The Five Essentials of Technology Facilitators: Successful On-Site Help for Technology Integration

Many school administrators ask themselves the question, “What can I do to help my teachers integrate technology into their daily lesson plans?†Hiring the right person to assist and support the teachers is a step in the right direction.

Five E’s to Look For

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) formally adopted National Standards for Technology in Teacher Preparation ( in February 2002. C•R•E•A•T•E for Mississippi ( first implemented its program in four schools in Mississippi at the beginning of the 2000-2001 school year. A major component of our model is to have an on-site, building-level person originally designated the Educational Technologist (ET) and now called the Technology Facilitator (TF) in keeping with NCATE’s terminology. We have implemented this in 23 schools across the state and are, therefore, in a unique position to offer suggestions about the characteristics of successful Technology Facilitators. Based on our experiences and the lessons we have learned, the persons hired for these positions should be: (1) Experienced educators, (2) Enthusiastic technophiles, (3) Effective trainers, (4) Eager mentors, and (5) Exemplary administrators. No one person will meet all of these qualifications, but the more of these qualities the person possesses, the more successful he/she will be on the job.

Experienced Educator

The Technology Facilitator needs to understand what goes on in the typical classroom from the teacher’s point of view, including lesson plan development and subject matter knowledge, assessment strategies, daily scheduling constraints, classroom management challenges, and all of the professional demands for accountability that go with being a teacher in today’s classrooms. Technology Facilitators also need the instructional technology training that helps them understand how to use technology effectively in the classroom, not simply the ability to use technology. The TF will serve as the bridge between the teachers’ classroom world of textbooks and lessons and the technology world of software and hardware. The TF has to understand both worlds and operate well in each. A TF must also understand how to deal with students because one of the most effective ways that C•R•E•A•T•E schools have extended the impact of the Technology Facilitator is through the establishment of STTs, or Student Tech Teams ( supervised by the TF. The term “experienced†has taken on a less stringent meaning since the onset of our program. When the project began, one of the requirements for the TF position was three years’ teaching experience. It has not been possible to maintain that requirement because funding for the position has been limited. Many qualified teachers earned more than the position paid and did not apply. Teacher shortages have impacted the pool of applicants so that, in some cases, first-year teachers were hired for the positions. However, we have never removed the requirement that the TF be a certified teacher, preferably one with a technology certification. This grounding in education is essential for realizing the full potential of the position. If the candidate meets the other four E’s without the three years’ experience, we have seen that he/she can still be effective in the role of Technology Facilitator.

Enthusiastic Technophile

According to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the term “technophile†came into use in 1968 meaning “an enthusiast of technology.†That’s what a TF is, and the more enthusiastic the better, because the job demands that the TF constantly search for new and innovative ways both to use technology meaningfully in instruction and to win over teachers who are reluctant to use it in their classrooms. C•R•E•A•T•E staff members train TFs to advertise what they can do for teachers through flyers, posters, displays, and personal visits. One creative TF worked with her STT to create unique Christmas ornaments out of discarded CDs and diskettes. The example ornaments were hung on her hall door with an invitation to “come inside to see how these are made.†When requested, STT members went to the teachers’ rooms to assist them as they had their students make the ornaments. Several technology skills that could be (and were) transferred to other more academically oriented activities were involved in this project. The TF caught the teachers’ interest through the hall display, taught the teachers the necessary skills, and later expanded the lessons learned to activities related to classroom lessons. Successful TFs such as this one are constantly looking for new ideas and information that they can share with the teachers in their schools.

Effective Trainer

Helping teachers to integrate technology into lesson plans successfully becomes a twofold challenge for Technology Facilitators. They must be able to teach technology skills as well as understand ways to use technology to support instructional goals. Our TFs develop tutorials for teachers and students, assist teachers in developing and teaching lesson plans involving technology, and conduct professional development sessions. These sessions take place in a variety of settings based on school schedules. TFs meet with teachers one-on-one; conduct group sessions for teams of teachers or for teachers with the same free period; and hold sessions for entire faculties during times set aside for professional development training (e.g., after school, on early release days, during in-service training). Being available when the teachers are available is the key, which is why C•R•E•A•T•E stressed the importance of on-site, just-in-time help. As Jamie McKenzie said in “Creating Learning Cultures with Just-in-Time Support†(, “"The best way to win widespread use of new technologies is to provide just-in-time support . . . assistance and encouragement when needed. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Now!" One Technology Facilitator and her elementary school principal worked out an effective way to model technology integration for the faculty. At the request of the principal, the TF created two model lessons, one in language arts and the other in math. The TF advertised the availability of the lessons through flyers placed in the teachers’ mailboxes, and the teachers signed up to have the TF teach one of the lessons in their classrooms. Using presentations and games found online as part of the overall lesson plans, the TF provided concrete evidence to the teachers that (a) the students were meaningfully involved in the lessons, and (b) that resources are readily available for use by the teachers—they did not have to re-invent the proverbial wheel themselves in order to use technology in their classrooms.

