Technology Reform in Schools
by Daisy Marie (Price) Hicks
For many years now, educational reform has focused more on technology education. Improving education has moved to the top of the nation's domestic agenda with the mottos A Nation at Risk and No Child Left Behind. Technology will have a profound impact on how American education is reshaped. Interactive technologies will help students master difficult and complex concepts (Bober, 2002).
The most recent technology educational reform in the State of Virginia has been the technology certification for teachers and administrators. The Virginia Department of Education mandated that all teachers and administrators in Virginia complete technology certification by the beginning of the 2002-03 school year. Therefore, teachers needed to be trained and skilled in using technology, and they needed to be able to integrate technology into their daily lesson plans (Stapleton, 1998).
According to Bober since 1995, the Technology Innovation Challenge Grant (TICG) program, which is a federal grant funded through the Office of Educational Research and Development, has enabled school districts, both large and small, to work with business members, government agencies, and institutions of higher education to change public and private schools in three critical areas: curriculum, professional development, and infrastructure (Bober, 2000).
According to Holland, the primary focus of staff development in technology has been to provide teachers with knowledge and skills about the technology available to them for use in their classrooms. This focus has led to staff development in technology in the form of traditional inservice sessions that train teachers in specific skills or instructional techniques. However, current best practices suggest that while staff development may begin with such training, it should move quickly beyond to efforts that support teachers' development as professionals involved in decision-making, inquiry, and leadership in their classroom teaching. Holland states, "teachers do not get what they need from traditional staff development in the form of inservice sessions that distribute knowledge to teachers in bite-sized pieces" (p246). Teachers really need help and support in integrating new knowledge and skills into their classroom practice.
Also according to Holland, providing teachers with professional development that addresses their particular needs in terms of their knowledge and use of technology requires support for teachers' self-directive and collaborative efforts to integrate technology with other elements of their classroom practice. Such professional development not only allows teachers to learn about technology, it also involves them in decision-making, inquiry, and leadership about how technology can best be used in their instructional practice. Technology changes the ways that schools themselves are structured.
The public school systems in Virginia have been struggling with the issue of integrating technology into the classroom. Therefore, teachers have had to take professional development classes and attend workshops to assist them with developing lesson plans to include technology standards.
Fall, 2000 retired Superintendent of Virginia Public Instruction, Dr. Paul Stapleton, required all institutions to align their teacher education program to incorporate technology standards and school divisions to incorporate technology standards into their local technology plans and develop strategies to implement the standards.
The technology standards for instructional personnel are:
Instructional personnel shall be able to demonstrate effective use of a computer system and utilize computer software. Instructional personnel shall be able to apply knowledge of terms associated with educational computing and technology. Instructional personnel shall be able to apply computer productivity tools for professional use. Instructional personnel shall be able to use electronic technologies to access and exchange information. Instructional personnel shall be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and use appropriate instructional hardware and software to support Virginia's Standard of Learning and other instructional objectives. Instructional personnel shall be able to use educational technologies for data collection, information management, problem solving, decision making, communication, and presentation within the curriculum. Instructional personnel shall be able to plan and implement lessons and strategies that integrate technology to meet the diverse needs of learners in a variety of educational settings. Instructional personnel shall demonstrate knowledge of ethical and legal issues relating to the use of technology (Stapleton, 1998).
The above technology standards became effective on March 4, 1998, and the goal was for all instructional personnel to meet these standards by the beginning of the 2002-2003 school year.
According to Mr. Bobby Waddell, Director of Instructional Technology, 97 percent of the teachers and administrators at Prince Edward County Middle School have met these technology certification requirements. The other three percent are new teachers who are either first year teachers or who moved from another state.
According to Ms. Sylvia Reid, Technology Coordinator at Amelia County Public Schools, approximately 95 percent of their teachers have completed the technology standards. The other five percent are new teachers.
According to Mr. Gary Groneweg, Director o Technology/Finance at Nottoway County Public Schools, approximately 95 percent of their teachers have completed the technology standards. The only teachers who have not completed the standards are the new teachers.
According to Ms. Lisa Blanton, Technology Coordinator at Cumberland County Public Schools, approximately 80 percent of their teachers have completed the technology standards. This percentage is low because Cumberland County Public Schools has had a high turnover in their teachers in the last two years.
Other school systems such as Buckingham County, Charlotte County, and Lunenburg County Public Schools had very low percentages of teachers who had completed the standards. These figures were reported based on the information compiled at the end of the 2001-2002 school year. The Technology Coordinators believed this was because classes or workshops had not been offered during the school years to help assist teachers in meeting these standards. However, classes have been and will continue to be offered to assist the new teachers in completing the standards. New teachers have two years from their start date to complete the technology certification requirements.
