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From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal

Vol 3 . . . No 7 . . . March, 1993

Technology Literacy and Recruitment

by Jamieson McKenzie

After more than a dozen years of introducing new information-related technologies to schools, there are still many reports that the movement has failed to modify life in many classrooms across the land (Cuban, 1992). While one might pose quite a few hypotheses to explain this failure, including the continuing tendency of most technology-related staff development programs to ignore the issue of program integration and the challenge of transfer, this article will focus on the dual issues of expectations and the recruitment of new staff.

I. The Issue of Technology Literacy

We have reached the point where states should require teachers to demonstrate technology and information literacy in order to teach in the schools. In an Age of Information, preparation of students for the next century requires familiarity with the ways that information will be exchanged and processed. Just as we would not suffer a driver education teacher to provide instruction with a horse and wagon, we should expect English, social studies, science and art teachers to employ technologies in ways which are analogous to the ways they will be used in the adult society and workplace.

Up to this point, teachers in most places have been allowed a personal veto with regard to the adoption of technology-related teaching strategies. This veto has contributed to the erratic pattern with which technology is often adopted within districts. We end up with pioneers who push technology to its limits and reluctants who shun the voluntary workshops and teach their subjects as if the world and the nature of information have hardly changed at all in the past few decades. What we have, then, all too often, is curriculum by default and technology education by exception.

II. The New Hidden Curriculum

Contributing to this phenomenon is the prevalence of topical curriculum guides in many districts, curriculum guides which remain silent on the issue of technology and instructional strategies. If an English, science or social studies curriculum guide is mainly a list of topics, subjects, concepts and books to be covered during a school year, it will accomplish little in the way of clarifying expectations for instructional strategies. The curriculum guide - fashioned with the professional judgments of a teacher group - should go beyond a list of topics to outline the kinds of learning experiences and tools students should taste as well as the instructional strategies teachers should employ. Such guides should dovetail, of course, with the district educational vision statement which clarifies the student outcomes the district is seeking to achieve (McKenzie, 1993). If students are meant to develop the ability to function effectively in work teams, for example, then curriculum guides should blend such activities into units when appropriate. Individual teachers should not have the option of declaring, "I don't do cooperative learning," or "I don't do word processing."

III. The Role of State Government

In practical terms it is unlikely that individual districts will make a great deal of headway on this issue, given the constraints of collective bargaining, unless states make literacy a matter of licensure. Strong action by state legislatures and education departments would put pressure on pre-service programs to take technology far more seriously and would make it easier for districts to move forward with the challenge of program integration because existing staff could be expected to acquire skill and literacy - with district support, of course - in a reasonable period of time. Districts could more easily make literacy a condition of employment when filling vacancies and recruiting new staff.

States can support progress in this area by moving on at least four fronts:

1) Clarify the information/technology skills and knowledge all teachers must possess, providing an assessment instrument or process analogous to the National Teacher's Exam which would be administered to all prospective and practicing teachers.

2) Blend appropriate uses of technology into state student assessment models. If, for example, the state administers a writing sample, it may be appropriate to require that such writing be done with a word processing program.

3) Require that all curriculum guides address issues of information, technology and instruction.

4) Provide support for the development of curriculum, staff development and assessment models so that districts do not need to re-invent the wheel.

IV. An Example: Technology Competencies for Kentucky Teachers

While attending the Kentucky statewide technology conference last month, I picked up the following list of competencies which is being considered for possible adoption. The list is drawn from work done on technology competencies by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education ( NCATE) and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (ECIT) (Hanclosky and Earle, 1992). Kentucky's reform effort establishes world class standards and specifies that teachers must become technologically literate. In a section on valued outcomes, the Kentucky Educational Reform Act (KERA) states:

Teachers

". . . all teachers prepared to understand, manipulate and instruct with educational technology as it becomes available."

Students

". . . getting information, understanding it and then manipulating it to solve problems or create new knowledge."

