Spotlight On...Technology Integration

Since the early 1980's, when personal computerswere introduced into the educational process, the issues impactingeffective use have remained consistent. Technology can make apositive impact on learning when:

• Students have significant access to thattechnology on a regular basis;

• Students have the ability to use technologyas a tool to communicate and collaborate;

• Students have access to information andresources on a timely basis;

• Teachers have access to qualityprofessional development activities;

• Teachers have access to technology andtraining to communicate effectively with peers, students and parents;and

• Educational leaders have provided anenvironment that makes technology an integral and valued component oflearning.

The DeKalb County School System in Decatur, Ga.,has used these issues as the basis for designing a program to ensureaccess and effective training for school system stakeholders:students, teachers, administrators and parents.

The vision begins with a view of the organizationand the goals necessary for organizational participants to functionin an "information rich environment." The identified goals includeintegration (mandated use of information technology in all curricularareas), access (equal access and equitable distribution), proficiency(identified competencies for students and staff) and support(hardware/software training). School system resources necessary toachieve these goals include identification of infrastructurerequirements, training and support for participants (includingestablishment of clear and measurable strategies for the applicationof information technology in the instructional process), andreplacement of outdated policies and procedures with new ones thatrequire both the acquisition and use of new skills by both staff andstudents.

Of utmost importance in this process is thetraining of participants so that they move from novice to extender asit relates to the use of information technology. The use of a systemsapproach to planning has been applied to developing this vision.Systems thinking requires that all components of the social systemare included in developing the vision. Therefore, technologicaldevelopment of the community and its residents is viewed as anessential component.

The Planning Process

Using this conceptual framework as a template thefollowing strategies, designed to develop all system participants,have been implemented:

Students

1) Computer technology competencies areestablished by grade level from pre-kindergarten through 12thgrade.

2) The curriculum is revised so those competenciesare implemented through the core curriculum. From this standpoint,technology is viewed not as a subject, but as a tool that can be usedto enhance learning in and across all subject areas in a stimulatingand meaningful way. Students will therefore learn to useever-changing technology to cope with the information explosion thatis a part of modern life.

3) Classroom technology standards are establishedby grade level and subject area. Standards in this instance refer tothe hardware and software necessary to facilitate implementation ofthe established curriculum.

4) Finally, specific software is identified forthe six areas necessary to fully integrate technology into thecurriculum: multimedia presentations, structured courseware,productivity tools, communications tools, information management anddistance learning.

School System Staff

1) Computer technology standards are establishedfor all school staff, with an emphasis on teachercompetencies.

2) Policies and procedures are established thatrequire utilization of current technology in performing jobrequirements.

3) Computer technology standards are establishedby job classification (again with the emphasis being placed onteacher). Standards, as with students, refers to hardware, softwareand peripherals necessary to perform job responsibilities.

4) An aggressive training program has beendeveloped and implemented designed to ensure that all teachers arecompetent computer users by the end of the 1998-99 schoolyear.

5) Finally, for teachers and other instructionalstaff, software must be identified and adopted in the areas ofcommunications tools, network management, information management,curriculum management, classroom administration and productivitytools.

Community/Parents

1) Family Technology Resource Centers areestablished in strategic locations throughout the schooldistrict.

2) Curricula for the centers are developed basedon the needs of the community. The curricula, therefore, may vary indifferent centers. Personal computing skills, however, will be taughtat each center.

3) In order to fully support this concept, abroad-based collaboration must be established between the schoolsystem, businesses, corporations, foundations, government agenciesand social service agencies.

4) Curricula developed for and implemented incenters should fall in three areas: personal computing skills,general education and information management. In addition toproviding educational opportunities, social services should beprovided to enhance the quality of life in the community.

Implementation

The implementation of this plan will never becomplete due to the continuous training, curriculum revision andpolicy changes necessary to keep pace with changing technologicalrequirements. However, after a number of years of working to createan "information rich environment," the school system has madesignificant progress. A few successful highlights include:

Staff Development

An aggressive training program was implemented twoyears ago. The goals of this program were to place a state-of-the-artcomputer on the desk of each teacher (approximately 7,000) and totrain them in the use of Microsoft Windows and the Microsoft OfficeSuite (Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint). In order to accomplishthis task within a reasonable timeframe, the DeKalb systemimplemented a training program using interactive multimedia. Thesecourses, developed and distributed by ITC Learning, Inc., featurefull-motion video, frequent student interaction, powerful graphicssimulations to convey difficult concepts, workbook-directed exercisesusing "live" software, and pre- and post-self testing to ensurecourse effectiveness.