According to the report to the Commonwealth of Virginia (Hart, 1998) called "Technology and Education," the public is convinced that technology can be a powerful effective learning tool and under the right circumstances, technology has been shown to
accelerate, enrich and deepen student understanding of basic skills; promote critical thinking, problem solving and team learning; motivate and engage students by bringing relevance and real-word applications to academics; increase the economic viability of tomorrow's workforce; strengthen teaching and learning; promote positive change in schools and school systems; and connect students and teachers to rich learning resources beyond the classroom (Hart, 1998).
Also, according to the report to the Commonwealth of Virginia (Hart, 1998), the emphasis placed on technology in schools during the 1997-98 years was on basic computer operations and not on training in new uses of technology that enhance student learning or professional growth. The report noted that teachers were using technology for administrative tasks and in preparation and delivery of instruction, but in most cases not for providing learning opportunities in which students were asked to use technology. Of the ten teachers asked if they allow students to use computers for activities only two percent reported they allowed students to use computers for activities.
The report to the Commonwealth of Virginia (Hart, 1998) stated, when surveying the whole school, however, teachers were a little more positive in their ratings regarding the integration of technology into the overall school, with fifty-seven percent making it "well integrated." Teachers reported students using the computer for word processing in nearly two out of three classrooms (70 percent); followed by content drill-and-practice (63 percent); CD-ROMs (51 percent), Internet-based research (45 percent) and simulations (32 percent). The lesser used computer applications were databases, spreadsheets, and Web page design software, which occurs in less than 25 percent of the classrooms.
According to the report (Hart, 1998), teachers expressed that they needed time to learn about applications, practice new skills, observe other teachers, talk with colleagues, and learn how to manage a new set of resources which include how to best organize classrooms for students to use technology effectively.
Therefore, there was a need to supply the teachers the professional development they need in order to teach students to use technology. Since there was a need for teachers to integrate technology into daily lesson plans technology standards for instructional personnel was implemented into the school systems.
According to the report (Hart, 1998), principals and teachers seem to believe that these standards do make sense and are here to stay. Many teachers are participating in professional development to learn more about technology and to meet these standards. Also teachers state that local technology training that is informal, self-taught, and as time allows has been most beneficial to them.
As stated in the article written by Wepner and Tao (2002), "technology is very important to the learning process of a child, however, it depends on the teachers' willingness to learn and use technology." The teachers that were interviewed in this article stated they had to constantly learn new technologies, new sites, and new applications to keep up with the changes. They also had to learn troubleshooting skills, such as figuring out why a mouse was not working, restarting the computer because of a glitch in the software, fixing a jammed printer, or recovering a file that a student trashed by mistake.
Cradler (2002) states in his article that teachers are consistently at need for professional development to enable them to effectively use technology in their curriculum/classroom.
Killion's article (2002) discussed the "Technology Thursday's" program that Milwaukee has for their teachers. This program allows teachers to attend informal after-school sessions in the school system that they work at that relates to technology, the teachers are allowed to take online courses, or attend a technical college in the area. The classes are designed to help teachers broaden their knowledge about technology and how to use it in the classroom with students. The teachers are able to immediately apply the concepts that they learn to their teaching.
Charp (2002) states that the use of technology is accepted now as an instructional tool in education, but was not always viewed as such. It was once considered to be a frill for some school systems and not a necessity. Now that technology is part of the daily learning process for students, the search for professional development is ongoing. The Florida Educational Technology Conference held in Orlando in March, 2002 had more than 200 educational sessions and about 500 exhibits that provided opportunities for attendees to learn what is going on in technology. The educators who attended this conference stated they are enthusiastic about technology because it help them do a better job in teaching and allows students to be better learners.
As Salpeter (2002) states in the 1990's the national focus was on improving k-12 education by setting goals for the new millennium. This focus was on what students should know, at what ages, and to what levels of mastery. Committees were formed and in the last few years, Standards of Learning tests were developed to assure all students were meeting the goals that were established. Therefore, teachers have continued to immerse themselves in the process of locating instructional materials and approaches that address the standards and learning needs of students.
Administrators are faced with the challenge of managing student and teacher data in a way that monitors progress and informs decision-making.
Parents and community leaders are demanding information about the progress of schools. Everyone wants to see that someone is held accountable for the educational success or failure of students. Therefore, standardized testing has taken center stage.
