Technology Mistakes

This question on the MACUL Ning space got me thinking (you may be wondering why I’m part of a Michigan edtech group when I live in VA- answer Ben Rimes).

As a School Board Trustee in Lapeer Community Schools(6500 students) I am very excited about passing our first Bond in 34 years!!! With the passage were looking at $6,000,000 for technology. The big question now is…where do we spend the money and how do we get the biggest bang for our taxpayers hard earned dollars. Certainly we are involving the teachers, administration, students,etc…but I dont want to just dump computers and white boards in every class only to see them sitting in the corner not being used. Has anyone observed mistakes when purchasing technology, or have any success stories about implementing teachnology in their schools?

So here’s my two cents based on my experience in Henrico county with our 1 to 1. It’s not exactly coherent or ordered but I think there’s some truth in there. Am I missing things? Too paranoid? Plain wrong?

I think these concepts seem to get left behind or only partially implemented far too often.

1. Staff development– this isn’t just how to use the computer/white board etc. (although that is important) the focus should be on why you’d want to use it, ways to use it and then time to create resources/lesson plans with it. Administrators need to have training in how to implement the change, how to support the change, and how to assess the change. Teachers need to look at the their teaching and think about what should/should not change. This can’t be a one time thing or something that’s front loaded- staffdev has to be continual and constant. Teachers need to keep reassessing and being given opportunities to grow.

The big plan has to include goals for the initiative. You’ve spent all this money. What did it get you? How are you going to measure progress? Is it based on test scores, student engagement, decreased drop out rates, qualitative survey data, a combination of all those? If you don’t have this critics in the community will pick you apart. It doesn’t take many to do this, they just have to be loud.

How will the technology be supported in the schools? Do you have on site tech support? What about integration support? In my county in VA we have dedicated instructional technology resource teachers who don’t teach classes. They focus on helping teachers use technology in ways that impact learning. That’s one way to do it.

Another way, which appeals to me more in certain ways, is to set up lead teachers in schools. Give them the technology first and let them run with it. They should have reduced schedules (stipends?) and as the technology is phased in for others, they’d then help them with both technology and pedagogy. You have to be careful though, because this is a big task for the lead teachers so something large needs to be taken off their plate.

2. Community education– If you don’t keep the community on your side it’s easy for a few minor issues to be blown out of proportion. Keep talking to the parents. Offer them training. Get them to see the good that you’re doing. PR is absolutely key for a technology initiative.

3. Sharing– So you’ve got all these teachers doing great things in their classrooms, maybe a whole school is doing amazing things- how are they going to share their successes with others? Why should they bother? Thinking about ways to make sure great ideas/lessons etc. are shared is really important and often not done at all. That infrastructure and incentives to use it should be set up early. Get master teachers creating a variety of resources before the technology gets in everyone’s hands. Then make sure everyone knows where to get those resources and give them incentives to make more.

Comments on this post

  1. Mike H said on January 29, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Oh boy, oh boy! Can I add some!

    1. Let instruction drive technology, not the other way around.
    2. Allow for teachers to deal with classroom management issues and the Internet rather than just blocking everything like all blogs.
    3. Tom briefly mentioned it, but if you’re looking at laptops or more technology to increase state standardized tests like SOLs, then run far away from technology.
    4. Pinging!
    5. Don’t dive into laptops without first implementing a Learning Management System like Blackboard or Angel. In fact, it would be best to have those first, then get laptops a year later. Don’t allow people to think that your LMS is an instructional tool. It’s about 80% organization and 20% instructional. But if you get one late, people will think the percentages are the other way around.
    6. Tom’s right again, get teacher experts. Make others jealous of someone else using laptops.
    7. Train staff a lot before implementing programs.

    There’s more, but I’ll stop myself here.

  2. terry said on January 29, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Here at the Educause Learning Initiative conference, we are struggling with some of the basics you raise here. What is the relationship between technology and learning? What kind of “learners” are teachers? What do we really hope to accomplish with the use of different technologies? Can technolgies make any difference in creating the shift to learner-centered education?
    And here is what I have observed as a parent in Henrico:
    1. mandating does not work. Teachers were told they had to use the laptops a certain amount of time every day. Instead, they told students they better not open those laptops in class!
    2. laptops have been, over time, so stripped of software tools and so blocked from the internet, that it seems to me that the more fearful,negative parents have won: the laptops have become what they originally complained they were–mere electronic notebooks. Don’t let that happen to you!
    3. And despite that, my 8th grader told me today that he is going to make a podcast next week and he is so pumped! And my 12th grader tells me of some really creative things some of his teachers are doing, and how many of them now let him “google-jockey” to add to class discussion. In the end, it really is worth all the trouble, because it really is about the kids and learning.

    to make it work? faculty development, faculty development, and more faculty development!

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