DAILY INSIGHT: Using tech to impact student achievement

By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor

Lately, there’s been a fair amount of concern about how technology is or isn’t impacting student achievement, i.e., standardized test scores. Some districts are deciding what to cut: staffing, technology, chess club, sport programs, library books or someone else’s sacred cow(s).

I find this interesting, since technology has never shown an ability to improve student test scores on its own.

Technology has been able to do two things fairly well for instruction:
1. engage learners more decisively than traditional methods (thus more time on task); and
2. allow staff to more easily and effectively differentiate instruction to accommodate a variety of learning styles.

So, technology isn’t at fault if it isn’t improving test scores. The issue lies in the way technology is or isn’t being implemented.

Recently, while wandering through one of our elementary schools, I came upon three first-grade teachers huddled around one of their desks, intently working on their laptops. They were teaching themselves about the district’s online curriculum modules and how to use the materials to provide enrichment for students who were already mastering the first-grade math content. They were doing this because they didn’t have time within the class time to work with every group of children every day at their level. They wanted to use technology to help differentiate for their students.

This is how technology is best used.

Many of us are required to have detailed technology plans and strategic goals. I used to say that a technology plan really only needs to have two questions on it:
1. What would you like to be able to do with your students that you can’t currently do?
2. What administrative tasks or processes can be streamlined or done more effectively?

We need to ask teachers and other staff where they are unable to improve their instruction due to the limitations of the traditional school setting. For instance, technology allows teachers to communicate with their students outside of the regular class time via e-mail, sites like Edmodo, or reviewing class materials via SlideShare. Book discussions don’t need to end when the bell rings, as long as they are being done via a blog or forum engine.

Once a week, figure out a technological solution to one of the teacher-identified problems and share it with the whole staff. That is how technology will change the way we educate students, by jumping one instructional hurdle at a time.

Instead of sending out a traditional survey, develop the survey using one of these free or inexpensive survey-development tools and save yourself time in sending it out and compiling the results as well.

Try any of the following:

BooRoo ~ www.booroo.com
Survey Engine ~ www.surveys-engine.com
Survey Monkey ~ www.surveymonkey.com
Zoomerang ~ www.zoomerang.com

Steven M. Baule is currently superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning.