Seven is Your Lucky Number

Copyright 1996 Miguel Guhlin
Administrators tell you "Go for it!" Teachers ask, "When will the classes start?" The media specialists demand to know what you want them to teach. Your secretary says, "How do I make a database to keep track of your classes?" As district technology coor dinator, you're in the spotlight. Tough, sticklers for what they want, everyone breathing down your neck has decided only one obstacle stands in their way. Immovable, grey, dumb, stubborn, YOU are the obstacle. Blessed are you for you will have maledictions heaped upon you.
Internet fever sweeps across your district. No longer on a backburner, the instructional technology program needs to move forward. Staff development becomes your top priority. A board member states, "What were this guy's credentials again?"
You start to ask yourself, "Did I really want this job? What do I really know about technology and training cantankerous teachers?"
You realize that the success of your instructional technology program depends on two factors: 1) Your ability to persuade others and 2) Others' ability to teach each other. Let's face it. You're a cheerleader. There's no way that you can do this job alone.
Even in your district, your have one hope for training. Train one person at a time, win a campus one classroom at a time. Win your district one campus at a time. How can you do it? How can you motivate complete strangers? It's no secret. They're su spicious of you. They know you're up to something. No way you'll get them to lay their hands on a computer. Certainly, no way to use a computer with 30 attention deficit disorder/gifted and talented students. Just no way.
Is there a solution? Of course there is. Follow these seven simple ways to getting teachers to use technology. Don't forget how persuasive you are and your goal of developing other people's training ability.

#1: DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

Don't state "Research says...." Teachers don't care about research. Is it classroom based? If not, don't waste their time. Find out how campus technology coordinators and/or media specialists in other districts do their training. I say campus-level trai ners because they know how to establish relationships with their peers. Programs with these elements are the best: a) emphasize curriculum over technology, b) use technology to redesign the way teachers teach and students learn, c) peer training.
Emphasizing curriculum over technology avoids technocentrism, or technology for technology's sake. Successful programs design curriculum making technology integral to the success of the curriculum. Put technology infused curriculum to the test: read the curriculum. Do the activities without technology. If it's impossible to do, you know the curriculum has integrated technology well.
Changing how teachers teach affects how students learn. Change teachers' perception of how students learn, and they'll teach differently. Establish a system where teachers train each other, and you'll have a model district (notice I didn't write "a mode l technology program").

#2: PICK KEY TEACHERS

Teachers are four times more likely to be exemplary computer users when there is a full-time technical support person at the campus (Becker, 1994). The essential link, believes Kay Pearson (1994), in making effective use of technology is a teacher who kn ows curriculum "throroughly and can see how technology can enhance what is happening each day in each classroom." In my experience, asking principals to pick these types of teachers will not work. Go classroom to classroom and see where technology has l aid its head. Invite these pioneers to participate in a group committed to mixing curriculum and technolgy together. Set up groups at the district level with two liasons from every campus. Avoid the teachers that moan and complain about not having enou gh time. Look for those that make the time to improve themselves for their students' sake. From campus to campus, as in age to age, the select few rise to the top.

#3: SHARE WHAT YOU'VE LEARNED.

Remember that teachers receive less technical support than any other group of professionals (Lucas, 1995). Use this fact to your advantage. While integrated learning systems brag that their systems impact student achievement, share studies with teachers that focus on these three concepts: Tool-Based Learning, Simulations in the Classroom, and Thematic-Centered Instruction. (You can refer to a variety of materials available via the Internet. Or, you can write to the Texas Center for Educational Technology (TCET) at P.O. Box 13857, UNT Station, Denton, TX 76203).
Make research materials available to teachers. Buy all your district members an International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) membership. Set up a class for these district members that involves analysis of the article. Other resources worth pu rchasing include "Technology and Learning," "Electronic Learning," and, "Technology Connection." If funds are limited, divide the magazines among different campuses. Meet monthly to share information. Recognize class participants and encourage them to pass on what they learn to others on their respective campuses.
Another alternative is to start a newsletter. Not as effective as a class, it nevertheless allows readers to review information in condensed form. You may want to do this in addition to your monthly meetings.

