The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires more staff training in technology skills and better assessment of those skills. Don Knezek, chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), recently participated in a teleconference called Enhancing Education Through Technology, part of a series of teleconferences on NCLB sponsored by PLATO Learning, in which he spoke about those requirements. Included: The role of leadership in technology integration.
Many educators may not realize that Enhancing Education Through Technology, part of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, provides assistance -- in the form of funds and guidance -- for improving technology proficiency among educators and increasing technology use in classrooms. That assistance is available at a time when, according to information from PLATO Learning, only 1/3 of teachers report that they feel prepared to use computers for classroom instruction, and 77 percent report spending 32 or fewer hours on technology-related professional development activities.
PLATO is holding a series of teleconferences on the NCLB Act, among them one on Enhancing Education Through Technology. The EETT conference included Don Knezek, chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), who spoke about teacher quality and accountability.
Knezek was joined in the teleconference by Dr. Walt Tobin, interim superintendent, Calhoun County, South Carolina, Public Schools, and John P. Bailey, director of educational technology for the U.S. Department of Education. Click here to read Bailey's comments. Click here to read Tobin's comments.
Don Knezek: We think that ISTE has a role in leading the agenda that says, 'Take student achievement as your primary focus and look at all the ways in which technology supports it -- including school management, school leadership, data management, and the actual learning process.'
Because at ISTE, we believe that using technology is a major change in schools, we know that leadership is absolutely critical. We have some initiatives going, especially in the area of professional development, that will serve school leaders and school decision-makers -- and we do think that's a place to play -- but certainly leadership from the very top is a prerequisite. If you don't have leadership that 'gets it,' then the chances of making the kinds of changes that need to be made, and of sustaining those changes, is very, very slim.
Assessment requirements are monumental; developing standards and competencies to support those assessments is essential. ISTE is involved with assessment efforts on a number of fronts, and we look at the National Education Technology Standards as part of the package. We look at the conditions that are required if we expect to achieve the standards, we look at standard achievement and technology literacy; we look at our teachers' ability to integrate technology into the classroom curriculum; and we look at their readiness to do so. Certainly, we have spent a good bit of time looking into integration of technology within instruction. So our efforts align very well with No Child Left Behind.
ISTE also is working with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, because we're interested in what accomplished teaching looks like when technology is used.
At ISTE, we support the assessment of EETT initiatives, and we're desperately looking for resources and partnerships that will allow us to continue that support. If -- after putting all this effort into technology -- we don't ask at the end of the day, 'What's better?', then we're really being irresponsible about the effort we're putting forth.
Part of one of our projects is looking at improving teacher assessment. There is some focus on new teachers, but the work we're doing is applicable to all teachers. In fact, the project's co-director, Helen Barrett from the University of Alaska, has a Web site that really is a clearinghouse for electronic portfolio assessment of teachers. She has documented a number of technology-assisted strategies for building systems and portfolios for teacher assessments that work.
ISTE has played a major role in, and has a major concern with, new teacher quality. We believe we should be looking at what makes sense, so we end up with competent and qualified teachers, who move information and technology into school systems. We currently house, in Washington, D.C., the National Center for Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology, and we're expanding that, looking at how it might have an effect on technology across all areas of teacher preparation. That's an important piece for us.
Question: We wanted more information about teacher accountability. We have teacher technology standards, but currently there is no incentive for teachers to achieve those standards. We were wondering what ideas you had.
Knezek: You hit on the key word: incentive. I think the concept of incentives is what it's all about. In my experience, in those places where adequate incentives for teachers were provided, we were able to move forward with teacher learning and meeting technology standards. As to what those incentives might be; in towns I've worked in, there was a lot of talk about teacher technology capabilities, teacher competencies, and teacher time, and about providing structures that support teachers learning to use technology. There were such incentives as the Michigan laptop project; in which teachers who completed requirements for professional development ended up with a laptop they could use in their professional and personal lives. We've heard about districts hiring teachers with pay differentiations, based on their technology background and abilities. Certainly, we've seen schools that allow teachers to go to professional development conferences based on whether or not they've done the work necessary for achieving the level of technology sophistication that would make their attendance beneficial.
At ISTE, we believe that we have to pick up the slack as the [Bill] Gates money for educating educational leaders and decision-makers in technology leadership goes away. ISTE is committed to making such training available; we're actually working on several pilots programs that directly involve ISTE in delivering training to administrators.
In terms of other administrator training, a great deal of quality training is provided online; leaders don't have to leave their districts. Take a look at online offerings and see what makes sense for you. I would certainly look at the online providers you are interested in, and visit our Web site to look at several positive ones.
I also believe it's important to think in terms of cohorts. You can tell from the pilot programs we have going that, without cohorts, an isolated administrator with improved skills will have a very tough time changing the schools. In Wisconsin this summer, we're meeting with superintendents and teams of principals; that's the approach we're taking to leadership training there.
I don't think anyone can answer the question of whether you should do face-to-face or online professional development for administrators; I think you have to look at both options, and think about how to blend them.
Question: We are not seeing any indication that technology standards will be included in our Missouri state standards. Until we do, and until we start testingI don't know how that is going to trickle down. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts about that.
Knezek: Among the things we watch are how standards are being used, and what attempts are being made to ensure that the use of standards has an impact. The overall track record is good, I think, but the depth of the standards is mixed. We have to have an impact at the state level. We have districts that have taken on this task themselves, and they've done super jobs; but it really is the state departments of education and state departments of educator certification that have to take a look at the standards. No Child Left Behind often is a warren of legislation, and its implementation is a requirement, yet there isn't even discussion about developing principles in the area of technology leadership. So I would use NCLB and the resources ISTE has available to try to get that message to the right people. State agencies are going to make the decisions, and it will require people in each state to carry that message and to see that it's done well.
This e-interview with Don Knezek is part of the Education World Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.
Article by Ellen R. Delisio