Technology use in classroom instruction can vary greatly from school to school. We asked the Education World Tech Team how their schools encourage -- or discourage -- staff technology use. Included: Tips for encouraging staff technology use.
Some teachers, experts say, still are reluctant to use technology, mostly because of a lack of time, a lack of resources, or a lack of confidence in their ability to use the available technology.
It appears that technology use varies greatly from school to school. In some schools, technology use among teachers nears 100 percent; in other schools, it is virtually non-existent. We wondered, therefore, what those schools with high technology use are doing to encourage their teachers to use technology -- for instruction, and for classroom and task management. To find out, we went to our experts -- the members of the Education World Tech Team.
We asked the following questions: Are teachers at your school expected to meet certain levels of technology proficiency? What kind of resources do your tech specialists provide? What kind of equipment and training are available to teachers? This is what they told us.
"Teachers here in Fort Knox (Kentucky) are encouraged to use technology in several different ways," educational technologist Stacey J. Wyatt told Education World. "First of all, each staff member (including cafeteria staff, teaching assistants, custodians, and so on) has his or her own e-mail address. We receive a daily e-mail news bulletin that includes important information, and all staff members are expected to read it every morning. We have telephones in each classroom, but most of our communication now is conducted through e-mail. A major benefit is that we have been able to almost eliminate interruptions from the intercom system.
"Our school server provides another incentive for teachers to use technology," Wyatt noted. "Each class has a folder on the server, and each class folder includes individual folders for students. Any work done in the lab or in the classroom can be saved to those folders, which makes it easy for students to access their work from most places in the school. Teachers can download templates, clip art, hotlists, and so on, for easy and safe access by students.
"Our teachers also use special software to maintain student information," Wyatt said. "Teachers have received training in both programs. Our progress report program also is done by computer.
"Each school in the district has a Web site maintained by the school's educational technologists," Wyatt noted. "Teachers e-mail to the Ed Tech site information they want posted, which makes it easy to copy and paste the information into FrontPage. Parents also frequently access the site for breakfast and lunch menus, special events, and so on.
"The students at Pierce Primary School, where I teach, are currently using Accelerated Reader to test reading comprehension," Wyatt added. "Teachers use the report component of that program to track student progress.
"We've also purchased Kidspiration and Inspiration for our building, and teachers are learning to use those programs right along with the kids," Wyatt added. "In some cases, the kids are teaching the teachers! What an incentive for those students!
"Finally," Wyatt said, "each teacher in our building has completed a technology-needs assessment, which is used to develop a plan for personal growth. Each teacher also maintains a technology portfolio and uses it to organize their Web sites, show evidence of technology activities in the classroom, store training handouts, and so on.
"I have been the educational technologist at this school for about four years," Wyatt noted, "and I have seen a great deal of growth. Teachers are at various stages of development, of course, but they are great about offering to help one another whenever they can."
"Teachers in our division in Lynchburg, Virginia, are well supported in their technology needs," said instructional technology specialist Julia Timmons. "Our division has 16 schools and several magnet sites. Each school has a full-time instructional technology specialist, and the division has an additional five-person technical staff. Our school division also is partnered with our city government to jointly maintain and fund our own fiber optic network.
"We have e- mail for the entire division," Timmons noted. "E-mail cannot be accessed from home, but it can be accessed from anywhere in the division, sent to any address on the Net, and sent between school and home. We have had e-mail for about ten years and rely heavily on it. Teachers are expected to check their e-mail several times a day. The entire division -- from the superintendent to teacher assistants and secretaries -- uses this communication vehicle as well.
"The state of Virginia has Technology Standards for Instructional Personnel, which will become part of our licensure requirements in the spring of 2004," Timmons said. "At that point, if a teacher is not technology certified, he or she will not get a teaching license renewal. Each division is responsible for developing its own method for certification and for having that method approved by the state. Teachers in our division have two years from the time of employment to complete the standards.
"To satisfy state requirements for certification, our division has developed what we fondly refer to as the 'Peach Booklet,'" Timmons added. "That is a guide to assist teachers in achieving the goal of technology certification. The technology specialists in each building offer training sessions several times annually. Individual, small group, and large group sessions are offered. In addition, training is offered online through our Intranet, so teachers can work on their own time. A portfolio is developed and completed by each teacher.
