Creating a Tech-Infused Culture

Use these proactive administrative methods to set the tone.

As an educational leader, the technology administrator can and should take the lead in ensuring students benefit from the integration of digital technologies into classroom practices. Here are numerous practical strategies for achieving a culture in which students can be more engaged in their learning, have multiple means of accessing and demonstrating that learning, and have varied assessments through technology.

1. Dedicate staff time. Devote 10 minutes during each faculty meeting for team, grade, or subject-area teachers to present how they are improving student learning through technology by showcasing student projects. For example, science teachers demonstrate how students can learn from other students about purifying stream water; students in all classes have access to data from all the students' research projects through the same shared network folder.

2. Publish activity photos. Focus the school Web site on technology-infused learning in various subject areas. As you do several daily "walk-arounds" of the school, take digital pictures of student learning that involves technology. (Make sure all students have signed a media and Web release form.) Post those pictures with brief captions to the school Web site on a weekly basis. Because the teachers will want their classes highlighted on the Web site, they will invite you to see how their students are learning the standards through technology.

3. Display student work. Show technology-generated student work at the school entrance. Each week a different class showcases its standards-based learning done with technology. Displays take various formats such as posters, digital pictures, PowerPoint presentations, and digital movies. Create a sign-up sheet for this display.

4. Use morning news. Spotlight a technology-infused learning initiative in the morning announcements. In a short five-second spot, highlight student learning with brief mentions such as, "Mrs. Jones's 4th-grade social studies group learned about state government issues by exchanging four e-mails with our legislator."

5. E-mail research. Ask for reactions to practical subject-area articles on technology-infused learning. For instance, send science teachers an article about using computerized probes to analyze motion. The librarian or district technology director could help find these articles.

6. Share a monthly digital newsletter. Ask team, grade-level, or subject-area teachers to contribute a report on technology projects for a specific month. Other teachers often contribute as well since they soon develop the "I want my class to be included in the newsletter" mentality.

7. Build a digital resource "book" or online site showing how tech projects support standards. Meet with each department, and have members list, for each standard, all of the technology-infused projects that they have done or heard about. The programming class or computer applications class creates the Web page or digital resource book of standards-based technology projects.

8. Sponsor library teas and pizza breaks. These events focus on demonstrating how teachers can engage students in common curriculum topics through different technologies. For example, on the second Tuesday of each month, the library can host a pizza break during the lunch hour and a tea party after school to show teachers five different technologies that help students actively engage in a particular concept such as the Great Depression. The teachers may see an online Depression simulation, a series of digital images, a site that has music of the era, an online diary of a person who lived during the Depression, and sites looking at the impact of the Depression on future generations. Meet with teachers to select the topics, pay for the pizza and tea, and enlist the support of the librarian or district technology director in finding multiple resources for these common curriculum topics.

9. Provide bimonthly how-tos. Conduct 20-minute Common Technology sessions for teachers in the school lab and teach the most commonly used features of various technologies such as whiteboards or digital cameras. Make sure that each session starts with two or three short "best educational practices" with that technology. Then the teachers learn how to work with the most commonly used features of that technology to facilitate learning via multiple modalities. The sessions are before school, during teacher lunch, or after school. The librarian, lab assistant, district technology integration teacher, or district technology director can teach these sessions.

10. Target technophobes. Invite reluctant teachers to look at relevant technology-infused learning. For example, show teachers the Apple Exchange and then select "Video Library," or go to InTime to search for technology-infused projects in their subject area. Ask the teacher which part of the curriculum is the most difficult for students, and then help them explore Web sites that demonstrate or explain that part of the curriculum.

11. Suggest integration. Encourage team interdisciplinary projects to have a strong technology component. For example, meet with a 6th-grade team planning an environmental project and recommend that because they are including recycling, the students can use spreadsheet analysis and graphing to communicate their results. Also, suggest that the students use e-mail or videoconferencing to talk with a scientist involved in environmental research.

12. Volunteer to evaluate. As teachers plan for a unit involving a technology-infused project such as comparing biomes through a PowerPoint presentation, they can ask you to help them design a rubric that focuses on student learning, not on the glitz of technology. Observe and help the teachers assess the students' presentations.

13. Assist teachers in meeting standards. Demonstrate how teachers can keep track of various quizzes on the same standard to measure student progress on a simple spreadsheet. Show teachers how to modify the category labels in their present electronic grade book so that the grades represent standards such as English Language Arts Standard 1 instead of category labels like quizzes and homework.

14. Ask for electronic reports on students. Instruct teacher teams to e-mail a word-processed document or a spreadsheet of underachieving students, the reasons for their lack of success, and the action plan to assist each student. The digital format allows you to follow the progress of these students.

15. Comment during observations about the use or absence of technology. For example, suggest that the teacher can improve student learning by using higher-level thinking activities based on technology. For instance, a Spanish teacher who has the class learning basic facts about Spanish-speaking countries can ask students to compare live Webcam pictures of the countries.

16. Review lessons. Require each teacher to submit during the year at least three lesson plans that integrate technology. After talking about the characteristics of today's learners, ask teachers to develop lessons that involve the technologies students commonly use. For example, propose that students demonstrate the historical events of various time periods through music.

17. Work with the district curriculum council. Act as an advocate for integrating technology resources into all new curriculum. English teachers can include Web sites that have various interpretations about Shakespearean plays, have multiple images from the plays, and have a word search engine for the plays.

18. Spur planning. Create an application process for the distribution of new technology based on a team's plan to improve student learning with that specific technology. Say you know that LCD projection devices will be installed in all classrooms in a three-year cycle. Ask the teams to submit a proposal consisting of four lessons that detail how they will promote student learning through the use of the projectors. Award the first year's wave of projectors to those teams with the best evidence of student learning.

19. Budget for conferences. Build in money for teachers to go to local and state educational computer conferences. Afterward, have those teachers prepare word-processed reports on technology-infused activities and distribute them to all faculty. Collect all conference reports and reissue them electronically to all faculty on a semester basis.

20. Facilitate mentoring. Develop a technology mentor program so that students can provide technical assistance to their teachers as the instructors develop technology-infused learning. One middle school has student volunteers who are experts in various programs or technologies. A teacher explains what he wants his class to do — such as creating a visual explanation of math concepts via digital movies — and the student volunteer shows the teacher how it's done. A high school has an after school tech club where students learn the technologies and then volunteer their free time during school to help teachers.

21. Educate the community. Request that teachers and students help out at an evening learning fair at the mall that highlights students' technology-infused projects. This learning fair is very effective in helping the public understand how students learn with technology. Such an event is especially powerful just before a budget or referendum vote on technology spending.

22. Participate actively in professional development. Present at technology-infused training sessions for teachers. For instance, in a presentation about social studies and higher-order thinking, scan in local history items and, along with a group of teachers, word process document-based questions on one of the historical artifacts. You might also teach sessions about using PDAs to do daily assessment and other practical topics.

Harry Grover Tuttle is an educator-in-residence at Syracuse University.