The draft list of competencies:

1. operate a computer system in order to use software successfully

2. evaluate and use computers and other related technologies to support the instructional process

3. apply current instructional principles, research and appropriate assessment practices to the use of computers and related technologies

4. explore, evaluate, and use computer technology-based materials

5. demonstrate knowledge of uses of computers for problem-solving, data collection, information management, communications, presentations, and decision-making

6. design and develop student learning activities that integrate computing and technology for a variety of student grouping strategies and for diverse student populations

7. evaluate, select and integrate computer technology-based instruction in the curriculum of one's subject area(s) and/or grade level(s)

8. demonstrate knowledge of multimedia, hypermedia and telecommunications activities to support instruction

9. demonstrate skill in using productivity tools for professional and personal use, including word processing, database, spreadsheet and print-graphic utilities

10. demonstrate knowledge of equity, ethical, legal and human issues of computing and technology

11. identify resources for staying current in applications of computing and related technologies in education

12. use computer-based technologies to access information to enhance personal and professional productivity

13. apply computers and related technologies to facilitate emerging roles of the learner and the educator

The list is a good starting point for districts and other states to discuss expectations, but it will need modification in a number of respects:

1. There is an under-emphasis of information literacy as it relates to shifting social and economic realities as noted by Toffler in Powershift (1991). An essential competency is the ability to demonstrate familiarity with such shifts and how they relate to particular subject areas such as science.

2. The list places perhaps too much focus upon computers. Technology must be more broadly defined and understood. Districts moving toward site-based decision-making, for example, typically fail to acquire the most basic technologies in support of effective group process such as easels with pads and pens. The competencies should also include a more philosophical appreciation of technologies and their potential impact to avoid the dangers identified by Postman in Technopoly (1992).

3. The list does not clarify the difference between collecting information on the one hand and analyzing information on the other hand. Student research has been dominated by topical research requiring little thought. Teachers must demonstrate an understanding of how to support students creating meaning and insight from data and information, employing the thinking skills (analysis, synthesis and evaluation) at the top of Bloom's Taxonomy (1954).

4. The list is tilted too far in the direction of instruction rather than learning. The vague reference to "emerging roles" in #13 needs to be expanded to provide far more emphasis upon empowering student learning and thinking.

5. The list does not specify the importance of work team competencies and applications.

6. The list fails to mention innovative thinking as a competency, yet the rapid advance of technologies during the next decade will require a continual reassessment of classroom activities and procedures. Without flexible thinking and the ability to modify those basic structures, some teachers may keep trying to bend new technologies to old structures rather than using them to their fullest potential. They will need, then, a systems perspective toward classrooms and learning environments.

7. While nearly all of the new math and science reform proposals call for far more real life applications and an emphasis upon systems thinking, this list is silent on both. Teachers must be able to see the potential for new technologies to open the window for students to the world.

V. Recruitment

What does it cost to transform a teacher who knows little of technology and information to one who meets the kinds of competencies outlined above?

Conservatively speaking, if we hire such a teacher at $25,000 and must provide them with 20-25 days of staff development, we are talking about thousands of dollars per teacher.

For this reason, it makes great sense to specify technology expectations during the recruitment and hiring process.

1. Whenever an opening (teaching or administrative) occurs, the position should be advertised with technology expectations clearly stated. For example:

FOURTH GRADE TEACHER. The Mission ISD seeks a warm and enthusiastic teacher familiar with whole language, comfortable with cooperative learning, at ease with teaming and successful on the district list of information and technology competencies.

ELEMENTARY PRINCIPAL. The Mission ISD seeks a warm and innovative principal comfortable with site-based decision-making and consensus- building. As an instructional leader, the principal will be expected to demonstrate comfort and competency regarding information and new technologies as well as a variety of instructional strategies such as cooperative learning which match district goals.

2. The district application form should have the technology competency form attached with space provided for applicants to provide evidence documenting competency.

3. The interview should include a number of technology and information-related assessment experiences, including a writing sample with a word processor and several other tasks to verify competency.

4. If the district wishes to hire an individual with areas of weakness on such an assessment, the individual should be asked to make a written commitment to address those weaknesses within a reasonable period of time as a condition of employment.