"In our school, teachers are required to implement technology in a variety of ways," Timmons said. "Math and English teachers are required to use the computer lab at least three days every six weeks. All classrooms have five computers and teachers are required to keep a log of their computer use. Each classroom has a large screen monitor, and teachers are required to demonstrate at least bi-monthly use of that device. Teachers also are required to demonstrate the effective use of technology in one of the annual lessons their primary evaluator observes.
"We also offer a variety of other training opportunities," Timmons added. "Each technology specialist offers training specific to the technology, software, and needs of the staff in his or her building. Several times a year, we publish a calendar of workshops available to teachers in the division at any school in the division. Those workshops are generally two hours in duration and include stipend payment through grant funds.
"Teachers also are required to post a basic Web page on their school's Web site," Timmons noted. "We create those pages using a uniform template. This year, we have a dedicated Webmaster for the division, who maintains the Web site and is our building level contact for training and help.
"I am fortunate to be a full-time technology specialist," Timmons told Education World. "My job responsibilities are vast, however, and I struggle to have time to support lesson integration and development. My most effective means of assisting teachers is teaming with them to develop lessons and ideas into integrated technology lessons. Often, I model the resulting lesson for one or two periods, and then change roles and support the teacher while he or she teaches the lesson. Sometimes, I am there to assist; other times, I teach special techniques to students. Often, I am a facilitator, gathering information, videos, Web sites, and tools for teachers to use in the classroom. More and more, teachers know what they want, but find it difficult to find the time to gather materials."
"My principal and staff are very supportive of technology," Rancho Las Positas School K-5 technology specialist Lori Sanborn told Education World. "Each middle and high school in our district has a full-time technology specialist and each elementary school has a half-time tech specialist. They maintain and repair computers, as well as encourage and promote technology use in classroom and lab settings. Once or twice a week, each grade 1-5 class comes to the computer lab, where the technology specialist is available to assist the teacher with instruction. At that time, teachers also can get one-on-one training while students are engaged in their lesson.
"All classrooms have Internet access and teachers have in-school e-mail," Sanborn noted. "There is no expected level of tech proficiency, but all teachers are trained to use e-mail and use it daily. Most day-to-day communication is done via e-mail. Our school also has a Web site and teachers' e-mail addresses are posted on it to encourage communication with parents and the community.
"Some teachers have created their own Web pages, where they post homework, field trip information, school events, and class schedules. As a technology specialist," Sanborn said, "I provide monthly after-school tech training for teachers; the training gives teachers the opportunity to ask questions and learn new skills.
"We also have a committee of teachers which provides technical support to the school, and all teachers have a tech buddy. During grade level articulations, teachers share with one another successful lessons that integrate technology into the curriculum," Sanborn added.
"The most important thing my district does to encourage teacher use is to assign each school a technology resource teacher (TRT) to work directly in the classrooms," Lexington, Kentucky, district technology resource teacher Mike Johnson told Education World.
"The TRT's model lessons with kids, find online resources for teachers, show teachers how to use equipment, provide one-on-one training during planning time, and so on. Some schools have hired they're own full-time TRTs; others share one TRT among three or four schools. One reason the program has been so successful is that teachers don't have to go to after-school training sessions or figure out technology activities on their own. The TRTs find the teachers, ask what they're doing in their classroom, and work with them to integrate technology into existing lessons.
"The TRT's also develop a variety of online resources that teachers can use in their classrooms," Johnson added. "Those include our Literary Book Club and Technology Assisting Literacy Knowledge (TALK) program."
"As the technology integrator at our K-5 elementary school, I am in charge of teaching teachers and administrators, if necessary, to use computers," Linda George of the Dondero School told Education World. "I currently teach workshops on many subjects, including digital camera use, scanning, using the mobile lab, e-mail basics, and so on.
"All our teachers have e-mail addresses, teacher notices are distributed by e-mail, and our principal sends out notices by e-mail only. That incentive is sabotaged, however, by teachers and aides who run off copies for those teachers who choose not to use e-mail," George noted.
"Although teachers are not expected to meet any specific levels of technology proficiency," George continued, "they are required to accompany their classes to each computer lab session, and lessons in the lab must integrate with what they are doing in their classrooms.
"Our school also has a Web site, and teachers contribute to it if they choose to; however, no one is required to do so. The Web site is attached to the city's Web site, so no teacher has to contribute if they don't want to," George added.
