Online IT Training for School Administrators

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper will explore the role of supervisors and administrators as instructional leaders in their schools in the formation and support of programs aimed at the integration of instructional technology. An online professional development course for supervisors was developed by the principal of a large urban high school in the northeast, using Blackboard as the vehicle for the course's implementation. The goal of the course was to provide turnkey training for the ten assistant principals at the school. In addition to providing some essential IT skills for the supervisors and administrators, the online course aimed to begin to cultivate a community of learners within the school.

Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century

There have been many notable changes in our society as we move forward into the 21st century. Basic philosophical changes in teaching and learning have dominated the educational landscape. According to Schlechty (1997) the way people access, work with and communicate information is fundamentally different than it was a decade ago. Education and teaching are no longer seen as a method of delivery of information. Barth (2001) contends that the "Transmission of Knowledge" model fails to meet the needs of students to be involved and engaged learners. Kavanagh (2001) believes that educators have had to make a radical shift in their approach to teaching and learning, and must focus more on the process by which students learn. A true educator is no longer viewed as the center of attention and does not merely impart knowledge to the eager-to-learn student.

Schlechty (1997) stresses that in order to shift attention from teacher to learner, teachers must plan lessons that are more interactive and more student-centered. This shift in attention toward the student also requires a more learner-centered approach to curriculum writing and revision.

The Role of Technology in Teaching and Learning

In the past two and a half decades, technology has become an integral part of classroom instruction. This technology has been computer based. Only ten years ago, there was approximately 1 computer for every 30 students in the United States. In 2000, that figure dropped to 1 computer for every 4.9 students (Education Week, 2001). Educators across this country and around the developed world have recognized that computers have a genuine place in the education of our children. As Lemke and Coughlin (1998) point out, technology accelerates, enriches and deepens basic skills; it motivates and engages students in learning.

As computers and access to the Internet become more widespread in schools and homes of students and teachers, technology has become a tool that is quickly changing the way teachers teach and the way in which students learn. According to Fisher and Dove (1998) we are clearly in a period of transformation. To move forward will require leadership, vision and a willingness to take risks and to make mistakes for the opportunity of improving instruction and increasing learning in our students. As Schmeltzer (2001) notes, administrators can no longer avoid providing the same leadership in technology as they have in the more traditional areas.

The Role of the Supervisor

To effectively integrate educational technology into the learning environment, Gibson (2000) points out that it is essential for informed and effective leadership to have a visible presence. Serving as the instructional leaders in their buildings, administrators and supervisors must provide the means and professional development necessary to achieve technology infusion and to ensure that computers and the Internet are optimally utilized. In order to do so, it is essential that all administrators and supervisors become technologically competent. As Gillingham and Topper (1999) assert, school administrators using professional development programs for teachers need to learn more about modern forms of communication and IT, and to make them an integral part of these programs in order to realize optimal utilization of computers and the Internet. …