5. The district needs to notify pre-service programs in the state of its intentions so that higher education will understand that its graduates will not be employable if such competencies are not developed as a matter of course.

Conclusion

Many will object to the suggestion that technology and information competency be made an issue of licensure, arguing, perhaps, that such strategies are overly coercive. They certainly have a point. It seems regrettable and sad that it might ever come to such an extreme, but it is also sad to visit classrooms and computer labs throughout this land in which computers and other technologies remain cold, dark and silent much of the day because individual teachers, in large numbers, are exercising a personal veto. While nearly every school will complain that it has too few computers, many of these same schools may be using their technology less than half the day. The ultimate losers in this situation are the students who will need to be information and technology literate to be effective citizens and workers in the next century. If Toffler is right in his assertion that health, wealth and influence will flow to those nations which do the best job of creating a broad group of information literate brainworkers, the conversion of schools from smokestack enterprises is a vital national interest. If that is the case, we should expect lawmakers to do their part in clarifying expectations.

REFERENCES

Bloom, B. (1954). Taxonomy of educational objectives. Handbook I: cognitive domain. New York: Longmans, Green & Co.

Cuban, L. (1992, November 11). Computers meet classroom; classroom wins. Education Week, pp. 36, 27.

Hanclosky, W. and Earle, R. (1992). Accreditation--what's that? Understanding the NCATE/AECT folio review process. TechTrends: v37, n4, pp. 14-19.

McKenzie, J. (1993). Selecting, Managing and Marketing Technologies. Newbury Park, CA: Corwin Press.

Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Toffler, A. (1990). Power Shift. New York: Bantam Books.

A Rather Unique Long Range Technology Plan

by Pam Hale (AppleLink: K0487)

East Ramapo Central School District

TECHNOLOGY INSPIRED SCHOOL REFORM is our innovation which is based on the belief that technology placed in the classroom, at the point of instruction will provide the resources and impetus to change the nature of teaching and learning. Specifically our project is aimed at creating technology/information rich classrooms that are learner centered. Teachers in these classrooms act more as facilitators of learning rather than imparters of information. Learning experiences are designed to actively engage youngsters and make them responsible for their own learning. The project is guided by the following two goals:

Goal 1- Teachers will use applications of technology in a sustained way to promote and support all students participation and progress in learning. Technology applications will be used across a number of classrooms and content areas over time in a school based effort.

Goal 2- Provide teachers with the responsibility and choice to apply technology to the pursuit of learning objectives and their own productivity.

Background

In October 1991 the East Ramapo Central School District in conjunction with the Teachers Association created a district wide Technology Study Team. It was the team's mission to assess the current status of technology in the district and formulate a Long Range Plan to set the future direction. The team spent hours orally interviewing staff and analyzing survey data. Assessing current climate proved to be the easy part. Creating a meaningful Long Range Plan was far more difficult. Over time we began to notice that our discussions were rarely about hardware and software but rather about "teaching" and "learning". Specifically we focused on what classrooms were actually like and what we would like to see classrooms become.

Unique Long Range Plan

Ultimately we developed a rather unique Long Range Technology Plan. Unlike other plans we had examined, ours is not a hardware/software acquisition program. There is no mention of specific technology platforms nor brands or even a timeline for grade by grade implementation. Instead we proposed to our Board of Education, that to truly implement change we needed the commitment of the classroom teacher and building level administrators and personnel. We suggested that strong commitment is the only way to ensure that technology activities do not become an add-on to already packed curriculums.

