Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Integrating Technologies throughout Our Schools

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Integrating Technologies throughout Our Schools

Article excerpt

The authors describe a five-year, $12-million Teacher Network Initiative that has successfully broadened the use of technology in 14 states and has had important ripple effects as well.

THE COMPUTER revolution in education continues to gather force. Judging from the media, one would assume that almost every student was learning on the Internet. But what's reported are the innovative examples, the pioneering teachers, and the "wow" potential.

The reality is that there are still thousands of schools that have only aging computers in the library or a few newer machines clustered in a difficult-to-access computer lab. And even if there are computers in the classroom, there are still many more thousands of teachers who, while they know how to do word processing or even to search the Internet, don't have the slightest clue how to truly integrate technology into their teaching. The problem for educators nationwide is how to scale up effective training to reach tens of thousands of teachers quickly.

The U S WEST Foundation (recently renamed the QUEST Foundation), in partnership with the National Education Association (NEA), has now completed a five-year, $12-million Teacher Network Initiative that has successfully broadened the use of technology in 14 states. More than 50,000 teachers received advanced training, more than 4,200 laptops and software packages were provided, and excellent curriculum was developed. The decision was made to include ongoing evaluation from the beginning, and we served as evaluators for the initiative. As a result, a great deal has been learned about what works and what does not in large-scale systemic efforts to integrate technology into the schools.

In all the projects, existing state infrastructures - including the state NEA affiliate, higher education institutions, local school districts, and the state department of education - were asked to form partnerships. Each partnership had to identify appropriate teacher leaders; offer graduate course credit at no or reduced cost; provide curriculum, instructors, and sites; provide Internet access and public relations; and evaluate the two- to three-year programs.

U S WEST provided laptop computers and software for 1% of the teachers in each state, as well as funds to support the overall training and evaluation efforts. Teachers selected for each state project had to commit to training 10 other teachers in their districts. As a result, at least 11% of the teachers in each of the 14 states are now comfortable using technology in their classrooms and with their peers.

A unique aspect of the Teacher Network Initiative was the requirement that each state project agree to a common evaluation and monitoring process that we designed. Continuous evaluation of projects led to changes in curriculum, equipment, and procedures as new grants were funded. The summary of findings in this article is based on our multiyear analyses of the 14 states' evaluation reports, site visits, meetings with leaders in the projects, observations of training sessions, evaluations of major conferences involving project teams, and interviews with teachers.

1. Carrots and sticks. Teachers must make changes of huge magnitude to integrate new technologies in meaningful ways. Like all of us, they need considerable motivation to change their comfortable habits. Laptop computers provided powerful incentives for those teachers who took the lead in the "trainer of trainers" model that drove this reform effort. The laptops took on an almost iconic value: just carrying them reportedly made the teachers feel that they were up-to-date and professional and that they could work more flexibly and faster. In surveys, interview notes, and journals, teachers stated simply that the laptops changed their lives.

Firm statements of responsibility and consequences are also vital, as long as appropriate support is provided. Teachers' intentions were certainly good when they left the initial workshops - to join listservs, to produce new curricula, and to train others. …

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