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Education World Talks With

Principals Who Cant Live Without Technology

Part 2: How Did We Ever Live Without Handhelds?

Call them what you will. Handhelds, PDAs, or pocket PCs are an integral part of many principals existence.

At the risk of making Bonita Henderson jealous, principal Michael Miller told Education World about his latest technology acquisition: I finally gave in and purchased a Blackberry, said Miller. I didnt want to put out the money, or to be that accessible either, but Wow! what a difference it has made in my time management.

Before I purchased my Blackberry, if I was away from the office for a day it would take a couple hours the next day to return email that had accumulated. Now I am free to answer and send emails throughout the day. When I return to the office the next day I am free to start my day [instead of answering yesterdays emails].

Millers Blackberry enables him to keep his to-do list at his fingertips so he can stay on top of things 24/7. He even took it with him on vacation. While I know there are people who might say that we need to get away from things, Miller admitted, this is the first vacation I didnt spend time worrying about how the emails were piling up. I could spend a few minutes a day to stay caught up. When I returned to school after vacation, I was ready to go. No catch up.

I Love My
Flash Drive

Those are the words of Lolli Haws, principal at Oakridge Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia. I can put my flash drive on my keychain, take it home, and plug it into my computer there so I can do some work. Then I take the flash drive back to school and have everything on my school laptop. It saves packing up the computer and lugging it home in the evenings, and it avoids the worry of having my laptop in a parked car where it might be stolen.

It really makes getting a little work done at home easy!

Amy Cole is another principal who couldnt live without her handheld computer. My iPAQ (a pocket PC sold by Hewlett Packard) is my new best friend, said Cole, principal at Cimarron Elementary School in Houston. I have my iPAQ with me at all times. I make notes and write down tasks as they come to mind, even when I am in our classrooms. And this year we were trained to conduct walk-throughs and classroom observations on our iPAQs.

Now Cole and her assistant principals are able to synch their classroom observation notes with their office computers. They download those notes directly into their district-wide appraisal program. Since that program is Web-based, teachers can view the evaluators classroom observation notes on their own computers.

At Jefferson Davis High School in Montgomery, Alabama, principal Marie Kostick uses her PDA in much the same way. I am fortunate to be able to type at a high rate of speed, Kostick told Education World. Being able to type without having my head down affords me the opportunity to observe what is going on in the classroom as I script the teachers lesson.

To make that a bit easier, I often carry a keyboard attachment that only requires a few seconds to connect to my PDA.

Once Kostick completes her observation scripting, I hot-sync the PDA to my desktop and print out the observation. That printed report is much easier to read than a quickly handwritten one, which makes scoring the observation an easier process.

Kosticks assistant principals have seen how efficient the process can be and are now using their PDAs to write up observations too.

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  • Using Technology to Improve Instruction, Boost Achievement
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