Closing the Communications Gap
By Dixie Conner
The No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools and districts be held accountable for improving student achievement. Technology can play an important role in helping educators track accountability and student progress, and yet technology is often underutilized in that role. This week, technology-planning expert Dixie Conner explains how effective planning by teachers and technology leaders working together can result in more effective technology use. Included: Five tips on how technology leaders can engage teachers in the planning process, and five tips on how teachers can get more out of technology planning.
Dixie Conner, a former classroom teacher, is a member of EDmins Performance Planning Department, which provides school districts with a variety of technology-based planning services.
Planning and accountability are priorities for most U.S. education technology leaders today -- due in large part to the No Child Left Behind Act. Under that legislation, districts and schools are required to track, evaluate, and increase student achievement.
Technology can play an important role in meeting and demonstrating that accountability. Districts can utilize online data management systems, for example, that not only will display student test scores, but also link those scores to content standards and specific learning objectives. By analyzing results of assessments, teachers and administrators can pinpoint subjects that students are struggling to learn and teachers are struggling to teach. Professional development dollars then can be spent on strengthening skills in those subject areas in particular. The use of online data management systems is just one of many ways in which schools and districts can utilize technology effectively -- with careful planning!
If technology can contribute so much to student achievement, why do so many teachers fail to see its value? Part of the reason is that most teachers are not involved in technology planning, and simply are unaware of what the planning process involves. Technology leaders have been lax in communicating with teachers, and teachers have been lax in trying to find out why district administrators and technology leaders put so much emphasis on technology planning.
The following tips can help technology leaders engage teachers in the planning process, and help teachers get more out of the school or districts technology planning.
TIPS FOR TECHNOLOGY LEADERS
Technology leaders can
solicit teachers participation on the technology planning committee and explain why their participation is important.
The purpose of planning for technology integration is to increase student performance. Teachers have the greatest knowledge of -- and impact on -- each individual students performance. Teachers ideas and perspectives are highly valuable and can expand thinking among other members of the planning committee.
train technology proficient teachers to become technology mentors.
Utilizing the train the trainer approach to technology support can cut costs and save time. Provide a stipend or other incentives to teachers willing to perform this role.
show how technology can save time.
Demonstrate online I.E.P.s, grade books, lesson plans, professional development resources, instructional resources, and so on. Bring in outside consultants, vendors, and experts in the field to demonstrate the ease, usefulness, and timesaving measures of technology-integration.
Keep the computers working with adequate technology support.
Nothing is more frustrating than a down" computer system, especially when a teacher has planned to use it for an important lesson. Having a system that always works is the best motivation for continued use.
provide incentives, time, and accommodations for teachers to attend technology training.
Provide multiple training sessions at several levels, in convenient locations. Provide release-time and substitute teachers to make it easy for all teachers to attend the training. Incentives such as the use of laptop computers or cell phones also have proven effective.
TIPS FOR TEACHERS
ask to be involved in the planning process and join the technology planning committee.
Discuss with your technology director and/or site administrator opportunities to become more involved in the planning process. Join the planning committee and share your ideas and expertise.
utilize technology to involve students in an engaging curriculum.
Using technology can enhance and improve learning. Integrate technology into the lesson by having students complete WebQuests, visit online libraries and other educational sites, prepare PowerPoint presentations, or insert graphics into reports. Computers can motivate kids to write, draw, investigate, research, and learn better.
help other teachers integrate technology.
Work as a team or become a mentor. Volunteer to help co-workers with projects and to help them find solutions for problems. Teamwork and team-teaching can produce the best results.
communicate concerns and propose changes.
Communicate concerns to the appropriate people; idle complaining doesnt initiate change. Recommend new approaches to alleviate chronic problems.
display enthusiasm and try something new.
Stay positive and smile, even during the hardest times. Build positive relationships with students and staff members. Be willing to try new things. Volunteer to pilot a new project with your students.
By following these suggestions, technology leaders can begin to close the communication gap with teachers, and teachers can become more informed about the benefits of planning and more involved in integrating technology.
To find answers to more questions about technology planning -- the process and the product -- contact email@example.com or log on to TechBuilder, a no charge, Web-based technology planning tool.
Article by Dixie Conner
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