This new guest post was written by Katie Regan, @katieregan88.
Bio – Katie Regan is a technology integration specialist who taught secondary English for almost a decade. She is currently pursuing her administration degree and certificate in New York State. Katie is passionate about mobile technologies, Google Apps for Ed and scripts, and more recently the MakerEd movement. She has been providing professional development, workshops, and presentations for districts and conferences around the state for four years. Recently, Katie gave a keynote address at the New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education (NYSCATE.org) annual conference on inspiring innovation through her work with www.ladygeeks.org.
Without a doubt technology has changed the look and feel of education today. With technology changing so fast in so many areas of our lives, it can be difficult to know what to purchase, invest your time and effort towards, as well as know what will yield the highest benefit to students. While technology can hinder the achievement of students it can also provide some of the most dynamic and interesting education environments that fosters a high rate of success in a school building. The administrator that is able to harness the effective use of technology for not only herself but for her teachers and students will foster the kind of environment that will keep students engaged and teach them the necessary skills they will need for their future.
Educational technology is never meant to supplant good teaching. Technology will always engage our students, but it is what they are engaged in that is more important. Good teaching has always looked the same: make content relevant, engage all students, provide modeling and practice, offer guidance and support yet encourage independence. Technology can never replace this. Yet it can enhance it to such a high degree that it would be detrimental to students not to integrate it. Students no longer need the “sage on the stage.” Information is everywhere all the time. Learning can happen anywhere, anytime. Administrators and teachers need to adopt technology that supports and encourages this.
The effective integration of technology does not mean finding a tool that replaces what we already do as educators. Schools need to embrace the fact that education needs to look different if we are to keep our students engaged and prepared for their next step. Our philosophies and pedagogies also need to change if we are to effectively capitalize technology and meet the needs of students. Content no longer should be dictated but explored. For instance, a science teacher can lecture on the makeup of DNA for forty minutes to a class of twenty students. Students take notes, but are they really cognitively engaged in the content? Take that same content but in the form of interesting peer-reviewed current articles on the web through online databases, 3D technologies to explore the double helix, and short interesting videos that explain how DNA works. The teacher simply presents a problem or a question. Students explore and discuss their findings in small groups as the teacher circulates. They now use their mobile devices to collaborate on the problem given by the teacher or one that is brought up in discussion. Each group uses technology to explain their solutions. During this class, instead of the teacher giving the students the content, the students explore it on their own with the use of various technologies. The teacher must give up control of the content and allow students to be guided by their own curiosity, opinions, and skills in a collaborative and supportive work environment. Students, when allowed to use technology to guide their own learning, are more likely to become engaged, independent, and didactic learners, skills that are highly valued in the workplace today.
Decision-making, with regards to purchasing and implementing classroom technology, should be a shared process with teachers, administrators, and support staff. It is never a good idea for the administration to purchase technology to be implemented that teachers did not want, do not see the value in, or is not something they would be able use. Each teacher is different and requires different types of technology to enhance their teaching. There isn’t one technology that is perfect for every teacher, every class, or every student. Developing a technology committee that has representatives from all content areas and departments, including support staff, will help the administrator make better informed decisions.
Most importantly, no matter what technology is chosen to be purchased and implemented, professional development is an absolute must. It is not enough to show a teacher how to use a technology tool. It is of the utmost importance to show the teacher how it will enhance their own teaching and engage students in the learning. If an administrator has been struggling with supporting and encouraging staff members to adopt classroom technology, this is where the buy-in will happen. It is important for teachers to see the end result and what can be done as a result of integrating educational technology.
The integration and implementation of technology needs not stop in the classroom. The effective leader is one that harnesses the use of technology as an administrator. Technology can be used to communicate, build community, stay organized, and aid in the evaluation process. Tools such as electronic calendars for scheduling and reminders, OASIS and My Learning Plan to track professional development and teacher evaluation, social media tools to keep the “doors” of the school open and accessible, and assessment tools to track student data and achievement to better inform instructional support are all incredibly beneficial. Technology can help a building run smoothly and timely, while keeping lines of communication open for all. Utilizing these necessary tools will keep the administrator focused, organised, informed, and able to do more for students.
After the implementation of classroom technology, it is vital to evaluate the integration and use for several reasons. One, the district needs to know what is being used and what is not, and why in order to make future decision for purchasing and professional development. Two, the building administrators need to know how technologies are being used and where there is a need for the same reasons. Third, an evaluation will further support any budgeting that needs to happen in the future. An effective way to evaluate the integration and use of technology is to simply walk through the building while classes are going on. It will be very clear to the administrator is highly visible whether or not technology is enhancing the teaching. When an administrator sees students engaged cognitively with content, collaborating, problem-solving, communicating effectively, and working independently all with technology and the teacher as a guide, they will see the difference. District administration can also evaluate the effective use of technology integration by using a survey for parents, teachers, and students. There are third party companies that will help a district do this, especially a large one, such as Bright Bytes. If the district is small enough, a survey can be created and given out fairly easily that can be used a few times a year. Running this needs-assessment will allow district administrators to know where to budget time and allocate resources more effectively to support the integration efforts of their teachers.
At the end of the day, sifting through and evaluating technologies can be a daunting task. Though it does not replace good teaching and never will, it is a disservice to the students not to enhance their educational experience with it. The effective building leader will always, beyond a shadow of doubt, keep what is best for students in mind, and that will be what guides her to effectively support and integrate the use of technology in the building.