An extensive partnership was developed between ITCLearning, Gateway 2000, Lexmark Printers and a local DeKalb company,Achieve, Inc., which installed and configured the computers. Aftertwo years, all teachers in 70 schools have successfully completed thetraining, with the remaining 40 schools scheduled for completionduring the current school year. All teachers who have completedtraining have a Gateway 2000 computer on their desks. These computersare being used for both administrative and instructionalpurposes.

Family Technology Resource Centers

Family Technology Resource Centers (FTRC) havebeen implemented in ten locations throughout the system. They aredesigned to:

1) Provide a fully equipped classroom environmentthat will give parents and children the opportunity to participate ineducational experiences together.

2) Provide equal access to computer training toall segments of the community.

3) Enhance parents' knowledge in the use ofpersonal computing skills that can effectively contribute to theirsupport of children's education and at the same time contribute toenhanced employment opportunities.

4) Raise the general level of education in thecommunity.

5) Facilitate the development of a partnershipbetween schools, parents, businesses and community organizations,which can improve both economic growth and quality oflife.

Training is delivered to parents and othercommunity members utilizing the same process and materials employedin the teacher-training program. Courses take between eight and tenhours to complete. An entire curriculum takes between 52 hours and 85hours to complete. Five computer-based curricula are availableincluding: personal computing skills; basic literacy; advancedliteracy; electrical installation, repair and maintenance; andmechanical repair and maintenance. Participants choose a curriculumfor study based on need and interest. Participants may complete morethan one curriculum.

These curricula can not only provide foundationsthat enable parents to assist their children with schoolwork, but canalso form the foundation for upgrading skills, which can lead manydisadvantaged adults to more financially lucrative occupations. Inaddition, the following services are provided:

• Trained facilitators are available toassist participants by providing an initial orientation for newusers, answering questions and tracking attendance and coursecompletion.

• Centers are open 24 hours per week beyondthe regular school day. The schedule will vary at different sitesdepending on community need.

• Childcare is provided for participants whohave children too young to participate in computer center activities.Age appropriate educational experiences are provided for childrenduring the time parents are involved in continuing educationalexperiences.

• Through a local area network (LAN), olderchildren participate in a variety of structured academic activitiesusing computers.

• Continuing education credit is awarded toparticipants after completing a curriculum. A certificate is awardedto participants by DeKalb Community College.

• Other community services are provided atcenters, including job and career counseling, possible job placement,health services screening, voter registration and public libraryservices.

• "Personal Computer Literacy Grants" areprovided to parents who: complete the 52 hour PC Skills curriculum;have a child attending school who is 18 years old or under, or apre-school age child; have a child who is eligible for free orreduced lunch according to federal guidelines; complete ten hours ofcommunity service to the school in which the center is located; andattend a one hour computer installation seminar.

• Parents who desire to complete high schoolwill be given assistance to enroll in a GED program, which is alsoprovided at some centers.

Gateway 2000 Destination PCs

During the process of developing hardwarestandards to implement the instructional program, Information Systemsstaff, teachers and administrators were introduced to the Gateway2000 Destination PC, a large-screen presentation workstation.Teachers were instantly impressed with the 32-inchtelevision/monitor, surround sound stereo system, wireless keyboardand mouse. Teachers saw immediate instructional implications. As aresult the unit was placed in all schools throughout thedistrict.

Three "prototype" schools have a Destination PC ineach classroom, which are used for: whole-class Internet instruction;foreign language instruction; reading and writing instruction; andstudent projects developed using Microsoft PowerPoint.

Kindergarten and first grade teachers teach avariety of developmental concepts to children by passing the keyboardto students in the classroom and allowing them to input data based onthe concepts being taught. The Destination PC allows teachers todevelop concepts around various students' learning styles. Plans areunderway to use the workstation for instruction in all subjectareas.

Thanks to the capabilities of the wirelesskeyboard and mouse, the Destination PC can effectively be used as anelectronic substitute for the traditional chalkboard in a variety ofinstructional settings. After identification of appropriate softwarein the "prototype" schools, it is anticipated that more units will beadded to all schools in the district.

During the current school year, the DeKalb SchoolSystem plans to significantly upgrade instructional andadministrative technology by installing over 5,000 new computers andupgrading an additional 2,000. This will move the system closer toits vision of establishing an "information richenvironment."

 

Edward L. Bouie, Jr., Ed.D., is Executive Directorfor Management of Information Systems at the DeKalb School System inDecatur, Ga.

E-mail: bouiee@dcss.dekalb.k12.ga.us

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1998 issue of THE Journal.

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