DAILY INSIGHT: It's time to adopt a more serious approach to tech
By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor
A recent Education Week
article spoke about teaching as a wired profession and teachers being more tech savvy than previous teachers. According to the survey results, only 16% of teachers are using
technology to track effort student progress and only 38% are using technology
to provide feedback on student work or performance. Here is a link to the article, called "Teaching: A Wired Profession."
Only 58% of teachers say they are using technology to
support homework and practice. Although almost two-thirds of teachers are using
technology in some way or another, what are we doing about that last third?
Assuming that the teachers have access to the necessary technology, how are those
teachers embracing the use of technology in the instructional process? Or
aren’t they? If not, why not?
If not, what can be done to help more along those teachers
who aren’t using technology at least jump into the shallow end of the
technology swimming pool? Historically, technology innovation in education hasn’t made much more
of an impact than the myriad of other types of “fad” innovations—from open
classrooms, programmed instruction, etc. In 1926, Thomas Edison (by most
accounts, a pretty sharp guy), stated that “the radio will supplant the
teacher. .. …The moving picture will visualize what the radio fails to get
across. Teachers will be relegated to the backwoods.” However, the technology
of the 1920s and 1930s was replaced by televisions and then microcomputers (to
use a wonderfully archaic term). Now we are moving towards a myriad of smaller
and more mobile devices. The promise of x (insert new technology here) is
always lauded as the vehicle to transform education. That seems to continue to some extent
today. One hears technology directors and principals discuss that this new
version, device, etc., will be the game changer. We have now figured out that
the teacher needs to remain part of the solution, but we haven’t moved forward
much more than that beyond 1925.
At what point will we realize that there is no silver bullet
or magic device? We need to make sure that administrative expectations about
technology use are clear and direct. If two-thirds of teachers are using technology,
are most of them truly embracing it or simply playing at the edge of the
swimming pool? How can you showcase the real innovators in the classroom
without turning off the majority of teachers or setting those pioneering staff
members up for ridicule by the Luddites on the staff?
One effective way, assuming that the teacher-evaluation
process allows for it, is to insist that one of the lessons your principals
observe for all 2nd- or 3rd-year teachers involves the use
of technology in the instructional setting. If your evaluation process doesn’t
allow for this, it is time to change the evaluation process. As a novice superintendent, my curriculum director and I set similar standards for reading comprehension
strategies to be observed during at least one of each 2nd-year
teacher’s observations. The teacher was able to set which one of the
observations would include the reading strategies, but it was clearly
articulated that it had to be observed during the course of the year. This
helped to reinforce the professional development provided on those strategies
during the year. We made a clear statement that the district believed that use
of these strategies was essential across all grade levels and disciplines. It
gave first-year teachers motivation to incorporate the strategies so when it
was time for their 2nd-year evaluations, they would be used to using
them. More senior teachers also received the message and many of those teachers
also volunteered lessons to be observed that included those strategies. Reading scores went up significantly.
Among special education students, test scores shot up by more than 500%.
Working with reading specialists and other teachers, the curriculum director
and her team identified five simple strategies that were research proven and
the principals and the superintendent reinforced the need to seriously adopt
those strategies in every classroom.
Change happened for the benefit of students.
If we are to expect teachers to take technology integration
seriously, it is time for leadership teams to adopt a more serious approach to
the use of instructional technology. We can no longer take the Field of Dreams
approach (build it and they will come), but must insist that technology be used
in all classrooms for the benefit of all students. Start small, with some simple
concise and easily supported methods, but ensure that after staff-development
sessions, those methods are observed in the classroom in a systemic way and not
allowed to be a hit-or-miss thing depending upon the whim of the teacher. We
have tried that method for nearly 100 years; it doesn’t work. It is time to be
more direct.Steven M. Baule is currently superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning.