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July 15, 2011

Golden Rules of Using Technology in Schools

by Randy Ziegenfuss

I discovered a very useful post written by Tina Barseghian on the Mind Shift blog: The 7 Golden Rules of Using Technology in Schools. These ideas resonated with me as we move into the implementation phase of our TL2014 initiative. There are some “rules” we can definitely improve upon, but several we have been addressing for quite some time.

  • Don’t Trap Technology in a Room – Just five years ago, we had one PC desktop in each classroom and computers in labs. We have come a long way since then, by first moving to a cart model and now to a 1:1 model in middle and high schools. Technology has become more ubiquitous in the Salisbury Township School District. What will the next steps be several years down the road?
  • Technology is Worthless Without Professional Development – Professional development is very important, especially since we all must be learners across the life span. When we began the shift several years ago, much of our professional development focused on the Mac operating system and applications with an occasional focus on how to transfer that understanding to the classroom. Our instructional coaches have been most effective at making that connection. Over the past several years, though, we’ve moved to a professional learning community (PLC) model that has allowed groups of like-minded, goal-focused teachers to collaborate, developing solutions to common teaching/learning challenges. Let’s not forget, though, that we are in the learning profession and by the nature of our roles as teacher and leader, we must be the chief learners in our schools and classrooms. This responsibility requires us to take ownership of our professional learning, not waiting for others to tell us what we need to do or learn. There are a lot of resources available for learning what we need to learn. Through inquiry and reflective conversations with our peers and school leaders, we are best equipped to determine what needs to be learned and how to best go about it.
  • Mobile Technology Stretches a Long Way – In a recent survey, a significant number of our high school students shared they own an internet-capable cell phone. We have been asking ourselves how we can allow students to use these tools while in school. Our initial efforts are focused on texting and internet use during certain times of the school day, but we really haven’t moved into the realm of learning beyond a few innovative, interested teachers. With a 1:1 laptop initiative like TL2014, these questions may not remain in the forefront. As we move toward our next refresh of technology, we will want to engage in further conversations about student use of personal mobiles.
  • The New “F word” is Fear – We are not about locking things down. In fact, we try to keep the filters only at a level that prevents students from getting to what legally needs to be¬† filtered. We also provide teachers with the ability to bypass that filter when legitimate learning sites are blocked.
  • Tech Tools are Not Just A Passing Fad – Since the re-write of our Strategic Plan in 2008, technology and the shifts in teaching and learning that accompany that have been a focus. We realize that while technology is not a passing fad, it is not always clear how technology will alter the future landscape of learning.
  • Money is Not the Problem – Money can be a challenge, especially providing the devices for access, such as laptops. There are ways to be creative and support the necessary priorities. We have taken advantage of free services such as Google Apps for Education with our own brand, Falcon Apps. This has allowed us, at no cost, to provide email addresses for all students and the ability for teachers to use Sites, Docs and tools such as Google Reader.
  • Invite Every Stakeholder to the Conversation – In developing our Strategic Plan several years ago, we had representation from every stakeholder group. The reality of the TL2014 initiative has come at us pretty fast, but has been grounded in ongoing conversations with students, teachers, parents and the school board about teaching and learning. We will need to be consistent about including these voices during implementation and beyond.

TL2014 is a significant undertaking, especially for a small school district such as Salisbury. Because of years of conversation, planning and work in the classroom, we are poised to take up the challenges the initiative poses. We look forward to sharing our successes and challenges on this site in the future. We look forward to hearing your voice in the conversation!

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