptable Use Policies, frequently asked questions, and so on -- on a multilingual district Web site. Provide home access to learning resources in appropriate languages. Make technology available and accessible to all.
Evaluation leads to improved performance. Identify and publicize criteria for success based on established benchmarks. Arrange for an in-house team or a team of external evaluators (from a local college or university, for example) to conduct student evaluations. Publicize test results and district report cards -- even if they are not flattering -- on the district Web site, so the community can see how students are progressing. If results are not satisfactory, evaluation will assist in determining what steps need to be taken to achieve the desired results.
Locate Funding Sources
Implement a plan for flexible use of funds. Identify ways to use federal and/or state funds to improve student achievement -- including technology literacy -- for all students. Work with the districts business manager and curriculum supervisor to locate appropriate grants and other funding opportunities. Consider district-wide hardware and software purchasing agreements, as well as statewide services, such as C-SMART (California Statewide Master Agreements for Resources in Technology). Develop a well-written technology plan. A comprehensive up-to-date technology plan is an application waiting for a funding program!
Utilize Supporting Resources
The utilization of community and commercial services, as well as electronic and print resources, can help ensure the most effective use of technology. Collaborate with, and seek advice from, educational consultants, adult literacy service providers, and other experts. Subscribe to education newsletters, visit educational Web sites, schedule software demonstrations, and read appropriate books to keep abreast of the latest technological and educational trends. Encourage teachers and other district personnel to stay motivated by keeping them updated on how todays technology makes available a multitude of teaching resources and provides targeted information and tools to meet individual student needs.
Article by Dixie Conner
Copyright © 2008 Education World