Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

A Delicate BALANCE

Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

A Delicate BALANCE

Article excerpt

How to increase technology's use while buffeting the standards storm.

Many school districts have reached the `What Now?' phase. While these districts have computers in classrooms and Internet connections, the pressure is to integrate that technology into classrooms.

The main stumbling blocks: a feverish attention to standards; standardized test results forcing even innovative teachers to trim activities and focus more on upcoming tests; a lack of training for administrators and teachers.

The pressure of standards

Accountability, particularly in lower-income districts, influences whether a teacher will incorporate technology into the curriculum. Not surprisingly, the NCES survey reports that teachers in schools with higher minority enrollments were generally less likely to use computers or the Internet for instruction during class time than those with fewer minority pupils.

"Our teachers have not adopted the technology and, with rare exceptions, a significant number of our teachers are not skilled with the use of technology. Even if they are skilled with the use of technology, they are not using it in their classrooms," says Paul Reese, computer coordinator for Community School District No. 5 in New York City. "They are totally stressed."

Even teachers who know how to use technology may push it aside to concentrate on meeting accountability standards, he says. "They tell me, `No, we've got to prepare for this test. Our heads will roll on this test. When it's all over, maybe I will let my kids use the computers,'" Reese reports. "What that means is they'll let them play math games on CDs because the pressure is off."

Reese says that without a commitment to education, funds for technology in the schools may be wasted.

"I see [teachers] so stressed that it's not just the technology. For many of them, all their teaching skills or all their human skills are being so taxed in the classroom that they see the technology as just an added burden."

"What drives our educational program, our staff development and everything that we do are the state assessments," says Debby Baker, technology coordinator for the Mt. Morris and Wyoming Central school districts. "And, while time is a real issue, what I find is the teachers don't know what the possibilities of technology are. They have absolutely no frame of reference. They define it as word processing, the Internet or using e-mail. They don't see the possibilities of how it can be integrated into the classroom as a tool to teach," she says. "So they don't know that they need the training, they don't know that they need the development and they are so pressured by these test scores and making sure their kids do well enough, that they don't want to worry about exploring the possibilities of the technology."

Ignoring teacher development

"If we don't get to the core of what is meaningful learning, and get kids using the content that they've learned in meaningful ways, we're not going to get anywhere with technology," explains Kathy Fuller, instructional coordinator of the Capitol region BOCES. "If we're just going to do a PowerPoint presentation about a famous American, for example, with all those silly steps, and we could've done the same thing with a flip chart, then don't use it. We'll do the flip charts; it's cheaper."

The problem, Fuller says during the Albany roundtable, is "to train our teachers about what is meaningful learning. …

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