Building a Technology-Rich Community

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In April, six state educational technology directors from across the United States came to Washington, D.C., to launch the second annual "SETDA National Leadership Institute 2003 Toolkit: States Helping States Implement No Child Left Behind" (online at www.setda.org/Toolkit2003). The six directors represented the collaboration, idea sharing and leveraging of resources of more than 100 state educational technology leaders who came together to create shared tools to help them meet their goal of improving education through the effective integration of technology.

This is what SETDA, the State Educational Technology Directors Association, is all about: Bringing together leaders to collaborate, grow as learners and provide a national voice about the use of technology to improve student learning. Founded in 2001, SETDA (www.setda.org) is the principal association representing the state directors of education technology. SETDA's membership includes educational technology directors and staff from the state departments of education of all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As members of SETDA, state leaders work together to assess, analyze and propose recommendations on how to improve student learning through technology.

Leveling the Playing Field

The issues that face state educational technology leaders are not unique in the education community, but some of the strategies and tools that they use in maximizing opportunities for all educators and learners probably are. Technology is more than just a tool in education - it provides opportunity in both instruction and administration to improve learning for all students. It levels the playing field by providing resources and experiences that otherwise would not be available to many children. It also provides learners with the tools and skills they will need to enter the work force of the future.

Coordination of instructional and administrative education technology requires leadership at all levels. Leaders can help policy-makers, educators and the community understand and support the power of technology. Leaders can build strong educational programs using technology by building partnerships; leveraging and providing resources; and ensuring that an educational technology program includes not only the hardware, software and infrastructure, but also the professional development, data management and integration resources to make it succeed.

For years, state educational technology directors have worked to successfully integrate technology into schools, curricula and administrative functions. But they have often worked in isolation, and the critical value of their expertise is assumed in many state departments. However, through the collaborative work of SETDA members, terrific leaders are emerging. As a community, we need to recognize the critical role of educational technology leaders and build upon their momentum to share success stories; conduct scientifically based research that proves the positive impact of technology; as well as grow and back new leaders at all educational levels to ensure that support for technology continues at the federal, state and local levels.

The Importance of Partnerships

Imagine, if you can, a school where there is no technology - even for a day. Everything from the roll call to student records is manually recorded. Is this a 21st century school? Now imagine a school where technology is everywhere but used in a seamless way by administrators, teachers, students and parents. The kids are motivated and engaged, the parents are informed, assessments are done online, results are immediate, and the administrative staff is able to focus on critical tasks that affect student learning. These schools already exist, but they are not prevalent. We need to work together to build the case for education technology. We also must support educational technology leaders at every level as they work to enable all schools and learners to be a part of a technology-rich community.

This special issue, brought together by T.H.E. Journal and SETDA, is a terrific example of the kinds of partnerships and outreach that educational technology leaders need to be building. The four topics chosen for this issue - technology integration, professional development, data, and leadership and advocacy - are all essential to the success of education technology. The partnerships between the state and district leaders that are apparent in all of these articles are also critical keys to the success of these programs. As you read these success stories, you will not only learn some "what works" strategies, but you will also get ideas for working across disciplines, learning communities and beyond the educational technology community.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.

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