"Currently, we have no classroom technology requirements," Crossroads Christian School computer coordinator Jennifer Wagner told Education World, "and teachers are not required to show that they use technology. However, with a new administration this year, I believe standards for technology use will increase. In the meantime, all we can do is encourage teachers to use technology.
"As part of that effort," Wagner noted, "our school offers online courses in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access, and Publisher, and in e-mail use. Teachers who complete a six-session course receive a stipend.
"A year ago, our entire faculty attended a one-day seminar on the use of computers in the classroom," Wagner added. "Our school also hosts a yearly one-day seminar for school technologists demonstrating the use of various computer programs. This year we are spotlighting Microsoft Word and Access, as well as Kidspiration and Inspiration.
"Crossroads Christian School and JenuineTech.com also host four online projects per year, which teachers are encouraged to get involved in," Wagner said. "Activities to help teachers use technology in the classroom are provided at the project sites. In addition, several teachers have created their own Web pages, and they receive a stipend for keeping their sites current throughout the year. Each of those teachers is encouraged to teach one other teacher how to create and maintain a Web page.
"During the 2002-2003 school year, we installed Accelerated Reader on all our classroom computers," Wagner added. "Teachers are 'encouraged' to use the program, and we have taken the time to print lists of available tests and to mark the library books for which we have quizzes.
"There is, however, a continual struggle to get teachers to see that technology use will not make their days more stressful; that in many ways, it will make their jobs easier," Wagner noted. "That would be easier, of course, if we had more computers in each classroom. Right now, teachers say they cannot fit every student into a one-week period for computer use. If we had more computers, that would be possible!
"It is my belief," Wagner said, "that until our board and administration state in no-uncertain terms that teachers must demonstrate technology use, our staff's technology use will not change. As new staff comes on, hopefully they will enjoy the use of technology and encourage others to see its benefits!"
"All teachers and support staff in our district have e-mail addresses and e-mail accounts," said Lincoln High School social studies teacher Michael Hutchinson. "Weekly bulletins and other teacher information are provided via e-mail. Each school has a Web page, which, in my building, is maintained by the school's Web design class; most teachers don't develop their own pages. I suspect many teachers are intimidated by the thought of building a Web page; others don't think they have enough information to merit their own page.
"Personally, I've used Web pages to post an online resume, to provide project resources for student, and to store student projects for download," Hutchinson noted. "That way, if a student loses paperwork for a project or if a parent wants information about a project, the resources are available. Examples of some of the project pages I've created include The Modern Presidency, Project Resources, and Resources for Civil War Projects.
"At one point," Hutchinson added, "our district offered after-school and summer training, which participants were paid a stipend to attend, as well as training during the school day, for which participants got professional leave time. Teachers generally did not take advantage of either opportunity, however.
"I suspect that the lack of teacher participation was due in part to lack of time," Hutchinson said. "In addition, it seemed as though training focused mainly on the basics, with relatively little training for advanced topics. I also would have liked to have seen more training geared toward what teachers specifically wanted to learn...for example, did they want to build Web pages? Did they want to learn Power Point? Did they want to use Excel?
"I think teachers also felt that the stipend (less than $12 per hour) was relatively small compared to what their time was worth," said Hutchinson. "As a teacher who trained other teachers, I was paid exactly the same stipend as class participants, even though I had to prepare the training materials and, if the session was held during the school day, get materials ready for a substitute as well.
"Perhaps more teachers would embrace technology if they knew they would be rewarded for using it -- versus being punished for not using it," Hutchinson noted. "Why not reward teachers who use technology by providing them with better equipment, software, and so on, as they show an increased interest and proficiency? That doesn't address the problem of what to do about teachers who simply refuse to use technology, of course, and I'm not quite sure how to deal with that. One possible idea is to ask local businesses to donate 'prizes' to teachers who show an interest, and develop a proficiency, in technology use. (For example, a teacher who increases his or her technology use or proficiency in some way might get a $10 coupon from a local restaurant, a free movie ticket, or $5 free gas.) Local businesses could look at it as a community service and advertising, and teachers might be more motivated to use technology."
"Our school doesn't 'require' staff e-mail use, but it does strongly encourage it, and everyone has an e-mail address," said Stew Pruslin, a third grade teacher at T.J. Hood School. "Personally, however, I prefer to stick with my AOL e-mail, and I think it will be hard to get everyone on one system. I know many teachers in the school system use our district's e-mail, but many others don't. Some teachers are still not Internet-savvy, and a number of them never will be inclined to be."
