By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor
I recently saw a blog comment about the fact if a parent has a choice between two adequate teachers, one who uses technology and one who doesn’t, choose the technology user, since then your student is less likely to get in trouble for being bored and acting out. Not necessarily since technology use will result in a better education, but it will allow the students to “screw off and misbehave” easier without getting caught!
Well, is that really what the choice has come down to? Have school leaders become so focused on checking boxes and gathering data for response to intervention and other AYP-type issues that it is now a matter of being the least boring? Are we so interested in seeing teachers embrace technology that we aren’t looking deeply into how teachers are actually using the technologies we put in the classrooms?
Dr. David Loertscher is one of the leading minds in the school library world. He has often warned about the dreaded “bird assignment.” This would occur when the students would be sent to the library to look up information on a bird using the Internet. All information that they could have as easily and more reliably found using books. Librarians may have been initially excited about getting the kids into the library, but in the end, the librarians need assignments that are about deepening information literacy skills.
Translating Dr. Loertscher’s concern, are technology leaders excited about the bird assignment. When we see SMARTBoards being used, do we look beyond use? Do we check to see if they are being used interactively in math instruction or are they just being used to take the hot lunch count? Do we ask what the students are learning or are we just excited that they have a laptop in their hands and look busy? We need to not simply walk by and look to see if the computers are being used, but how they are being used.
Several years ago, as an assistant superintendent, I used to keep statistics on how the computer labs were being used throughout the district. I scrutinized teachers that rarely came into the labs along with those who seemed to overuse the computer labs. The social studies teacher who took his class to the computer lab 120 times but never visited the library was as concerning to me, if not more so, as the teacher who never visited the computer lab.
Technology integration is a difficult and important task. It is time consuming and often requires more work than planning using more traditional instructional methods. When technology isn’t reliable, good teachers will also have a backup plan, which creates even more work for them. As leaders, we need to make sure that technology is integrated into all areas of the instructional process in truly meaningful ways. Our students deserve it.
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.