Moving School Administrators into the Computer Age

Article excerpt

Schools have usually been slower than businesses in adopting computer use. However, personal computers are becoming commonplace in the school environment (Picciano, 1994). Individual computers have been visible in classrooms and on school secretary's desk for some time. Teachers have used computers to record and report student performance, to maintain and create lesson plans, and to develop and store tests (Pelgrum & Plomp, 1991). Student report cards, schedules, and attendance information are frequently found on a computer platform of some kind and made readily available for review and reproduction (Crawford, 1987). School secretaries have been taking advantage of word processing programs to improve the quality and appearance of the daily announcements, form letters, and routine memos they are asked to produce (Cooper & Underwood, 1992).

However, school building administrators' use of computer applications is in question. A study by Yaghi (1996) found that both teachers and administrators cited the need for further training in computer use. If provided with a computer and the administrative and personal productivity software, does the school building administrator use the tools? To what extent and under what conditions will such use appear greater?

Statement of the Problem

This study focused on the use of computer applications in administrative functions by school building administrators. Relationships were examined between the level of use of computer applications by school building administrators and previous computer use, computer use training received, perceptions and attitudes held by school building administrators toward computers, and demographic data including age, gender, years of administrative experience, and specific level of assignment.

Significance of the Study

There are economic implications for a school district to encourage administrators' knowledge and use of computers. For example, Washoe County School District (WCSD), Reno, Nevada, has expended in excess of $14 million on computer technology. Clover Park School District, Tacoma, Washington, has expended over $2 million for computers in their classrooms. Estimates of expenditures as early as 1996-97 for technology in the United States in K-12 schools have been as high as $10 billion (Carnegie Foundation, 1996). School building administrators, either alone or in conjunction with teachers or staff who have personal interest in computers and technology, are making the decisions about expending a good portion of those dollars. School building administrators need to understand the technology in order to make informal decisions and to optimize the purchasing potential (Telem & Buvitski, 1995).

Additionally, school building administrators are confronted with other issues. As demand for greater productivity is made by taxpayers, boards of trustees, central office administration, and parents, school building administrators are faced with a large burden to shoulder. It is not uncommon for a school building administrator to be asked to provide, all in the same week, a summary of discipline actions taken for any given period, the total number of students receiving special services, and a written description of the previous quarter's activities at the school. All of these requests for information are demanded and are over and above the daily requirements of maintaining a safe and orderly climate in the school, overseeing the instructional activities within the school, and providing appropriate support for each student and staff member on campus. Therefore increasing the efficiency and productivity of school building administrators is sorely needed (Ritchie, 1996).

Further, to justify educational reform at the school building level, school building administrators may need to use data-driven decision-making models to build public support for changes. Requests for such items as additional funding, exemption from district and state policies and regulations are becoming commonplace. …