"Sadly, my school has not put any force into encouraging technology use," Alexander Fleming Middle School computer instructor Sith Nip told Education World. "We -- the tech geeks -- have encouraged teachers to ask questions and learn to use available software, but only a few have shown any desire to learn. We do help, and teach those who want to learn, but we are disappointed that so few actually care about the technology we have. Instead of trying to learn to use technology, many teachers only come to us when they are in immediate need of help.
"I have also noticed that many teachers who are unfamiliar with technology are scared of it," Nip said. "They know technology's capabilities, but are afraid they'll destroy it if they don't use it correctly. Until our school provides mandatory training workshops, I don't know how we can encourage teachers to use technology."
"Our district 'encourages' technology use by teachers, but not in any substantive way," said John Tiffany, science teacher at Wauseon High School. "An inexpensive piece of equipment I ordered took a year and a half to arrive! Teacher notices and announcements are distributed by e-mail, but teachers can request a hard copy if they don't choose to use e-mail. We do have a district Web site and teachers are encouraged to develop their own Web pages. Some have; most have not. The technology department does provide aid in the form of a help line, which they respond to; but sometimes those responses are limited.
"Access to technology also makes its use easier," Tiffany noted. "Until computers are made available for most students, teachers cannot be expected to utilize technology-based activities. There are a lot of activities I would like to do, but I am unable to do so because of a lack of resources.
"A receptive technology department also is key to implementing technology and expecting teachers to use it," Tiffany added. "Nothing is more frustrating than being forced to go through a lot of red tape to get help or equipment."
"Some teachers are reluctant to use technology," Tiffany noted. "If schools really want to encourage technology use, they shouldn't give teachers the option of receiving hard copies of e-mail notices. All teachers should have Web pages and keep them updated. It shows a commitment by the whole system when that occurs."
"Every one of our classrooms has a computer for the teacher's use," said high school webmaster Fred Holmes of the Osceola Public Schools. "Teachers use them for creating tests, carrying on correspondence, and so on. They are not 'required' to use them, however. Our biggest problem is that, although many teachers want to use computers for classroom instruction, we don't have a way to display computer information to a classroom full of students. We only have one LCD projector for the entire school district -- and it is a used one! I use it for computer instruction, and one of our science teachers uses it to teach anatomy, but it is difficult to schedule its use around everyone's needs.
"Our teachers have made the most improvement in their [level of ] use of computer labs for Internet access," Holmes noted. "They bring in students to look up information for class and to create individual presentations. Here again, however, we run into a problem of scheduling.
"Our service unit has provided excellent in-service sessions and training for teachers, but many teachers find reasons not to use technology in the classroom. We also have encouraged teachers to create their own Web pages on our home site, but usually it is left to one of the advanced computer classes to create pages for the teachers. Getting teachers to use computers while dealing with a lack of funds and follow-up opportunities can be frustrating!"
"In 1996, District 108 in Pekin, Illinois, received a $5 million Technology Innovation Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, because of the district's vision and groundwork in the area of technology," teacher and school webmaster Madeleine Decker told Education World. "As a result of that grant, teachers received laptops, docks, and training.
"Our district's pilot program was underway then," Decker remembered. "(Although the program's Web page looks pretty crude today, I still use the photographs in the Monitor/Video Splitter section to hook up my monitor in the fall.) So each classroom teacher, after completing the Pilot Program training, received five networked student stations for his or her classroom.
"A Tech Academy also was established with some of the grant money," Decker added, "and courses in PowerPoint, Excel, and Word and were offered to teachers after school and in the summer. Those courses were free and resulted in advancement on the salary schedule. In the early stages of the grant, we also had 'Webminers' -- teachers who were paid to find great sites and e-mail them to the rest of the staff.
"Today," Decker noted, "the laptops have been retired, and all teachers have new desktop computers. The aged laptops were too expensive to replace and their upkeep required about 90 percent of our tech support's time.
"All communication now is through e-mail," said Decker, "although occasionally we will get a hard copy as well. Each teacher has an e-mail account and is expected to check it frequently. Most messages from the district office arrive via e-mail.
"Courses are still offered free of charge, and they earn continuing professional development units (CPDU's) or advancement on the salary schedule," Decker said. "The Tech Center offers after-school sessions on Web pages, basic Windows administration, hardware, and Excel. We also have extended courses. I recently took a District Integrating Technology course that met for seven, four-hour sessions. It was excellent and had a waiting list!
