Magazine article Technology & Learning

Challenges in Creating a Digital High School

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Challenges in Creating a Digital High School

Article excerpt

Helping shape a cyber-age school is one of the most rewarding experiences an administrator can have. But don't let anyone tell you it's going to be easy.

New Technology High, in Napa, n California, where I work, is in the enviable position of enrolling 220 students with 250 networked computers, a full-time network manager, and industry-standard software. Sounds like your dream school, and it is, but it presents everyone with an entirely new set of challenges--the sorts of challenges educators will face more and more frequently in the new millennium.

Challenge #1: Dealing With Change

Widespread technology use alters the organization of school as we know it, leading to more rapid change than most administrators are used to. At New Tech, we have to stay current with industry skill-set trends and advancements in technology to decide what technology to purchase and which courses to add. We also find ourselves modeling technology use at all turns. For meetings we use presentation software. Our calendars are electronic, including the PalmPilots always in our pockets. And, although we don't use all of the programs our students use, we know what they are and what they do.

Our director, Mark Morrison, has had to deal with many changes in his role; his responsibilities now include team building for a learning organization, not just the usual staff meetings.

Challenge #2: Recruiting People

A school like New Tech requires staff members with pioneering spirit--life-long learners who are willing to engage in continuous professional growth. We use Web sites such as www.nations and to recruit technology-savvy teachers. Not only is it cheaper than placing print ads, but we reach the right people from all over the country.

Partnerships offer us a unique way to bring class size down. We have classes taught on campus by nearby community and business colleges, and we use distance learning to augment our offerings. It requires remaining flexible in our work relationships but we gain tremendous breadth in our program.

Challenge #3: Finding the Time

Teachers and administrators at our school spend an enormous amount of time, including evenings and weekends, communicating via e-mail to colleagues, parents and students. You never know when a student might have a major problem during off hours that absolutely requires a response. There's no easy answer to these time challenges, but it's clear that the flexibility pays off; it helps us build relationships and makes our school a safe, warm place. …

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