#4: WHERE ARE YOU NOW?

I admit it. The biggest mistake you can make is not knowing where you are right now. Let me say that again. Unless you know exactly what your district's perception of technology is, you will make little progress. While there might be a variety of ways to assess your progress, all of them costly, invest in a book by Len Scrogan entitled "Tools for Change" (for more information, contact Pat Crawford via e-mail: pat@tenet.edu). This will give you an overview of where you are in terms of hardware, softwar e, and staff perception of your district program by campus. However you do assess your current situation, make sure that you assess where you are before you do anything else. In the long run, your assessment pays off in asking for money from your school board (i.e. they can't avoid the issue of hardware access if the perception is that administrators have all the computer and teachers do not) and checking your progress.

#5: GIVE YOUR MONEY AWAY.

When I first arrived in a school district, my principal asked in shock, "What technology allotment?" Inexcusable as this was, the greater shock came when my technology committee discovered all technology funds had been pooled at the district level. Not a firm believer in trickle-down economics, this development made me demand our campus technology allotment. Instead of handing over $12,000, the superintendent suggested I write a proposal. One year later, a principal in shock, my campus boasted over 80 hours of training on a variety of software and materials totalling almost $12,000. You can learn from this.
You can choose to hang onto the money at the district level. Or, you can be a benevolent dictator and take your cut (after all, you have to pay to send your district committee to a state technology convention) and then send the rest to the campuses. This immediately gives your campus technology committee importance. With that money, they can now plan purchases of technology that supports campus goals. If you wait until after your indoctrination period focusing on tool-based learning, simulations, and p eer-training, put in a clause that requires your final approval on software purchases, your technology program will gain a lot. One last note on distributing funds: divide your funds into three categories. The categories are staff development, software, and hardware. Make sure most of the money falls into staff development. Allow campus technology committees to hire technology consultants you recommend who support tool-based learning and simulations. Look for technology consultants that will include, as part of their fee, times to revisit and provide feedback.
A variation of what happened to me is this: Divide your funds up and write a request for proposals. Emphasize what you want to see happen in the classroom. Detail the hardware available, how you want it used, and how that teacher will document then share the results of what happens in the classroom. Issue grants and reallocate hardware to those most eager to use it the way the research suggests.

#6: SET UP A COMPUTER TAKE-HOME PROGRAM

A hot item, computers are known to travel. Magnanimous principals can't stop themselves from letting teachers take computers home on weekends, long vacations and during the summer. This isn't marijuana, so legalize the practice. Ensure that teachers sig n a form, submit a copy of home owner's insurance, and understand that if they drop it, it's their's. Any form should include serial #s, phone number where the teacher can be reached (in case of a recall or untimely return of the computer), and condition of the equipment on check-out and check-in.

#7: SET UP A DISTRICT TECHNOLOGY CONFERENCE.

District technology conferences allow teachers to show off what they have learned, bring students to show what's really been going on with the door shut, bring vendors in to show off their products, and for parents to see how their hard-earned tax dollar s are being spent. Begin planning early in the year, selecting your risk-taker teachers and offer them an incentive. Just a cup with the words "Technology Leader" on the side makes a powerful incentive. I still treasure mine.
Remember, the success of your program depends on two points: Your ability to persuade others and their ability to share what you taught them with their peers. Make the effort to facilitate the process of your disciples. Simply put, interweave 21st Cent ury attitudes using today's technology into the fabric of each other's lives.

References

Becker, H. (1994). How exemplary computer-using teachers differ from other teachers: Implications for realizing the potential of computers in schools. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 26(3), 291-321.
Lucas, L. (1995).The missing element: Technical support in texas school districts, 3-4.
Pearson, K. (September, 1994). Empowering teachers for technology. The Computer Teacher, 70-71.