Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How Should Administrators Effectively Measure Teachnology Use?

A Superintendent is at a regional meeting. He is asked how effectively his district is using technology by a colleague. His response? "We spend over $500,000 on 'stuff' last year. Of course we have an effective technology program."

How many times have you heard that story? How many times have you heard an administrator in your building say that to the staff? There seems to be a question as to what is effective technology use and there is a divide between what some administrators think is effective use and what teachers think is effective use.

This is the question we aimed to tackle last night on #edchat. Here are some thoughts and a little taste of what was said:
  • Administrators should not measure technology use - they should assess student learning. Technology should be used seamlessly to help students meet learning goals, produce, be creative, and be collaborative. It should not be a separate entity.
  • Not sure there is a standard for effective evaluation of technology yet because new technologies are constantly emerging and integration into the learning process is morphing at a very rapid pace. It's clear that administrators have to be willing to lead or at least be an active participant in learning new technologies and integrating there use into the school culture - from the district level to the classroom level. Time for teachers to collaborate on tech use is also critical. In the end, evaluation should focus on the learning results that stem from use of technology alongside other traditional instructional modes.
  • Comes down to district's expectation for technology integration. District needs to define it (using TPACK, ISTE standards, own tech integration standards, or other criteria) then administrators (district and building level) need to model and follow through on expectations. In order to make a difference district needs to support administrators and teachers by providing building support and differentiated professional development. (along with the technology itself) AND don't forget to celebrate your successes- not dwell on those that aren't, but rather those that are and the students that are positively impacted.
  • Administrators and teachers should actually learn to listen to and respond to their learners' needs. If this is done, teachers and administrators will be aware of what should be done in the classroom and how to effectively use technology to foster learner autonomy, learning, and growth. We can't simply rate effective use of technology based on the mere participation of learners. Learners should participate and use technology meaningfully and not simply because their teacher told them to. An effective use of technology is the use of technology in a way that learners can relate to it and use it meaningfully. Technology for technology's sake is definitely not the way to go. Besides, we are teaching kids for a world which will be completely different 5 years from now. Which of the techs we can teach them will be useful then? If learners, however, learn how to use tech in their benefit, then we have done our job.
  • Admins often use the price tag of tech to assess its success "We spent $2 mill on Technology so we are on the cutting edge."
  • Measure of success for tech implementation should be we had 500 students create websites, not we spent $500 per student.
  • Many teachers confuse infusion w/ integration; eval must be based on effective integration to meet objective.
You can read the rest of the responses here. And the archive here.

It was a fascinating discussion that, as always, had people who disagreed, moved in several directions, and had several different ideas for changing the system. Here are some of my thoughts that came out of last nights discussion...

Effectiveness-I have trouble with the word effective. Is there really a way to determine if something is effective? Just because something is designed to do something doesn't necessarily make it effective. There is a misconception in education that just because technology is used in the classroom it is being used effectively. Oh, test scores when up because we put 10 computers in each classroom. Really? (And I have heard that argument.) So perhaps effective just isn't the right word. Perhaps administrators and teachers should be more concerned with engagement. And while I think engagement is equally as difficult to measure, it can be seen. One participant said that engagement equals creations. If students are spending time creating they are engage. So perhaps we need to move the conversation beyond what is effective and move it more towards engagement and ultimately ask, what are students creating (using technology, of course)?

Involvement- If there was a complaint about administrators that came up over and over and over again it was that teachers can not understand how administrators can require technology use, insist on lessons that use technology, and push for technology integration at all levels when they refuse to use it. Houston, we have a problem! How, as an administrator, can you honestly look your staff in the face, require more and more technology use, yet you have no idea when they use it, what they are doing??? I am not an administrator. I do however work with them everyday and understand that there are several facets and responsibilities related to the job. But is it not the same for teachers? Do teachers not also have several facets and responsibilities? Yet we require more and more out of them. So if you are an administrator, touting technology use, you need to be a model of technology use. Talk to your tech savvy teachers and see what simple tools you can start using to make your job a little easier. (You can also check out my recent post on the Administrators Technology Toolkit, simple tools you can use to make yourself more tech savvy.) The point is, you as an administrator are going to have a hard time with buy in if you are not using the same tools. Take the time and learn, before or right along with your teachers.

Scaredy Cat- So I have suggested that administrators learn and use more technology. I can suggest until I am blue in the face. If there is an administrator who is scared to learn because they don't want to look foolish in front of their peers or staff, they will never, ever learn. Ok, you are scared. I get it. But, what about that teacher that is scared to feel the same in front of their students. Or, and more importantly, what about that student who is scared to present in front of the class because they don't want to look stupid or feel embarrassed. Do we say to them, its ok little Johny, you don't have to do it because you feel scared. No way! We as educators never give up (at least we shouldn't). So why do administrators not hold themselves to the same standards as they do the students. Your failure in front of a group using technology is going to happen. (Just happened to me this week when I failed to realize I had not plugged in a critical part to my presentation. Felt so foolish, but you know, I still have job today.) Yes, the administrator is supposed to be the leader, but no one said you had to be perfect.

There is no doubt that the job of the administrator is hard. If it wasn't more people would do it. However, we need to face the facts that technology has a place in the classroom. Just like someone said, technology is the tools we are using now. Before we use the pencil and paper, now we have replaced them computers and online applications. The learning curve is a bit more steep. But, they are hear to stay and administrators need to be champions of technology use.

So how is the effectiveness of technology measured? Is it determined by a test or some rubric? Should the effectiveness of a technology program be measured against the technology use of the school leaders? How do you see technology being effectively used. I welcome your thoughts.

Image from Flickr CC Search. View the original here.


  1. Wow, this is well said. We have the same problem here. The administrators pontificate on the AMOUNT of money spent on technology, but it is all "stuff" while training and support are not even an afterthought. This leads to technology failure, or rather technology non-use.

    I especially enjoyed the comments on administrators who do not walk the walk, a huge problem here. Thanks for the blog!

  2. Excellent post. I've been doing my best to integrate tech into my lessons. I've asked for permission to move on to a class blog where I want to conduct part of my writer's workshop, I want to set up a site for my parents, I want to do ePals... but I'm forced to wait for folks to make decisions about AUP. It's looking like admin is more concerned with test scores than tech integration, and as you said here, they are also fearful of what they themselves don't know much about.

    I recently asked my princi if she'd like for me to sit w' her and show her twitter and Ning - so that MAYBE she'd see how we could use it for PD. Ha! She just kind of shrugged. But every now and then, she mentions we ought to be using tech in the classroom. She has yet to stop in to my room this year to see what we've done so far

  3. Great thoughts. Admins can't single-handedly integrate technology into their schools, but they can empower teachers through effective management and clear vision-casting.

    Why do educators say "Technology" when they really mean computers? Even if we're referring to digicams and cell phones, we're still talking about devices that process ones and zeros.

    I think our over-use of the "T word" betrays a misunderstanding of the role of technology in effective educational organizations. Computers will never ensure student achievement. Only people can do this, and we're not all that good at it yet. The right applications of computers under a crystal-clear vision can accelerate our progress, but only if the users are committed to disciplined thought and disciplined action. These three elements (vision, disciplined thought, disciplined action) should be the foundation of any evaluation for teacher performance, with or without technology.