Hang-Ups of Introducing Computer Technology

"I don't want a computer in my room." "He can puta computer in my room, but until he trains me, I won't use it.""Administration ought to use all this money going into computers andput it into salaries." Do these statements sound familiar?Administrators interested in facilitating changes in the area ofcomputer technology will undoubtedly hear responses like this orworse.

These days, most administrators wrestle with thevision of taking their students and employees into the 21st centuryby making them computer literate. Much planning has already gone intohow to do this. However, in most cases, the number one factor inimplementing such a plan presents most administrators with adifficult task: training of their staff in an organized way,depending on support trainers from their workplace, and conductingthe training within the workday.

The task also requires not spending money on thetraining, and having enough hardware to train staff. In a schoolsetting, this would involve teachers, teacher aides and supportstaff. The thought of training 54 staff members in an elementaryschool during the school day can be overwhelming and scary to anyprincipal. The thought of being trained on a computer can also befrightening to the staff. However, the outcome of such an undertakingoutweighs any apprehension.

In this article I will point out some of thehurdles that I had to overcome in starting training sessions for 54employees. My goal was to move Carpenter Elementary students andstaff members into the 21st century in the world of computers.Although the article was written about my experiences, administratorsfrom any discipline will identify with the hang-ups of introducingcomputer technology in their workplace.

First, it must be understood that overcoming thefear of using a computer lies in each individual's attitude towardaccepting change. Then, the administrator must understand that thefears are real. Next, the notion that our world is moving into the21st century with or without us is a reality. Lastly, one mustrecognize that computers are here to stay because we are in the"information age." If an administrator agrees with the assumptionsmentioned above, then a decision to get his/her staff into the racecan occur. In this race, the administrator is similar to a track starat the starting line and each hurdle is approached one at atime.

The First Hurdle

The first and most difficult hurdle to get over isthe idea of accepting change. The administrator must realize thataccepting change is an individual process in which the "acceptancetime frame" is going to vary with the staff. The administrator mustbe willing to be patient with colleagues whose time frame is slowerthan his own. Understanding that a total buy-in is rarely achievableat the beginning of a change effort will also keep the administratorfrom labeling a behavior, response or attitude as "resistance tochange."

An effective strategy at the beginning of anychange effort is to set up employees in teams after the administratorhas talked to staff individually. The teams are designed to supportmembers who may oppose change because they are afraid. Support comesfrom knowing that someone on the team knows about the fears of changebut cares about others and will be there to help and offersupport.

The second hurdle comes into sight once theadministrator has a handle on everyone's feelings. The hurdles thatfollow are my reflections of the hurdles in my own lane of the raceto get Carpenter moving ahead with computer training for 54 staffmembers. To successfully get over the second hurdle, a computer taskforce was established and made responsible for various phases of mypre-planning.

During the planning sessions, the task forcediscussed and reviewed not only curriculum issues, but also theschool's technology plans and how to best teach computer skillswithout frightening anyone and at the same time not boring staffmembers who might already possess computer skills. This techniqueprovided the opportunity for the collaboration of how to bestapproach and successfully get over the second hurdle.

The Second Hurdle

The following is a recap of the steps that werenecessary to clear the second hurdle:

  • Planning the Internet link for workstations (classrooms, offices and computer lab);
  • Acquiring funds to purchase 10 PCs by approaching the Parent Teacher Organization (P.T.O.) to fund $14, 476, and sending out 900 brochures in the Chamber of Commerce monthly mailing to local businesses;
  • Preplanning for Computer Lab and Computer Lab Training Project;
  • Selecting hardware prior to purchasing;
  • Purchasing hardware according to specifications;
  • Selecting appropriate software and curriculum design that included appropriate vocabulary and definitions;
  • Installing hardware and software;
  • Training instructors to use computer lab hardware;
  • Setting training schedule;
  • Presenting training model to staff and trainers assigned to departments;
  • Developing objectives and lessons for Windows 95, Microsoft Word, the Internet and e-mail;
  • Setting up training area with file server hooked up to two televisions for training purposes; and
  • Developing a training continuum for 1997-98.

