An Inch Deep and a Mile Wide: Electronic Tools for Savvy Administrators
Media Coordinator, Learning Technology Center
College of Education, The University of Texas at Austin
George I. Sanchez Bldg., Rm. 438A
Austin, TX 78712, Texas, USA
Tel: (1) 512 232 2189
Fax: (1) 512 471 4655
Office of the Dean, College of Education
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA
Knowledgeable Leaders And Technology Integration
Recently, great attention has been given to the progress or lack of progress of technology in K-12 public schools. This has included issues such the lack of quality software, the high cost of small quantities of equipment, the lack of planning for implementation, and the lack of teacher and administrator training. Recently, U.S. education has even been featured on the national news show, Nightline, as spending billions and billions of dollars to put various educational technologies to work in schools, with little to show for the effort (ABC, 1998). With all of the tremendous investment in technology on the part of the U.S. federal government, states, and local school districts, it is quite remarkable that schools are not farther along in their implementation of the technology. What might be significant contributing factors?
Inquiries into the slowness of full-scale technology adoption and integration cite the lack of school administrators' knowledge about advanced technologies. A 1998 study by the SouthEast and Islands Regional Technology in Education Consortium (SEIR*TEC) identified administrative leadership as the single most important factor affecting schools' successful integration of technology (Bryan, 1998). School leaders are not prepared to guide technology initiatives because they lack knowledge of technology. For an administrator who was born and completed formal training before the educational technological revolution started, few opportunities to acquire a knowledge base in the leadership of technology initiatives are available. More importantly, there are few opportunities to learn how to provide leadership in the strategic management and use of these new technologies in a dynamic, non-threatening environment. Elevating the need to a crisis point, it is anticipated that 80 percent of our current school administrators in the U.S. will retire or leave in the next five years. Without leadership, vision, and leading by example from their administrators, it is no wonder that many of our schools are foundering in a high tech sea. Schools need administrators who can serve as knowledgeable leaders.
Geographically Challenged Administrators in Diverse Schools
Another factor affecting the professional development of administrators in Texas is that it is one of the most geographically diverse states in the U.S. Three of the top ten most populated cities in the U.S. are within its boundaries (Houston, Dallas, San Antonio) and two of the top ten fastest growing counties in the nation are within the Dallas and Austin metropolitan areas. At the same time, approximately 80 percent of the 1046 Texas school districts are rural, small and isolated (NCES, 1990).
Geographic isolation means Texas school leaders and school administrators have less opportunity to interact with professionals and colleagues, and consequently have less opportunity for accessing advanced training and staff development particularly in the area of advanced technologies for their schools. The many Texas rural schools have traditionally been less able to access resources for training and staff development. For example, a rural school administrator may be forced to travel many miles just to access simple staff development in a content area.
Explosion of Technology
Four years ago, the Texas Legislature recognized geographic isolation as one of the factors impeding the implementation of technology in public education in passing three pieces of legislation (House Bill 2128, Senate Bill 1, House Bill 85). Following the enactment of this legislation, significant efforts to build technology infrastructure in Texas have been evident. There are literally hundreds of competitive and non-competitive grant and funding opportunities provided by the stateís Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund (TIF) Board; Technology Allotment fund; Technology Literacy Challenge Fund (TLCF); Technology Integration in Education (TIE); and state-reviewed application process for the U.S. federal discounts to local school districts known as the "E-Rate.". Large districts and small districts, wealthy and not so wealthy districts have all benefited in various ways from this tremendous influx of monetary support and infrastructure building.
However, the technology dilemma in public schools runs deeper than can be addressed by dollar investments in technology alone. A recent comparative study of levels of technology use and infrastructure in Texas K-12 public schools, by the South Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium-Texas (SCR*TEC-Texas) at Texas A&M University and the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), found that over the last two years a five-fold increase in technology training and professional development has occurred in Texas schools (TASA, 1996). However, 67.4 percent of the respondents in this study felt that the level of technology staff development currently provided was not sufficient to meet existing needs. Further examination of the data revealed that professional development for administrators in the management of the technology in their schools or districts accounted for a very small portion of this professional development. In fact, training, on going support, and professional development for administrators account for an insignificant portion of the current professional development efforts.
The Need For Knowledgeable School Leaders
One might ask, "Why the need for focused professional development for school administrators in technology?" Research over the last three decades is clear in showing that school leaders determine whether or not a particular program or innovation is successful and, for that matter, whether the entire school is successful (for example, Cawelti, 1987). Beginning with the classic effective schools studies by Edmonds (1979), Lezotte and Bancroft (1985), Venezky and Winfield (1979), among others, research showed strong, content knowledgeable, visionary leaders administered successful schools and effective program implementation. Fullan (1991) points out that administrators in particular are central elements in improving specific instructional programs within the school. To provide leadership in innovation, leaders must be knowledgeable or possess certain level of expertise in the content area of the proposed change, so as to be able to provide the clear vision and thus the needed guidance to the school (Jolly, 1994). Such successful school leaders maintain a knowledge base in various content areas - content areas that were classified as "cutting edge" at the time.