Eager Mentor

The introductory paragraph to the NCATE standards for Technology Facilitators uses the terms “knowledge, skills, and dispositions†when referring to the qualifications for applicants to such programs. Good interpersonal skills are a prerequisite for success as a TF. Our experience has been such that we might say good interpersonal skills are the most important part of the job. Foa, Schwab, and Johnson stated it well when they said, “Technical support needs to be on-site, individualized, and teacher-oriented. . . .Moreover, a great deal of emotional support comes from a visit by a live body who uses clear, non-technical [sic] language, and who has the social skills to make teachers feel good about their forays into this strange new land.†If the TF does not relate well with the teachers, nothing will get done. The same holds true for the TF’s relationships with administrators, particularly with the Technology Coordinator. One TF alienated the Technology Coordinator at the beginning of the school year, and that school’s technology program suffered because of the TF’s actions during the remainder of the year. One administrator located his school’s Technology Facilitator in a building separate from the teachers, where she remained unburdened by the demands of working with the teachers. Their schedules did not allow them to go to the TF’s office for assistance, and she rarely left her office. Accessibility must be a paramount consideration for the TF, both mentally and physically. To say that the TF must like students might seem to be a given, but it is not necessarily the case. As stated earlier, the TFs established Student Tech Teams (STTs), who proved to be invaluable in extending the impact that the TFs had in their respective schools. STT members performed routine maintenance of computers, installed software and software updates, located material on the World Wide Web, delivered, set up, and took down equipment; created presentations, and worked on trouble-shooting of problems. Any amount of time that the students saved the TF from these type duties was time that the TF could devote to working on instructional and professional development support. The teams’ successes were a direct reflection of the time invested in the students by the TF. Three years after his participation on one of the Student Tech Teams, one student had this to say, “[Student Tech Team] was not just about learning advanced computer skills from a teacher. Instead, it was the teacher and students working side by side to learn new things on a daily basis.†The TF who worked with this student was once described as “fearless†by her principal because of her “can-do†attitude when it came to working with technology, students, and teachers. The principal personally selected the teacher for the job because of her interpersonal skills as much as for her technical and instructional expertise. This TF and a group of eighth grade students tackled the job of getting 75 computers ghosted and running during the first week of school, a feat they accomplished in two days. The Technology Coordinator for the district said it would have taken her limited staff three weeks to accomplish the same task, and the students assigned to those computer labs—and their teachers—would have been looking for things to do during that time. Needless to say, the principal was pleased with the results of the STT and TF’s efforts. C•R•E•A•T•E Technology Facilitators will be quick to point out that no two days are ever the same in this job. A TF has to be flexible and remain “calm, cool, and collected†no matter what the day brings. Short tempers, attitudes of superiority, and timidity do not go well with this job in our experience.

Excellent Administrator

Although the Technology Facilitator’s job is not officially that of an administrator, there are administrative duties allied with the position that must be carried out successfully. TFs schedule the use of equipment for classroom use and professional development training and take care of routine maintenance of the equipment used as part of their jobs. They schedule training sessions and must be aware of teachers’ and the school’s daily and weekly schedules in order to organize their training and classroom assistance around teachers’ needs and availability. Time-management and organizational skills are essential for the TF. Record keeping is also an important part of the job. Our TFs log the number of times that various pieces of equipment are used. They log the hours they spend working on technical support (2,376 hours in Years 2 and 3), curriculum development support (2,413 hours), and professional development training (2,166 hours). They log the hours they themselves are involved in training tech team members (2,523 hours). C•R•E•A•T•E uses these statistics in reports to the Mississippi Department of Education, but any administrator would want to know the same types of information for reports to the School Board or to grantors. For consistency of reporting and to cut down on the time it takes to prepare reports, staff members developed an Excel spreadsheet file that has built-in options under several report categories. This has worked very well in helping to manage all the data that has been submitted.

Future Expectations

In large part because of the successful implementation of the C•R•E•A•T•E for Mississippi model in many state schools, the Mississippi Department of Education’s State Technology Plan adopted in December 2002 calls for an “Instructional Technology Specialist†to be on-site in the state’s schools “to work with teachers on the integration of technology†by school year 2005-2006, and for 70% of the districts to have Student Tech Teams by 2008. As far back as 1985, Moursund discussed such a building-level position in his publication of The Computer Coordinator. In 1986 an Electronic Learning survey by Barbour found that only 4% of a random sample of schools nationwide had anyone fulltime in a position analogous to the Technology Facilitator’s. The numbers may not be any higher today. Over the years, school districts have spent huge sums on infrastructure and equipment, and only more recently has the emphasis been placed on training the teachers to use the available technology. With No Child Left Behind, the emphasis has again shifted to using the technology for valid instructional purposes with the end result of increased and measurable achievement on the part of students. Studies such as that in West Virginia (1999) and Wenglinsky’s review of NAEP data (1998) have demonstrated links between the use of instructional technology and achievement gains for students. The Digital Disconnect: The Widening Gap between Internet-Savvy Students and Their Schools (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2002) reported, “Students believe that professional development and technical assistance for teachers are crucial for effective integration of the Internet into curricula.†The need for helping teachers integrate technology effectively is obvious. Teachers have continued to say that they need training that is on-site and ongoing, and they need timely technical support. The Technology Facilitator standards developed by NCATE and ISTE are a clear indication that those in educational leadership positions are in agreement with the teachers. Funding the positions will be, of course, the major stumbling block. C•R•E•A•T•E for Mississippi has helped schools develop different scenarios to lessen the financial impact. These options include: (a) sharing the position between two teachers, who each teach half-time, (b) sharing the position between one full-time teacher and a part-time administrator, (c) having a full-time TF who oversees the work of aides in two satellite schools, (d) having a full-time TF who takes on additional administrative duties, (e) having the TF teach elective technology classes part of the day, classes that become the de facto Student Tech Team, and (f) funding for a fulltime TF who handles only those duties. The latter may be the most difficult to implement with declines in funding for technology. Another option would be to request some or all of the TF duties be absorbed in existing positions such as that of the media center director or elementary computer teacher. Our experience has shown that the right person in the job of Technology Facilitator can lead to increases in teachers’ technology skill levels, greater use of technology within the school, praise from the parents for their children’s participation on the Student Tech Teams, and enthusiastic support from the students. Hiring the right person with the five E’s really does work.

Cheryl Marie Whitfield