“Build it and they will come.” How many times have we heard this refrain? From the movie “Field of Dreams” – to many real estate, Web design and business consulting firms – the phrase has been universally adopted. So how do we “make them come” when it has to do with teachers in the technology playing field?
Offering an impressive technology infrastructure is critically important for today's schools. Content is becoming more and more streamlined, administrative tools are technology-driven, and assistive technologies have opened many doors. Yet, getting daily access to the technology infrastructure and support from the information technology department can be like pulling the proverbial tooth. Unless we arm educators with information and skills to maximize the technologies offered at a school, the tools provided will never be used to their full potential to meet the needs of students.
Getting educators comfortable with technology and providing the research behind its uses has been the focus of the Center for Implementing Technology in Education (CITEd) for the past two years. CITEd is a five-year initiative, funded by the U.S. Education Department's Office of Special Education Programs. As the project director for CITEd, I lead a team of experts who developed a new online resource for teachers, state and local administrators, and IT and professional development coordinators located on our new Web site, www.cited.org.
This online tool was launched in October 2006 and will be presented to the education community at the TRLD Conference in February (www.trld.com). It guides educators and IT and PD coordinators through the technology implementation process and provides best practices and research on using technologies to meet the diverse needs of learners.
The Research Deconstructed
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) emphasizes determining which educational programs and practices have been proven effective through rigorous scientific research. Taking the research conducted by the developers of educational materials and schools and applying it to other schools or districts is often a difficult task. Understanding the research in order to make informed decisions is a key component of the CITEd Web site.
The site's Research Center offers a synthesis of evidence-based, promising and emerging practices in practitioner terms. By providing the research results in “knowledge nuggets,” the site provides easy-to-understand sections that may be all that's needed for IT professionals to get buy-in from others in their districts.
From the Research Center, educators also can access in-depth information about the methodology and findings used in any of the site's reports, along with bibliographies, the level of evidence for a particular instructional practice, a summary of each reviewed study that contributed to the evidence rating of an instructional practice and references to pursue more specific information.
The site allows users to keep track of resources they have explored and to share those resources with colleagues by directly e-mailing individual or compiled resources. This makes it easy for individuals to compile reports on how to best utilize the district's technologies.
Acting on the Research
Providing a greater understanding of how technology can be used across the curriculum with diverse student populations, is one of the goals of the CITEd Web site. CITEd plans a more practitioner-based approach to technology integration and offers educators the tools needed to provide this approach. A CITEd survey showed that the key challenges to technology integration are lack of time in the instructional day and lack of professional development that offers strategies to integrate technology into the curriculum. Time constraints leave little time for planning and researching the technology tools available and how to effectively implement them to meet the diverse needs of students.
CITEd promotes the use of a universal design approach which strives for products and environments that are usable by all, regardless of age, ability, prior knowledge or circumstances.
The site focuses on this approach to technology to help educators use the tools to meet students wherever they are in their learning and to offer teachers and administrators ways to ensure that technology is being deployed effectively.
Teachers and administrators can move from the research supplied on the site to practical tools and resources for implementing technology.
These resources include:
- EdTech Locator is an online self- assessment tool designed to help teachers, administrators, professional development providers and technology coordinators assess where they stand in regard to a continuum of technology integration ranging from “early tech” to “target tech.” It identifies key points on the way toward reaching a target level of technology integration and provides a vision with which to understand the various components necessary to benefit from technology integration.
- Professional Development Toolkits have facilitator's guides designed to enable teachers, PD coordinators and others, to implement training programs to meet the needs of a school or district's staff. The site also offers tools to identify specific resources of interest to create toolkits to share with others.
- Tech in Action are case stories that highlight successful practices in schools. As more and more schools meet the Target Tech Implementation status, more case stories on reaching these goals will be shared.
Just as IT professionals often prefer to work with a selected vendor who understands their unique issues and delivers the technology infrastructure to successfully address those issues, the CITEd Web site is one where all stakeholders can grow their ability to incorporate technology successfully to improve student learning and achievement.
All resources and tools on the site have been sufficiently vetted, thus providing educators with the knowledge of what there is to know about technology integration.
With access to CITEd, IT professionals can build state-of-the-art technology infrastructures with the understanding that all stakeholders now have tools that will let them play in the field of technology integration for student achievement. Tracy Gray is director and co-principal investigator for the Center for Implementing Technology in Education (www.cited.org) at the American Institutes of Research.
A CITEd SURVEY SAYS
Key challenges to technology integration:
- A lack of time in the instructional day.
- A lack of professional development that offers strategies to integrate technology into the curriculum.
Tracy Gray is director and co-principal investigator for the Center for Implementing Technology in Education (www.cited.org) at the American Institutes of Research.