The question then became, how could we gain such commitment from the 15 buildings in our district? In reflecting on our own experience serving on the district wide Technology Study Team, it became apparent that it was the planning process itself that allowed us to develop a common vision. Over the months the vision became clearer and our commitment grew deeper. The planning process allowed us to mature as a team, bound together by the belief that infusing technology into K-12 classrooms will inspire positive change in the nature of teaching and learning. Struck by the powerful impact of this experience our Long Range Plan requires that individual buildings be required to formulate their own teams, engage in strategic planning and complete an RFP (Request for Proposal) for technology funding. Schools are invited to submit a proposal indicating how they envision technology will change the nature of their classrooms. Once written proposals are submitted, the schools are then invited to orally present their proposal to the district Technology Study Team. Project proposals (written and oral) will be evaluated by the Technology Study Team and those which demonstrate readiness and commitment will be recommended to the Superintendent for funding.

Grandview Selected as Pilot Site for Long Range Plan

Not only did the Board of Education embrace our plan, but the district demonstrated its support for our philosophy and approach by funding a pilot project at Grandview School, a primary K-3 building. Funding was provided for 10 classrooms to be transformed into technology/information rich centers for the purpose of exploring ways in which technology can help change the nature of teaching and learning.

Gaining Acceptance

The first order of business was to build a team out of the following individuals: 10 classroom teachers, 3 PSEN teachers, principal, computer teaching assistant, student support teacher and custodian. Every decision was passed through the Grandview Team. Recommendations regarding classroom arrangements, software selection, training schedules, etc. were based on consensus. Communication was always open and candid. Teachers were encouraged to express their fears, and they spoke openly about:

* feeling technologically inadequate

* concerns that parents would be comparing the technology experiences from one class to another

* not understanding how they could do everything in their curriculum and the technology too

* uncertainty about how the technology would change their role, and the role of students

* safety concerns

* young children not being able to handle the mouse, the network, logging on, etc.

Over the summer arrangements were made for each teacher to take a computer home to practice all they learned in 5 staff development days. On the first day of school, the distributed network was in operation. By the third day, all the teachers had begun to implement the new equipment and their weekly logs were full of excellent curriculum ideas. We decided to archive these ideas in a database so we could share them with other educators in our district. Each week the Grandview team participates in a volunteer sharing session, to discuss their successes and those things inhibiting further progress.

We continue to be gratified by the success of our program and somewhat amazed at how quickly Grandview has grown from a pilot into a model demonstration site for the district.

Incentives

Being part of a team effort is perhaps the single most important ingredient for the success of this project. The power of a shared vision cannot be underestimated. Our mission was and is, to dispel the myth that "teaching is talking, learning is listening and knowledge is in textbooks." Creating a better place for children and teachers matters deeply to the team and it is what provides the focus and energy for all we do.

All decisions made are based on team consensus. Teachers who previously were isolated from each other are now bound by this common experience. Curriculum integration ideas and classroom management techniques are shared on a regular basis. There are no mandates controlling how or when to use technology applications. Teachers have the professional freedom to integrate the technology in their classroom as they choose.

The principal and team leader set a very relaxed and supportive tone. Pilot teachers are referred to as "Pioneers" and encouraged to take risks. There is no pressure to account for how many minutes computers are used each day or to demonstrate improved standardized test scores. Consequently teachers feel empowered to explore technology's potential. As they make instructional decisions and evaluate their success their enthusiasm for the project intensifies.

Pilot teachers are now participating in the training of their colleagues, who will be soon be implementing technology. Serving as staff developers places classroom teachers in a leadership role which promotes personal and professional growth.

Overcoming Barriers

Using technology to spark real change in the classroom cannot be accomplished if teachers are unaware of the potential of technology to revitalize learning. One of the recommendations of the district Long Range Plan is to raise the technology awareness of staff. Because the Grandview Team and the district wide Technology Study Team share a common vision, it was natural to join forces for the purpose of delivering on-site Technology Awareness Presentations. Staff members are invited to attend the session on a voluntary basis. Principals cooperate by releasing teachers from a faculty meeting to attend. The session opens with a brief overview of the district Long Range Plan and an explanation of how schools can get funding for technology projects in their buildings. The RFP (Request for Proposal) that must be completed to apply for funding is distributed at this time. Participants then circulate through 4 break out rooms. Each room has a different focus, but all send the same message of change. To date, close to 150 East Ramapo staff members have visited the Grandview Pilot Site. All those who attend a session are placed on our Technology Ambassador Mailing List and receive technology relelated communications sent to principals, team members, etc.