Administrators have had little pre-service or in-service training in using technology to successfully "manage" school initiatives. Management of technology is quite complicated, as it requires an administrator to know a "little bit about a lot of things related to technology." A recent research study at Texas A&M University found that 77 percent of the secondary school principals from 100 districts in and around Houston, Texas, had no computer-related training as part of their professional degree program, nor did they experience the use of technologies in their degree and certification courses. Of the remaining 23 percent, 95 percent had only one three-hour course or less in a computer/technology related area. Typically this minimal exposure to technologies in administrative work did not include the management of the technology (Jetton, 1997; (Bratlien and Cole, 1997).
In a current study by Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin (Denton, et al., 1999), various models of professional development related to technology were examined and correlated against current best practice in pre-service and in-service administrator training. Focus groups were held to determine what the knowledge base would be for an administrator in the management of technology. Based on the information from this group (Denton, et al., 1999) and the above mentioned Bratlien and Cole (1997) the knowledge base needed for the successful management of technology was incorporated into a course design. In the fall semester of 1998 both universities offered pilot courses in the strategic management of technology for school administrators. The courses were welcomed and applauded by school administrators across the state. Unfortunately, one of the needs cited at the end of the pilot was for the administrators to possess a higher level of knowledge about technology as well as more technical expertise than was currently being expected or required.
The following sections of this paper concentrate on the standards presented and the resources used in the pilot courses for school administrators in strategic management of technology that are offered by the University of Texas and Texas A&M University. The two universities cooperatively presented these materials during a workshop for school administrators at the 1999 TxDLA Annual Conference.
What Administrators Need To Know Regarding Technology
One of the major reasons for the lack of technology professional development for administrators has been the struggle to identify the "administrator knowledge base" needed in technology and the management of technology in the school situation. A focus group conducted by The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University identified this lack of an agreed-upon knowledge base as a primary factor in the lack of administrator development in technology. The focus group efforts were guided by publications from several national and state educational institutions including the Southern Regional Education Board, (SREB, 1997), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE, 1997), Texas Education Agency (TEA, 1997; 1998), and the State of Texas State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC, 1997). Agreeing that administrators needed a broad base of information related to educational and communications technology, the focus group examined numerous projects to identify the administrator knowledge base. This broad base of information was referred to by the group as "an inch deep and a mile wide" information base. In other words, administrators must know a targeted amount about a great many issues related to technology so as to be able to provide leadership and make informed decisions regarding its implementation and use in their educational situations.
In 1997 the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) established Educational Technology Cooperative, which comprises 38 state higher education and K-12 coordinating and governing boards. In their publication, Standards for School Administrators: A Proposed Model (SREB, 1997), the SREB developed standards for administrators in the following areas:
However, knowledge about technology is barely mentioned in the Texas State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) publication, Learner Centered Schools for Texas, A Vision of Texas Educators, "The administrator also incorporates technology, practical arts, liberal arts, and co- and extra-curricular activities into the comprehensive curriculum" (1997: 13).
While the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has not published explicit administrator standards, Dr. Delia Duffey, Director of Grants Management for the TEA's Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, suggests that administrators should have at least a minimum of the teacher proficiencies that middle school teachers have as well as proficiency in the access and use of administrative data for decision-making (Duffy, 1999). TEA, in their Progress Report on the Long Range Plan for Technology, 1996-2010 (1998) states that the Educational Technology Advisory Committee recommended to SBEC that all middle school level educators, both teachers and administrators, should have at least the same level of technology application proficiency as recommended for students in grades 6-8, as contained in Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) guidelines (TEA, 1997).
Standards For Teachers And Students
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the professional education organization responsible for recommending guidelines for accreditation to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), is the official body for accrediting teacher preparation programs and technology teacher preparation. ISTE has published two sets of standards for teachers: ISTE Recommended Foundations in Technology for All Teachers and Standards for Advanced Programs in Educational Computing and Technology Leadership (1997; http://www.iste.org/Standards/index.html).
The Milken Exchange on Education Technology commissioned ISTE to survey teacher-preparation institutions with the goal of evaluating teacher education programs across the country for the 1997-1998 school year. The report was published under the title, Information Technology in Teacher Education (1999). Student standards for knowledge about and use of technology can be found both at ISTE and TEA Web sites. ISTE's technology foundation standards consist of six broad categories. It is expected that standards within each category are to be introduced, reinforced, and mastered by students.
