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Education World Talks With

Principals Who Cant Live Without Technology


Part 5: Using Technology to Improve Instruction, Boost Achievement

When Michael Miller arrived at Saturn Elementary School eight years ago, there was virtually no technology. He spent much of that first year researching ways in which he might narrow the achievement gap he saw. As he talked with teachers, he heard over and over that their students would do anything for time on a computer.

As Miller dug deeper, he discovered a computer program for reading and math that changed his school forever. Our students in grades one through six attend the SuccessMaker computer lab every day of the week for 30 minutes, Miller told Education World. They do 15 minutes reading and 15 minutes of math; and the students classroom teacher gets a report every day that lets them know what skills each student has attempted and what skills have been mastered.

Copy-Print System
Saves Time, Money

O.P. Earle Elementary School has introduced a new school-wide copy/print system. In the past, we sent a document to the printer, explained Principal Nita High. Then we walked to the printer to retrieve the document and took it to a copier where we ran several copies. Not only was that time-consuming, it was costly. Copy costs consumed several thousand dollars of our budget each year.

With the schools new copy/print system, staff members send documents to a machine that prints and makes all the copies they need -- all at the same time. Each teacher has a copier/printer in their classroom, and larger centralized copiers are located in the teachers workroom, the computer lab, the school office, and our media center.

This sounds more costly, but actually its not, added High. The new copier/printers operate more efficiently. Ink cartridges last 6 months instead of six weeks. We may finally come in under budget this year.

Each Friday, SuccessMaker runs a report that groups students by the skills they have attempted but not mastered. That helps the classroom teacher as he or she develops plans for the following week; the teacher knows what skills need to be worked on in small groups and which students should be in those groups.

In Florida, state tests are administered in March. Each November, we run a SuccessMaker projection report, said Miller. That report lets him and the teachers know which students have met grade-level goals, which students will likely meet goals by the testing date, and which students won't meet the goals. For those students who will not meet goals, it tells teachers how much more time they will need in the lab in order to achieve the goal by the March test date.

We work with those students before school, in intensive intervention groups, and in our after-school Academic Support Program to help them achieve the goal, Miller explained.

No computer program will ever replace the teacher in the classroom, cautioned Miller, but this computer program gives the teacher valuable information they would otherwise not have. It enables our teachers to work smarter, not harder.

Through the use of this program and good teaching, student performance has risen, Miller noted. The number of students who passed the state-mandated test has risen from 48 to 82 percent in reading and from 30 to 84 percent in math.

Principal Larry Davis considers himself fortunate to have opened a new school this year. We have three computers in every classroom, and we have a full-time technology specialist who oversees our program and is available to install and troubleshoot, explained Davis, principal at Middleburg, Floridas OakLeaf K-8 School. We dont have to wait for district personnel to respond to technology requests.

At OakLeaf, many computer-based programs are available for students to use on a daily basis, added Davis. Those include Accelerated Reader, FCAT Explorer, and skills software from companies such as Plato Learning and Orchard Software. All of those programs enable Davis to view how teachers are using them and students are performing.


The successes that have resulted from the use of programs such as SuccessMaker, Accelerated Reader, and FCAT Explorer are distinct and measurable. While all technology tools do not offer those same kinds of documented results, members of our Principal Files team shared many other tools that have been met with enthusiasm by students and teachers alike. Those tools have undoubtedly impacted instruction and achievement, even if not in clearly measurable ways.

The Internet Is
Technology King

Aside from the telephone, I believe the one technology tool that I could not live without would be the Internet itself, said Vickie Luchuck, assistant principal at South Harrison Middle School in Lost Creek, West Virginia. Luchuck came to that conclusion after a conversation she had with her daughter, a digital native.

The Internet is the tool that ties all the other technologies together, said Luchuck. Our PDAs, cell phones, MP3 players, and nearly everything else require the Internet to complete some function. Our classes require online research, podcasting, and so on. As an administrator, I frequently submit Web sites to my teachers, parents, and even students. I keep up with national and state education news via the Internet, because I can find what I want to read and print it to read when I'm not at the computer.

It's just become easier to conduct many daily tasks through the use of the Internet.

At S&S Middle School in Sadler, Texas, principal Lee Yeager is installing LCD projectors and digital document readers in each classroom. I hope these tools will become indispensable to our teachers, said Yeager. We must teach in different ways if we are to reach our students. The days of just opening books, using overhead projectors, and focusing on paper-and-pencil tasks ended about ten years ago.

Principal Lauren Johnson says that LCD projectors are widely used at Lucy Mae McDonald Elementary School, a grades 2-3 school in Ferris, Texas. Recently, the schools music teacher used a projector to share a PowerPoint presentation she had created about the U.S. Constitution and its history; and the school counselors aunt shared with students the work of Afghan women in a program called Rubia. In addition, Johnson used a projector in an in-service staff meeting to present Web-based state test results and school performance data. The staff dissected that information to formulate a plan to tackle weaknesses revealed by the data.

I could not live without our projectors, added Johnson. They are a great tool for our students and staff to learn from.

At Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Tennessee, tablet PCs are changing the way teachers and students use computers. In the summer of 2005, several teachers from each division of the K-12 school were given tablet PCs and trained in their use. It was expected that those teachers, in turn, would train other members of their teams. Now every teacher has a tablet PC, and each division has a cart of tablet PCs for classroom use.

This is truly a remarkable tool, principal Carol Roebuck told Education World. An instructor can use the tablets stylus to draw directly on a presentation, handwritten notes can be converted to typed text, and students can draw, label, and insert text as they do research.

Eventually, Roebuck hopes the school might be able to replace some textbooks with online textbooks. Students would access those textbooks via their personal tablet PCs. That and other uses she has observed are the future of technology at Briarcrest, and at schools everywhere.

iMovie of the Year

Most classrooms at Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina, include document cameras that enable teachers to project Internet content. Many also have Smartboards. And all teachers have personal laptop computers provided by the school. In addition, principal Tim Messick told Education World, many of our teachers have access to digital cameras that allow them to take photos of exciting learning and special events that involve their students.

At the end of the year, Messick added, many of our teachers make iMovies, burn them onto CDs or DVDs, and send them home to each family. That becomes a wonderful and memorable keepsake.

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