"Our Tech Center also provides many online tutorials -- on everything from converting Word to PDF to using Photoshop," Decker added. "The Pekin Public School's Technology page is just a small branch of a fantastic Web site maintained by two young men who started out working on the site when they were in eighth grade. Today, one is a senior in high school and the other is a freshman in college. We also have had school Webmasters since about 1997; they each have a digital camera to record school events. In 1998, our school's Web site won a Cool School of the Week Award from Education World!
"Teachers are encouraged to submit material to their school's Web site and to maintain Learning Village Web pages for their classes," Decker said. "Those pages are easy to maintain and can host such items as the spelling list of the week, a calendar of events, the student of the week, and so on. Some teachers print the pages and use them as a classroom newsletter."
"The district I work in had a wonderful start to encouraging teacher technology use several years ago, when we were awarded several grants. Those monies were used to set up a very successful technology mentoring program, in which trained lead teachers worked with individuals and teams of teachers," Richards Elementary School fourth grade teacher Mary Kreul told Education World.
"Teachers were encouraged to use technology in useful ways for themselves and with their students -- through e-mail, listservs, telecollaborative projects, and so on. They were able to take after school and summer sessions on a wide variety of technologies -- basic e-mail use, bookmarking, software use, hardware trouble shooting, and integrating technology into the curriculum," Kreul noted. "Some sessions were held during paid work time, others fulfilled staff development requirements or earned college credits.
"When the funding sources were no longer available, however, other programs became higher priorities, and when staff turnover occurred, many of those opportunities were no longer available," Kreul said. "Problems over the past few years -- such as the network being down for up to six weeks at a time, e-mail that did not function, limited lab time, and so on -- have made the idea of using technology very discouraging for staff members, especially those just beginning to become comfortable with technology.
"Teachers have district e-mail addresses, and some correspond regularly with building and district staff, parents, and peers in other districts. However, teacher notices usually are not distributed via e-mail," Kreul noted.
"Teacher training also has been minimal over the past few years; the focus has been on software, rather than on integrating technology into the curriculum or on teachers using technology professionally. When the district got a new e-mail program last fall, teachers were required to attend a short demonstration, but were given no hands-on training or practice in actually using the new program. Staff members have to depend on one another for support and resources. In our school," Kreul said, "we have a wonderful and overworked media center staff and a very helpful part-time tech support person -- but they cannot provide enough support to build and maintain a consistent program.
"The district Web page -- with all schools included -- was a flourishing site several years ago, used frequently by teachers, students, and parents," Kreul said. "However, due to administrative decisions made along the way, it is no longer a resource that is used regularly by the learning community. Some teachers have their own Web pages at SchoolNotes or Quia, but that is done independently by those staff members.
"One bright spot occurred last year when the school PTA provided funds to purchase digital cameras for each grade level and for several specialists' areas," Kreul noted. "Knowledgeable staff members, along with a parent who is a photographer, taught several sessions on camera use and on integrating digital photography into the curriculum. The library media specialist held also several sessions for interested teachers this year on using the digital camera and scanner.
"Again, staff members who want to learn to use technology either depend on help from their peers, learn it on their own, or take courses online or at local sites," said Kreul. "Unfortunately, without the level of training and support they need, many teachers do not use technology to their advantage -- for grading, organizing lessons, searching for information, communicating with the education community, or in the classroom with their students.
"There is no expectation that staff members reach levels of proficiency or show growth in their skills," Kreul added. "However, with the No Child Left Behind legislation and its expectation of technology use by students, that expectation may be changing."
"We encourage technology use among our staff members in a number of different ways," said educational technology specialist Robin Smith.
"In addition," Smith said, "we are considering adding an online help-desk form that date/time stamps requests; providing hand-held devices for teachers who have large groups of students (physical education, music, and so on) to use to take attendance; and offering an Intel Teach to the Future program for teachers who wish to be trainers. Those teachers then would become master trainers and teach other teachers. In return, they would receive a laptop computer to use as long as they are in the district.
"I also would like to institute technology proficiency testing for prospective teachers to ensure that new teachers know the basics of technology and are comfortable with using it before they're hired," Smith said. "And I would like to provide laptops for every teacher. Until teachers have access to machines 24/7, and develop a comfort level using them, curriculum integration is only a dream. But those are ideas for the future!"
Article by Linda Starr
Copyright © Education World