A Good Window: 3 Ways to Wipe IT Clean
Copyright 2002 Miguel Guhlin mguhlin@yahoo.com

“A good window,” the old saying goes, “does not call attention to itself. It merely lets in the light.” I am often reminded that technology should be so transparent that it lets in the light. With technology, I can focus on the seeing rather than trying to light a match*. No Child Left Behind focuses us on these 4 principles:

1) stronger accountability for results,
2) increased flexibility and local control,
3) expanded options for parents, and
4) an emphasis on teaching methods that have been proven to work.

When the Technology Applications Readiness Grants for Empowering Texas (TARGET) grant request for applications was released in August, 2002, I thought it an appropriate time to share some ideas. I thought I’d share it with you, especially how it relates to the 4 principles of No Child Left Behind.

As you may know, I served as a $2.7 million TIE grant coordinator that allowed teachers in 4 public school districts to earn Master’s degrees in Curriculum and Instruction with Instructional Technology specialization. My experience as a teacher of adult learners, grant coordinator, and professor suggests that the following approach might work. Through it all, I have been hard-pressed to find value in virtual learning environments--until I took a hard look at the Masters Online (MOL) program that works in collaboration with an accrediting university. I’ve learned that graduate courses can take place at a campus and be taught by experienced technology teachers under a university’s supervision and coordination. The courses are suitable for any K-12 teacher and administrator who is interested in learning about instructional technology trends and curriculum integration issues. Customizing the course is critical to better meet the needs of district staff.

Whether you participate as a part of a Masters Online, Voyager or other online graduate program, or work with a local university, your district might apply for a grant with the idea that it would seek to build capacity among district instructional staff, in particular classroom teachers, campus administrators, and key central office staff. Across your district, this program would impact both teachers and administrators. This article discusses 3 possible components of such a program.

1) For example, Masters Online (MOL) allowed 218 teachers to get a Master’s degree in curriculum & instruction with IT specialization, textbook, tuition, and multimedia video-ready laptop paid for. Although Masters Online is a specific company, there are others available. In the Pathways to Advance Virtual Education (PAVE) implementation of Masters Online, 218 out of 235 students finished the graduate coursework. That’s an incredible 92.7% completion rate--an impressive number considering that most Master’s programs, even face to face ones, are significantly lower (in the less than 50% range). (For more information, you can review the external evaluator’s reports to TEA from the http://www.pavenet.org web site.) The main benefit of a graduate course for teachers is that it enhances the quality of classroom teachers, as well as provides long-term, sustained professional development, a type of staff development often called for but rarely seen in K-12 settings.

2) Another component might be a Technology Literacy Institute (TLI). Technology Literacy Institutes should focus on enhancing digital literacy, information problem-solving a la Big6 (http://www.big6.com), and assessing student program using handheld devices (e.g. Learner Profile’s solution offers some hope here in providing an easy to use tool).

3) Technology Assessment Leadership Institute (TALI)
In support of No Child Left Behind legislation, and SBEC technology standards (1-5) for educators, the proposal might have the following 4 objectives for the classroom teachers who might participate in the Masters Online program:

a) Enable campus-based teachers in high need schools earn a Master’s degree in Curriculum & Instruction with Instructional Technology specialization. Enablement will occur as selected teachers will have tuition and textbooks paid, as well as be provided a wireless laptop with CD-writer and multimedia/video editing capabilities (e.g. I recommend the iBook for its versatility and performance). Teachers will complete a laptop lease agreement to protect the $2000 investment.

b) Provide teachers with the opportunity to be paid to develop 4 core competencies as outlined in No Child Left Behind in preparation for the intense Master’s course offered through Masters Online (MOL). Teachers would be compensated to complete 4 specific Technology Literacy Institute (TLI) Courses. They would show increased comfort level through the use of portfolio projects that they would construct. Teachers would be expected to lead Parents’ Technology Institutes where they could showcase the work their students do using technology.
The four specific courses would include the following:
1) Digital Literacy
2) Information Literacy and Information Problem-Solving (Big6)
3) Meeting SBEC's technology standards for teachers.
4) Use of laptops and/or handhelds in the classroom for modeling authentic, technology-enhanced problem-solving and/or student assessment.