According to McCullen (2002) teachers are reluctant to take professional development classes because of time. Teachers feel that because of the amount of time needed to address meeting the learning needs of their students, they have very little time to devote to taking classes. However, North Carolina schools are adopting a program that allows teachers to take professional development classes relating to technology. This program allows teachers to take classes at their school site rather than traveling to a college. When teachers take classes in their school setting, they actually change roles by becoming students rather than teachers. The technology classes are only five days long, and teachers learn about new technologies in the traditional way. They learn to integrate technology in their daily lesson plans in the subjects that they teach.
Also, McCullen (2002) states that Texas is allowing teachers to learn what they need and want, when they want. Teachers can learn from home, from school, or from commercial instructors at times that are convenient to them. Lubbock ISD is focused on getting teachers to master the district technology competencies. Teachers go to the district office and take performance-based tests after completing courses. On these tests, the teachers are to perform the skills or describe how they would use them to implement a project for their students. The teachers can retake the tests until they pass. Teachers get a computer after they complete the first level successfully (2002, March).
According to McCullen (2002), the schools in Maryland use a program that is a three-week course that teachers can take to develop lessons to integrate technology into their classrooms. Each summer 120 educators are selected to develop a unit of technology based on needs identified from their school district. There are four strands that are included; the strands are "integration of technology," "leadership in effective staff development techniques," and "assessment and evaluation." Once the educators have developed a plan, they take it back to their schools and apply what they have learned and share it with fellow teachers.
Research proves that technology in education is here to stay; therefore, teachers will need to be continuously trained to improve their technology skills in order to teach the students effectively. Research has also proven that teachers are more accepting of the idea of using technology as part of the students' learning process if they are educated on how to use it effectively in their classroom. Therefore, providing technology classes and workshops for teachers will increase the use of technology in the classroom.
Technology strengthens teaching and learning and promotes critical thinking, problem solving and team learning. Using technology in the classroom provides students and teachers with helpful learning resources that would not be available to them without technology.
Baker, S. Technology Coordinator Charlotte County Public Schools. Telephone Interview, November 26, 2002.
Blanton, L. Technology Coordinator Cumberland County Public Schools. Telephone Interview, November 26, 2002.
Bober, M. (2002, January/February). Technology integration: the difficulties inherent in measuring pedagogical change. TechTrends, 46, no.1, p. 21-24. Retrieved November 21, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://web.hwwilson.web.com.
Charp, S. (2002, April). Educator's Acceptance of Computer Technology? The Journal Technological Horizons in Education, 29, no.9, p.10-12.
Crader, J. (2002, April). Finding Research-based information about technology in teaching and learning. Learning and Leading with Technology, 29, no.7, p.46-49. Retrieved November 21, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://web.hwwilson.web.com.
Gee, M. Technology Coordinator Lunenburg County Public Schools, Telephone Interview, November 26, 2002.
Groneweg, G Director of Technology/Finance Nottoway County Public Schools. Telephone Interview, November 26, 2002.
Hart, P. (1998, June). Report to the Commonwealth of Virginia on Technology and Education. Miken Exchange Research. Retrieved November 22, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://web.hwwilson.web.com.
Holland, P. (2001). Professional development in technology: catalyst for school reform. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 9, no. 1, p. 245-267. Retrieved November 21, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://web.hwwilson.web.com.
Killion, J. (2002, Winter). Technology. Journal of Staff Development, 23, no.1, p. 12-46. Retrieved November 22, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://web.hwwilson.web.com.
McCullen, C. (2002, March). Professional Development: It's about time. Technology and Learning, 22, no.8, p. 48-58.
Owens, J. Director of Technology Buckingham County Public Schools. Telephone Interview, November 26, 2002.
Reid, S. Technology Coordinator Amelia County Public Schools. Telephone Interview, November 26, 2002.
Salpeter, J. (2002, January). Accountability: Meeting the challenge with technology. Technology and Learning, 22. no.6, p.20-30.
Stapleton, P. (1998, May). Licensure Regulations for School Personnel (8VAC 20-21-10) and Technology Standards for Instructional Personnel (8VAC 20-25-10). SUPTS. MEMO. No. 2.
Wepner, S. & Tao, L. (2002, April). From Master Teacher to Master Novice: Shifting responsibilities in technology-infused classroom. The Reading Teacher, 55, no.7, p.642-651. Retrieved November 21, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://web.hwwilson.web.com.
Waddell, B. Director of Instructional Technology Prince Edward County Public Schools. Personal Interview, November 27, 2002.
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