Schools Have Their Computers, Now What?
Across the nation manyschools are bombarded with technology: new computer labs, mediaretrieval systems, business partnership software programs, etc.Students are exposed to so many technological devices and informationresources that one would think the transition from school toworkplace would be second nature. However, according to recentprojections, only about 22 percent of people currently entering thelabor market possess the technology skills that will be required for60 percent of new jobs in the year 2000. The United StatesDepartment of Education indicates that 59% of all students areutilizing computers in the classroom and one in four elementarystudents are using computers at home. Are schools gettingtoday's students prepared for their technological future?
The problem schools facetoday in preparing these students lies in limited and/or inadequatestaff development - not in funding, the time to provide training, orthe ability to learn on behalf of the teacher. Schools are currentlyin the "blame frame." They are struggling with the decision of whatto do next with existing technology.
If staff development isreally the key to integration, then why are computers collecting dustwhen many teachers have already been sent to technology workshops?One-shot workshops, added expense of training, lack of continuedsupport, isolated knowledge, unawareness of school needs, lack ofknowledge and support from leadership all contribute to theineffectiveness of technology staff development.
In order to implement andintegrate technology in our district, the following plan became asolution to the above problems. The Teachers Teaching TeachersTechnology (T-4) staff development model has proven successful forall of the schools in our district because it:
- Uses experts at the building level;
- Provides an ongoing support system;
- Involves a large percentage of participants;
- Is cost-effective;
- Addresses individual technological needs; and
- Motivates and encourages change in instruction.
What is the T-4Plan?
The T-4 Plan is built onthe premise that technology training can support a school'sadvancement toward technology integration using a team effort.Technology is changing so rapidly that the only way to keep currentis to create a system whereby information can be shared. T-4 fostersthis notion through the concept of teachers training teachers. Byfocusing on training as one of the key strategies, districts can makethe transition from just using computers to building a true,technology-rich learning environment.
The T-4 staff developmentgoals include:
- Providing release time for staff to work with technology to become more efficient in using it personally and professionally;
- Demonstrating how technology can be integrated into the learning process;
- Creating an awareness of technological innovations and their possibilities for use in the educational setting; and
- Establishing a collaborative teaching atmosphere by using the teacher to teacher training model.
Development of theModel
The first step is toestablish a small group of staff members (3-5) who are interested inand knowledgeable about technology. This Planning Team mightgenerally consist of a media specialist, a technology assistant andseveral teachers. This team will then design a needs assessmentsurvey to be completed by all staff members. The survey results willdetermine the staff development needs of the school. These needs willusually focus on gaining knowledge of different software applicationsand will be met by designing a series of sessions available to allstaff members on a voluntary basis.
A possible solution mightbe to hold three sessions per month on each identified need. ThePlanning Team members will be the "experts" who facilitate theseone-hour sessions. Throughout the month these facilitators assist theteachers by answering questions and helping them extend theirknowledge. For example, teachers may choose to participate in one ofthe following sessions: word processing, spreadsheets or researchthrough technology. In the subsequent months, teachers may continuewith the same topic or choose a different one.
After each weekly session,teachers will be asked to work toward completing a project to be usedin the classroom. At the end of the session, teachers must submit acompleted project to receive a small stipend. All of these finishedprojects are made available as resources for other teachers.Instructors receive a slightly increased stipend for the extraplanning and effort necessary to teach the session.
Following each completedsession, participants are encouraged to be the next instructor(expert) for the upcoming session. This process of new teachersbecoming new experts is the most significant outcome of this model.Teachers who have been skeptical of technology are emerging asinstructional leaders of technology. The learning theory states thata person learns 20% by seeing, 20% by listening and 60% byteaching.
Implications of theProgram
Following the second yearof the T-4 model, a new outlook toward the use of technology hasemerged. Teachers are expressing a need for curriculum integrationwith technology. They are beginning to realize that technologyenhances learning and they can use it as a tool for instruction. Asteachers' knowledge increases, a need for more student computer labsbecomes evident. With an increased comfort level, teachers andstudents are looking toward the most recent advances in technology.Requests for scanners, digital cameras, new software and upgrades ofexisting applications are on the rise.
Administrators arerealizing the implications of increased use of technology and areconsidering technology goals for staff members as a part of theevaluation process. As part of their professional growth goals,teachers should consider at least one area of technology on which tofocus. As part of our districtwide strategic planning process, a goalwas established for the first time due to the success of the T-4 Planthat requires all staff, administrators and school board members toattend technology staff development sessions.
As we approach themillennium, professional development opportunities like the T-4 modelmust be implemented to provide lifelong learning for teachers, who inturn must prepare a new generation of students for theirtechnological future.
Judi J. Poole is Director of Curriculum and Colleen Moran isCoordinator of Gifted and Talented Programs for the Western BooneCounty Community School Corp. in Thorntown, Ind.
- Zuckerman, P. (1994), "America's Silent Revolution," U.S. News and World Report, 117(3), p. 90.
- U.S. Department of Education (1997), "Building Knowledge for a Nation of Learners - A Framework for Education Research 1997," Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
- Rath, Alex and Rieck, William (1997), "Five Strategies for District Computer Coordinators to Fund and Manage the Transition to Technology-Rich Learning Environments," T.H.E. Journal, 25(4), pp.51-52.
This article originally appeared in the 12/01/1998 issue of THE Journal.