c) Build a relationship with a mentor administrator that will use the Levels of Technology Implementation (LOTI) framework to observe and provide feedback to classroom teachers. Administrators would use Palm Pilots running MediaX’s product, mVal, a $300 program (although the vendor indicates that this price is negotiable depending on the number of users) that would allow classroom data collection. The data would then be collected at a centralized server for district staff to review. The combination of these two technologies make this a real possibility.

d) Foster reflection based on the LOTI Framework to provide individualized information, as well use the Texas Campus and District STaR charts. The survey would establish a baseline, not only for teachers, but also administrators. Dr. Moersch would then follow up in person to review the data gathered with staff. This type of approach has proven successful in the 6th largest school district in Texas, Northside ISD, as well as PAVE partner districts including Edgewood, Southwest, and Medina Valley ISDs. The LOTI Survey results can help the district respond to:
  • What impact is technology having on student achievement?
  • How has technology professional development changed teaching practices?
  • How are teachers "integrating" technology into their instruction?

The LOTI is a consistent set of measures that accurately reflects the progressive nature of teaching with technology. It has been used nationally and internationally to assess over 100,000 classroom teachers' level of technology implementation. The first step would be to complete the District and Campus STaR Chart. The second step would be to have each teacher complete the LOTI, and the third would be to have administrators follow-up with classroom observations based on the LOTI framework.

One can easily create a LOTI-based classroom observational tool that principals, vice principals, and campus instructional specialists could carry with them. As handheld devices are used more and more in schools with students (Tinker, Staudt, & Walton, 2002). Administrators may find greater use for the handheld than they have other emerging technologies. As Yacano (2002) points out in an article for business users, “drop-down lists, note boxes, search windows, and many other features can be sized and positioned as needed. Researchers can then record information on the handheld, just as if they were using a paper form. The data collected can then be uploaded to a database running on a desktop PC or server system--saving hours or days of keying.”
Companies like Media X’s mVAL and ePrincipal products (http://www.media-x.com/index.php) take it a step further by building systems that collect the data from desktop PCs to a central server via file transfer protocol (FTP). With the right tools, school administrators become front-line researchers and mining data useful to the educational organization. These handheld software tools provide more functionality that databases created with traditional database programs (e.g. Filemaker Pro and Filemaker Pro Mobile).

Once administrators receive a Personal Digital Assistant (e.g. Palm Pilot) and peripherals, not to mention the appropriate training, they can begin digging. The PDA software would allow school administrators to focus on observing and appraising staff in line with NCLB, district standards, and the Levels of Technology Implementation (LOTI). Data that the administrators collect could be analyzed at the district level and available for review by key decision-makers (e.g. Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and Area Superintendents, provided you have these levels at your district’s central office). Being able to collect and analyze this just-in-time data is increasingly important. McIntire (2002) stresses this importance. He emphasizes that key decision-makers should have ready access to data. He also emphasizes how school districts need to avoid incompatible “parallel systems” that interfere with the ability of decision-makers to use data to make well-informed decisions. Whichever product you choose to fit on your handheld, it should be compatible with the other systems in the “house.”

The Technology Assessment Leadership Institute (TALI) allows district administrators to review and incorporate data gathered and lessons learned. In the decision-making process, educators tend to rely on either their personal experiencies or information sources they trust. Yet this gut-level “lessons learned” approach is not enough.

Systematic collection, analysis, reporting and verification of data as it relates to a particular instructional technology process or tool can yield insights into instructional and organizational practice. As the front-line researchers in our schools, it is important to know which types of data to collect that reflect the reality in our schools. This data collection may take the form of quantitative measurements or qualitative behaviors or narratives. Whether quantitative or qualitative, we must rely on specific elements in the data, such as counts, measures of duration, responses to survey questions, classroom observations (either audio, video, or narrated), and others.