An additional barrier is that many teachers do not anticipate how time intensive it is to successfully integrate technology and the curriculum. The initial learning curve is steep. Teachers must simultaneously address three separate issues: becoming familiar with the technical aspects of hardware and software, creating ways for children to gain this same expertise and exploring ways to integrate the technology into class activities. We recommend that participants be made aware of how much time and effort is required to introduce technology and change the way we do business in the classroom. We have set a realistic staff development goal for initial training of bringing teachers to a level of "comfortability." In other words they will no longer be afraid to try things on their own. We expect our youngsters to be independent life long learners, and we have the same expectations for our teachers.

Moving teachers away from whole group instruction toward learning centers takes time. Moving children from being passive listeners to active learners takes time. Changing classroom environments from competitive to cooperative takes time. Having access to technology tools in the classroom provides the impetus for these changes to occur, but institutionalization of these practices will be accomplished more as a result of evolution over time rather than an immediate revolution.

The Long Range Plan, Technology Awareness and the RFP Process

The district's Long Range Plan for technology outlines a vision of the future in which networked technology is placed at the point of instruction to enhance both teaching and learning. Technology positioned in the classroom setting will provide the tools needed to establish learning environments in which:

* Technology is used throughout the building and throughout the school day to perform the everyday tasks of learning

* All students are taught to think, solve problems, and communicate at levels much higher than is being accomplished today

* Students are active participants rather than passive recipients of knowledge

* Collaboration and cooperation flourish among students, among staff

* Teachers facilitate learning by becoming "guides on the side" rather than "sages on the stage"

Bringing about a transition of this magnitude can only be successful if there is commitment at all levels of the school district. Most important is the establishment of a building level team responsible for envisioning and consequently implementing that vision. Recognizing this need, the Technology Study Team authored a Long Range Plan, requiring building teams to submit an application (RFP) requesting funding for their technology projects.

An RFP or Request for Proposal is actually a planning application. The purpose of East Ramapo's RFP is to integrate technology into the teaching/learning environment to change the nature of the classroom as outlined above. Proposals must demonstrate how technology infusion will accomplish these changes. The RFP is a planning tool. The primary purpose of planning should be to take the organization to where it wants to be in the future. There is no one correct answer, and teams must be proactive in developing technology solutions for their locations.

Once schools send representatives to a Technology Awareness Presentation (see p. 5) they can request an RFP Workshop. Members of the district wide Technology Study Team meet with the building team to a) discuss their proposal b) offer guidelines for working productively as a team c) review the expected change in the role of teachers, students and administrators and d) provide hints and tips for completing the RFP document. Five of our 15 buildings have requested RFP Workshops and two more are scheduled. Completed RFP's are due April 1 and we expect at least 5 submissions. Written proposals will be reviewed and schools will then be invited to orally present their vision. Evaluation will be based on the commitment and ideas expressed. Those proposals showing promise of successful implementation will be recommended to the Superintendent for funding.

As we experience this RFP process for the first time we are noting some interesting and often unexpected trends. Principals are active participants on the building teams, but do not serve as team leaders. This is truly an example of "top down support for bottom up reform." Teachers are assuming leadership roles as they struggle together to create a vision of the future for their own classrooms. Building teams are working long hours after school and even on weekends without any of the usual incentives such as stipends or release time. The RFP process has created a forum for East Ramapo's professionals to dialogue about teaching and learning and schools. Visions are being built and teams are being solidified. It is our belief that the RFP process is far more important than the actual RFP document that school's will ultimately submit. "It is not what the vision is, it is what the vision does." Hopefully we have started something that we will be unable to stop!



Credits: The background is from Jay Boersma.
Other drawings and graphics are by Jamie McKenzie.

Copyright Policy: Materials published in From Now On may be duplicated in hard copy format educational, non-profit school district use only. All other uses, transmissions and duplications are prohibited unless permission is granted expressly.




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