Standards tell us what should happen, but what do a technology-literate student's activities look like? A major component of their National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) project, ISTE's Profiles for Technology Literate Students (1998a) provides a general set of profiles describing technology literate students at key developmental points. The student categories provide a framework for linking performance indicators found within the profiles. ISTE expects that teachers will use these profiles and their Standard for All Students (1998b) as guidelines for planning technology-based learning activities.
While the standards described above are presented by educational organizations to act as a guide for administrators, teachers and students, the CEO Forum, a private organization founded in the fall of 1996 to help ensure that America's schools effectively prepare all students to be contributing citizens and productive workers in the 21st Century, offers a different set of standards. The Forum seeks to answer the questions "What do we need to have in place to have this happen? What do we need to have in schools to make this happen?" The CEO Forum has issued a series of reports on the four pillars of the Technology Literacy Challenge issued by U.S. President Bill Clinton in his State of the Union Address (1996). The Challenge called for broadening educational technology objectives to include improvements in "Four Pillars": 1) computer hardware, 2) connectivity, 3) digital content; and 4) professional development.
Over the last three years, CEO Forum has issued two reports in a series entitled, School Technology and Readiness. The first is on connectivity (1997) and the most recent is on professional development (1999a). In addition to these two reports, the CEO Forum offers the STAR Chart self diagnostic tool which allows administrators to fill in an online form in order to find out how a particular school or district rates on the four stage scale which ranges from Low-Tech School to Target-Tech School (CEO Forum, 1999b).
Additionally, as mentioned above, The Texas Education Agency (TEA) offers a variety of educational standards, including technology standards, for students in their Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (1997) recommendations for Texas schools.
National, Regional, and State Solutions
In 1995 the U.S. Department of Education established six Regional Technology in Education Consortia (R*TEC; http://www.rtec.org/) to provide technology related assistance through: (1) guidance in using new technologies to improve teaching and learning; (2) professional development in new technologies; (3) assistance in creating technology infrastructure; and (4) information and ideas on effective technology policy. Acting as catalysts for individual state and regional cooperation and resource sharing, the R*TECs focus on underserved student populations and work towards equitable access to technology for all schools and communities.
The R*TEC that serves the South Central Region (Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas) is the South Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium (SCR*TEC; http://www.scrtec.org/). Its unique mission is to help teachers and other educators create, share, or find solutions to problems they encounter when integrating technology into education. The SCR*TEC has worked to produce extremely useful "tools" to reach their vast constituency - tools that students, teachers and administrators can access easily and use with a minimal amount of effort.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA; http://www.tea.state.tx.us) has developed an extensive Web site with a wide variety of resources and tools for administrators and educators. Resources range from online databases of test results sorted by year, school, grade, and ethnicity to exhaustive school district information files, downloadable official state public school forms of all types with TEA contact information, and downloadable statewide mailing lists for specific district officials. Administrative resources include different types of population and financial forecasting tools as well as access to specifics on recent state fund payments to schools.
Examples of these and other solution resources are listed in Appendix I.
In our quest to create technology skills and issues courses for pre-service and in-service education administrators, both The University of Texas at Austin (UT) and Texas A&M University (TAMU) created courses that were first offered during the Fall, 1998 semester.
UT first revised its course in the Spring 1999 to include collaboration with 4 Canadian universities: McGill University, The University of Calgary, The University of Laval, and York University. Topics were rearranged to highlight each professor's area of expertise. Topics of collaboration included Teacher Professional Development , Virtual Communities, Project-based Collaborative Learning, Societal Issues, and Technology Leadership (the course may be found on the web at http://www.edb.utexas.edu/it99/). In the Fall 1999, UT will offer a third version of the course in two forms: a hybrid on campus/online course in parallel with an online course developed for the University of Texas at Brownsville's online Master's of Educational Technology degree.
TAMU revised and refined their original course based on feedback from the Fall, 1998 and Spring, 1999. In addition, courses are being offered to TAMU administrative cohorts in the San Antonio and Austin areas using the Trans Texas Video Network, a statewide network of videoconferencing sites operated by TAMU. In Fall, 1999, TAMU will be offering an online Master of Education degree.
As technology and education change, both the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University will continue to revise their courses for educational leaders to reflect the changing environment.
This paper begins by posing a problem: Texas school administrators lack vital knowledge of technology trends, issues and skills; and hence, they are not as effective leaders of technology introduction, integration and management as are needed.. We trace the roots of the problem to three sources: 1) administrator, 2) few in-service training programs for administrators, and 3) geographic isolation. We also present web-based resources, derived from information and sources contained in the courses offered by our respective universities, for: 1) standards development for administrator, teacher and student technology skills and knowledge; 2) standards development for accessibility, connectivity, and software; and 3) national and state resources such as diagnostic tools, school data/statistics, and other technology-related information.
Web-based Tools for Administrators
Texas Education Agency Resources
Teaching and Student Resources