TALI would help administrators understand observed actions. After analysis was complete, conclusions about the data on the use of an instructional technology tool should match the perceptions of reality by staff in the field. This would mean that data from the Texas district and campus STaR chart, the LOTI 50-item survey were analyzed, it should be compared to actual classroom observations.

Other benefits of using the NCLB-based model include the following:
*District-wide assessment of teachers, teacher-librarians, and administrators in line with the Levels of Technology Implementation (LOTI) instrument. The LOTI is aligned to the Texas StaR Chart, a document required for both state and federal funding from this point forward.

*Building capacity among both administrators and teachers as to what research-based, graduate level technology integration looks like, how it can be assessed, and how to accomplish technology integration.
*Increased access to technology district-wide at the point of need.
*A repository of lessons created by graduate students--essentially classroom teachers--correlated to district, state academic standards
*Expanded capacity at the district level for collecting technology-infused technology lessons.
*Laptop and/or handheld for every participant. This is certainly a worthy goal in consideration of how many districts around Texas are implementing laptop or handheld programs for their teachers and librarians. For example, Dallas ISD has implemented a laptop program for its teachers. Worth mentioning is the software loaded on those computers (e.g. Windows XP, StarOffice 6 instead of MS Office, and Inspiration). Handhelds could certainly complement laptop implementation--handhelds boast longer battery life and quicker recharge time than laptops.

Other benefits include purchase of web and database servers that would allow warehousing of data collected.

Revisiting the NCLB Principles
On reviewing the NCLB principles, you can easily see how a grant proposing these points would work. What a powerful impact this would have. Even better, you wouldn’t be gambling on success--you would actually know for certain that you were replicating a proven implementation that builds in even greater accountability, parent involvement, and provides sustained professional development for classroom teachers.

As we move to imagine a world where technology is seamlessly integrated with many levels of education goals and standards, the guiding principles of NCLB can provide a powerful vehicle for getting us there. I challenge you to come up with innovative grants that will move us beyond complex technology-centered systems (e.g. drill-n-practice tutorials with built-in tracking) and focus us on, as U.S. Department of Education’s Director of Technology John Bailey puts it, “coordinating the appropriate technology tools with well-trained teachers to solve real educational challenges.”
It’s time to let in the light and stop messing with the windows.

Products mentioned in this article:
mVal Professional
Cost: $300 for over a 100 licenses
Description: A tool that allows planning, appraisal and reporting. It allows you to create or edit sets of professional standards, appraise staff on your PalmOS handheld or a laptop computer and then quickly print a variety of reports and observations.
Web: http://www.media-x.com
Phone: 888-722-9990

Levels of Technology Implementation (LOTI)
Cost: Negotiable by district size
Description: The LOTI is a consistent set of measures that accurately reflects the progressive nature of teaching with technology. It has been used nationally and internationally to assess over 100,000 classroom teachers' level of technology implementation.
Web: http://lotilounge.com/research.html

Palm Pilot
Cost: Varies by product
Description: Handheld device.
Web: http://www.palm.com

4 principles. Texas Education Agency. Available online at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/technology/nclb/ on August 17, 2002.

Bailey, J. (June, 2002). Leadership and no child left behind. Technology and Learning.

McIntire, T. (June, 2002). The administrator’s guide to data-driven decision-making. Technology and Learning.

Tinker, B., Staudt, C., & Walton, D. (September, 2002). The handheld computer as field guide: handhelds and low-cost software allow students to collect and analyze real-time data anytime, anywhere and to create field guide databases about their local environments: cultural diversity, traffic patterns, and wildlife populations. Learning & Leading with Technology. v30 i1 p36(4)

Yacano, F. (July, 2002). Handheld PCs save time in field surveys. R & D, v44 i7 p22(1)

*”Better to light a match than curse the darkness.”

About the Author
Miguel Guhlin serves as the Director for Instructional Technology and Library Services for a school district in San Antonio, Texas. His web site is http://www.mguhlin.net and he can be reach via email at "mguhlin@yahoo.com".