School Administrators Need Technology Too
As colleges and universities prepare teachers forthe 21st century and include appropriate topics and courses intechnology, they should also remember to establish courses to trainadministrators. As Beth McGrath pointed out in a recent article,reaping the rewards of the new technology requires, among otherthings, support from the school administrators where these teacherswork.
The Department of Educational Administration andHigher Education at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale ischarged with the responsibility of preparing administrators fortomorrow's schools and for providing knowledge and skills to thosepresent administrators who are taking courses to advance in theirprofession. In reviewing the curriculum for school administrators,the department felt that we needed to add a technology component sothat present and future administrators would understand what ishappening in this area and be able to support their teachers in whatthey are trying to accomplish. No matter how dedicated teachers maybe and how convinced they may be about the benefits of technology inthe classroom, they will not be able to accomplish much if they donot have the support &emdash; both financial and moral &emdash; fromtheir principals, curriculum directors andsuperintendents.
Changing the Course
As a result of the department's philosophy, I wasasked to alter a course in curriculum by adding units in technology.The original course was intended for administrators (present andfuture) who would have the responsibility for encouraging curriculumideas and revisions and supervising teachers who were working onthese curriculum projects. Since technology has become a part of thecurriculum in many classrooms, it seemed appropriate to add it tothis particular course.
When the students came to their first class inCurriculum and Technology, they were given the usual written syllabusand heard some initial comments about curriculum. Then, about halfwaythrough the class (which met weekly for 2 hours and 40 minutes in theevening), the class members were taken to a computer lab withPowerMacs. There, the students were taught (for those who needed theinstruction) how to use a Web browser to locate the class home page.The home page (see Figure One) gave students links to educationalsites which they could use, the syllabus for the course, theuniversity library, an e-mail connection to my mailbox, and otherK-12 school sites. A link to class assignments was added later in thecourse.
I surveyed the students to see to what extent eachone knew how to perform certain tasks that were required in thecourse. I was surprised to find that every class member (10 in thisgraduate class) had an e-mail address and knew how to use it. I putthat knowledge to use, as I will explain later.
In addition to accessing and using the class homepage, students were taught to use certain technologies and thendemonstrate their ability to use them. The first tool we used wasPowerPoint. I used the program to lecture on a topic in thecurriculum part of the course, using a Proxima projector on a cart ina regular classroom. Next, we adjourned to the computer lab where Idemonstrated how to set up a PowerPoint presentation from thebeginning, using a projector connected to one of the PowerMacs. Eachstudent was then asked to create his/her own presentation and presentit to me to in the lab. Some prepared presentations that could beused in the classroom while others prepared some that could be usedfor the entire school.
Later, when students made oral presentations tothe class on certain topics in curriculum, several brought in andused projectors. One or two also told me they were using projectorsto make presentations to their school boards or at conferences.Needless to say, these school leaders had already been convinced ofthe benefit of this technology and would understand their teachers'desire to use it too.
A second task each student had to learn was tocreate a home page using HTML (rather than an editor). Although itdid not have to be fancy, the home page did need to have some linksto outside pages. One teacher made a page for her high schoolliterature class while a principal made a home page for her school.Using HTML was slightly more difficult for some of the students, butthey enjoyed seeing the results when their home pages worked. And, itwas exciting for them to know that, when linked to the class homepage, their pages could be viewed from anywhere in theworld.
Since all class members had e-mail, I told themthat I would send them messages without any prior notice in class.The first time I tried it I told them to bring a little piece ofpaper to class with their name on it and they would get one extrapoint on the mid-term examination. Two or three students failed tocheck their e-mail and missed the extra point. No one missed checkinge-mail the rest of the course! In addition to some routine classnotices and my answering questions from class members via e-mail, Isent them two assignments. Without any prior warning from me inclass, I sent an e-mail message telling them to go to the class homepage for an assignment. When the students did this, the home pageinstructed them to look up a section in their curriculum textbook, doa short writing activity and e-mail it back to me by noon of the nextclass meeting day. Everyone did it.
The second assignment that I sent by e-mail wasmore involved. The e-mail message told them to check the home pageagain, where they were told to use the Internet to look up a specificarticle from a national magazine. (Of course, I had checked to besure the magazine was on the Web and the article was accessible.)They were asked to read the article &emdash; which concerned the useof computers in K-12 schools &emdash; and write a two-page commentaryon the article. They sent me their opinions via e-mail, some usingthe "attachment" option. This assignment used e-mail, the class homepage and the Internet for research.
Spreadsheets and Surveys
Following the introduction of these relativelyrecent technologies, we spent some time with another valuable, thougholder, technology: spreadsheets. Most administrators need to know howto use spreadsheets for their own jobs, so we went to the lab where Idemonstrated several applications. We looked at some budgets, and Ishowed the students how spreadsheets could be used to total sectionsof budgets. Students were asked to set up their own imaginary budgetsand demonstrate that they could work with them. Next, we looked athow spreadsheets could be used to predict enrollment projections forschools based on the pattern of past enrollments. We also looked at ateacher salary schedule and demonstrated how it could be used duringcollective bargaining to calculate, instantly, a new salary scheduleand the amount of the increased cost to the school district.Administrators have a lot of data associated with their schools, andit would help them in their jobs if they could store, retrieve andmanage this data efficiently.
Often, teachers and administrators want to take asurvey of parental or community opinion. While the future may allowthis to be done instantly by computer, our homes and businesses arenot set up for that yet. So, we assumed that we had received writtenresponses to surveys and went to the computer lab to learn how tocompile and analyze the data received using SPSS. Again, they couldsee the potential of the computer to do something very fast, so thatthey could spend time deciding what action they should take, basedupon the data received, instead of spending hours adding numberstogether.
A Discussion of Funding
A final section of the course involved adiscussion of technology funding, the E-rate, grant writing andnetworking. One student, a technology coordinator in a nearby schooldistrict, gave a presentation on how he established his network andhow he had been successful in writing grants to get money forhardware and software. Then, I explained how I had worked with theuniversity's Information Technology staff to establish a College ofEducation computer network, with our own server and shared software,when I was Associate Dean of the College. Our department felt it wasimportant for these administrators to have some idea about fundingand about computer networks because many of our area schools needfinancial help in establishing these computer networks.
The administrators that we are training are schoolleaders in many areas: curriculum, personnel selection, budgeting andfinance, school law, and discipline, to name a few. Because personalcomputer/Internet technology is fairly new, many of these individualshave little or no training in this area. Yet, they still are expectedto be school leaders in technology. Our course is intended to givethese school administrators some introductory knowledge and skills,with the goal that these leaders will be able to provide support andencouragement to their teachers while using the technology themselvesfor their own jobs.
Dr. William L. Sharp is a professor in theDepartment of Educational Administration and Higher Education,Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and former Associate Deanof the College of Education. He previously taught at the Universityof Akron and was a superintendent in Indiana and Illinois. Dr. Sharpearned a B.A. and M.A. from Indiana University, a graduate diplomafrom Durham University in England, and a Ph.D. from NorthwesternUniversity.
URL for course home page:
Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA, (800) 426-9400,www.microsoft.com.
Proxima, San Diego, CA, (800) 447-7692,www.proxima.com.
SPSS, Chicago, IL, (312) 329-2400,www.spss.com.
- McGrath, Beth (1998), "Partners in Learning: Twelve Ways Technology Changes The Teacher-Student Relationship," T.H.E. Journal, 25(9), pp. 58-61.4
This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1998 issue of THE Journal.