The Third Hurdle

The third hurdle is unlike the first two becauseit deals with the collection of data that calls for the need toupdate Carpenter's current Apple format to a PC setting. The firstarea of concern that I pointed out to the task force was thedistrict's commitment to standardize the use of PC computersdistrictwide. This information was given to the staff in a surveyform that also asked if they would be interested in being trained inthe use of the PC. Although the response was not 100% for thetraining, everyone understood that we would be replacing the Applecomputers in our building. My recommendation to the staff and ourParent Teacher Organization was to make a commitment to pledge fundsto technology. Once this commitment was made, the third hurdle laybehind us.

Budgeting for this or another innovation is ahurdle that can trip-up any project. Carpenter's budget is like anyother school budget in Texas. This technology carried an additionalprice tag not included in our school budget. To get over this hurdle,I actively campaigned with industry and businesses by preparing abrochure that explained Carpenter's successes, our monetary needs,and what we were willing to do for industry if they sent acontribution. The brochure was mailed to 900 businesses in theChamber of Commerce monthly newsletter. Listed below is what weoffered businesses in return for their donations:

  • Letter of appreciation as our latest partners in education with news stories and publicity on the school's sign on Pasadena Boulevard (All contributors);
  • Letter of appreciation for contribution for tax purposes (All contributors);
  • Advertising business as Carpenter's partner in education on the school's Web page and in our computer lab (All contributors);
  • Access by business to train their employees in computer skills and Internet access in Carpenter's networked lab (Contributors of $5,000 or more).

In addition to actively campaigning for funds, Isent letters home with 876 students asking parents to check at theirworkplaces for hardware to be donated to Carpenter whenever theyupgraded their system. We included our specifications on hardware inthe letter to parents. These donated computers are being placed inclassrooms while the donated funds are being used to buy newerequipment for our computer lab. Plans also include budgeting moneyannually to replace worn-out computers, computer parts, printers andsite licensed software.

Toward the Finish Line

I have tried to point out some of the hang-upsthat I experienced in this race into the 21st century. Now, thefinish line is in sight. The hurdles that follow will be easy to jumpbecause they involve communicating the initiative that the school hastaken. The beginning of these communications involved informing thestaff of our computer training goals, explaining the trainingschedule, naming the staff member who would be training each gradelevel, and outlining how support staff would be included in thetraining. Following is a brief explanation of our training scheduleand other pertinent information that utilizes 10 computers to train54 staff members.

One computer was designated as the file managerand acts as the trainer's computer. This computer is also connectedto device that displays the screen on two televisions. This enableseveryone to see what the trainer is doing on the computer.

Since teachers at all grade levels have theirconference time together, training and self-paced practice and/ortutorials were scheduled during the school day. Tuesdays weredesignated for instructional training. The training schedule startedduring the first conference time and ended with the last conferencetime scheduled for the day. Teachers could also plan to visit the labduring the same time any other day of the week for additionalself-paced practice or tutorials. Before- and after-school times werealso available to the staff. Each session had additional computerstations for support staff to be trained because the largest gradelevel team consisted of seven teachers. The other grade levelsconsisted of six teachers.

The task force reviewed and agreed upon thesoftware that would be used for training. The software includedMicrosoft Windows 95, Word and Excel, and a gradebook program to bedetermined. The training would also cover the Internet ande-mail.

The first lesson was designed by me in order toprovide two members of the task force with a format to write othertraining lessons for the other trainers to use. It was understoodthat the format was irrelevant. What was relevant was having theobjectives and procedures of the lesson. All lessons were previewedso that corrections, additions and deletions could be made beforemaking copies for all trainees. All lessons were put into theteacher's Carpenter notebook that contains other pertinentinformation.

Although we have crossed the finish line, it isonly in this first race. Other races will follow as we continue tomove Carpenter into the 21st century. The next one involves obtainingthe funds to purchase 15 additional PCs for the computer lab. Thisfirst race was very important because we achieved our main goal: tohave everyone at Carpenter computer literate. Before enjoying thebenefits of this endeavor, administrators must make the decision toget into the race.

Dr. Robert Garcia is principal of CarpenterElementary, part of the Deer Park Independent School District in DeerPark, Texas. Prior to that, he was principal of Lynchburg Elementary,where he also was responsible for administrative data processing,summer school and student eligibility. The Texas Education Agencydesignated Carpenter Elementary for two consecutive years as a TexasRecognized Campus based on student performance on the TexasAssessment of Academic Skills.

E-mail: [email protected]

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