Q. Our new state technology plan format requires that the district
provide a separate scope and sequence for student technology skills. I thought the whole idea was to embed these skills into content-area teaching. Am I mistaken?
A. A well-written scope and sequence of the technology skills that students are expected to master at each grade level is a useful tool. It gives teachers a handle on the skills and knowledge incoming students should already have and helps them identify the specific skills that must be taught so students are prepared to successfully use technology as a learning tool in content-based activities. For more information about student standards, visit ISTE'S National Educational Technology Standards for Students (cnets.iste.org/students/s_stands).
Q. So many grant proposals now require that we cite scientifically based research. I can find reports and studies online, but how do I determine whether or not the results show "strong" or "possible" evidence that an intervention worked?
A. The U.S. Department of Education recently published a guide that can help you evaluate existing research. Titled Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence, it can be downloaded free at the Department's Institute of Education Sciences page (www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ies/ index.html). Look for "New Guide on Evidence Based Education." It's available in PDF and HTML format.
Q. We've conducted self-assessment surveys of teacher skills in technology use in the classroom, but I don't think the results give the entire picture of what's actually happening on campus. Short of doing lengthy formal observations of technology-supported lessons for every teacher, how can I get a better gauge of what's really going on in the classroom?
A. I don't think that formal observations would paint an accurate picture, even if you had the time to do one in each classroom. However, you can develop a better sense of how technology is being used by doing a series of informal walk-through observations. This type of observation requires some preplanning and is meant to provide insights into actual daily practice, not to be an evaluation of the teacher. You must decide what you want to know about technology use in classrooms and then identify the behaviors or evidence that would indicate effective use of technology.
Once you have this information in mind, visit each classroom for 2-4 minutes. Take brief notes on an index card, or using your PDA. Repeat these visits several times on different days and at different times. A review of the data you collect during multiple walk-through observations should help you and your staff determine how often and how well technology is being used in your school.
Weekly Leader's Edge tips are available at www.techlearning.com/edge.