I’m getting together some materials for my new administrator about different technology tools, and how they can be used in the classroom. I’ve done a series of quick overviews suitable for a busy administrator. I’m sharing them here for your input, critique, etc.
- How different or similar is the job compared to your previous perceptions of the job?
- What do you think is the most challenging aspect of the job?
The thing that struck me is just how differently the responsibilities could be depending on how the position is approached, and how it can exist at different “levels” within a district.
The text, The Technology Coordinators Handbook, described the position for a district at of my size as having fewer IT support responsibilities, more employees under them, a greater focus on curriculum, but they are a team leader, and at a mid-level in the district both developing and implementing policy. In smaller districts, as is true generally, you end up wearing more hats, may have more IT responsibilities, and obviously fewer employees working under you to support what you do.
The Technology Coordinators Handbook from Pinellas County Schools took it from a completely different perspective. Although a very large district (~150,000 students), they appear to have “pushed” the position down to the site level. That means that like at a small district, the person wears many hats, and does not have employees under them, but has support laterally, and above for their work. I had some difficulty quickly locating information, but my impression from peers working in Florida is that many of their elementary schools (especially new ones) are quite large (1,000 or more students) which would make that level of support fiscally viable, whereas older, urban schools usually max out at 500 – 600 students making it more expensive to support that type of position.
The University of Virginia graduate students, I think, had a very teacher-y perspective which is much like mine, and that was it was better to not have this position responsible for IT issues, but instead focused on curriculum and policy. This is how I’ve thought of the job, and how I think it is best done, but I’ve never worked in a small district with 10,000 students where everyone is wearing multiple hats, e.g. one of my fellow high school alums is teaching up near Mt. Shasta, and is both her district’s superintendent and high school principal, whereas our own high school had 3,300 students and that largest graduating class of that year in the state with over 700 students.
I would think this “dual” role would be the major difficulty of doing the job well because one of the roles (the curriculum aspect) is focused on human capital development, whereas the other (IT) is focused on widgets, and customer service. My own experience is also that IT may appreciate curriculum concerns, but they are not trained education professionals, and that unless curriculum folks are embracing technology, it can remain marginalized within a district.
This is the tension now in Education Technology. The national administration (US DoE) would like to fold education technology funding into general funding for education, reasoning that it should be “infused” throughout curriculum and instruction. But the reality is that many schools and districts may not prioritize ed tech without that requirement, and that many more are leery of committing efforts and money to projects because of how the money is rolling down.
On a personal basis, I would say that for me, I would find the administrative aspects of this position the most difficult. I would prefer to concentrate on training, working with students, and developing policies. I’m not as crazy about grant writing, but I don’t mind that either. I think I’d do much better as a tech coach or specialist, but my goals for this course will be to learn about what the coordinator position entails for the following reasons:
- It’s good to know what your boss does, because it helps contextualize your own work;
- The goals, and job description for a tech coordinator at a larger district are what the ed tech “team” should be doing, that I would be part of;
- It never hurts to learn.
Education technology does not have “home” in my district, and that is a sad, sorry fact. There is no job description for a District Technology Coordinator, because that position does not exist in my district. They used to have two technology integration specialists, but those positions were eliminated two years ago with budget cuts.
Here is the description of the job duties for a technology coordinator in a district of my size from The Technology Coordinator’s Handbook (p. 23-4),
- a mid-level administrator;
- with a staff of eight instructional technology specialist who provide professional development;
- they focus on instructional aspects of technology, and information technology is handled by other departments;
- their team helps develop technology plans for the district and write grants to secure funding for district initiatives.
Because education technology has been an “orphan” when we had tech specialists, they worked under the head of IT, rather than in curriculum. The problem there was that curriculum is a “power-base” in our district and by being outside of it, education technology was further marginalized. By all rights it should be embedded in the curriculum department, but they see no need for it, so we have a district of 50,000 students in a city of 500,000 (similar to the scenario in the text) with no district-wide vision of how technology can be used to further education goals with our students. We have an approved technology plan, but the reality is that most of the technology initiatives that have occurred in recent years have happened in isolation in individual sites. Meanwhile, neighboring districts have strategic plans that are district-wide and include technology, like integrating technology with IWBs, and have staffing to support training and teacher development. My district’s education technology training, by contrast, is provided solely by classroom teachers in addition to their regular duties for stipend pay.
The team that wrote a three quarters of a million dollar EETT competative grant was made up of myself, a middle-school resource teacher, the district IT Manager with a hired grant writer. That level of “expertise” is not unusual in a smaller district going for smaller grant amounts, but it’s a mighty thin expertise base for that amount of money from a district of our size.
ISTE is asking bloggers, like myself, to share the word about keeping funding for ed tech in the federal education budget. Here is what is happening…
As part of the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (which became known as NCLB — No Child Left Behind), the current administration is proposing the direct funding of education technology be eliminated. Why do we need separate funding specifically for education technology?
- The administration, the public, and all of us, would like to see students prepared for 21st century workplaces. This requires that they have access to and use technology in the classroom now;
- Without dedicated money, efforts to use technology in classrooms will be hit and miss, instead of concentrated, wide-spread, and effective;
- In these tough fiscal times, states will not be able to “pick up the slack” in federal funding. Some states (like mine) have relied solely on these federal programs for education technology expenditures in recent years.
What are we asking for? Support funding the EETT or successor program to at least $500 million in the FY11 U.S. Department of Education appropriations.
Please do one or more of the following:
- Blog about this;
- tweet this link:
Background: On Thursday, the California State Senate Budget Subcommittee #1 on Education held a hearing that discussed the EETT ARRA money the state has received, but not spent. This was not an “action” item, but simply held for informational purposes. It’s a pain to view the hearing because there is NO fast forward and the part about EETT is about 1 hour in, but the testimony was good. The plan at this point is to abandon both the distribution of formula money and the competitive grant process that was carried out in Fall of 2009, and replace it with a competitive grant process for districts to create/improve Pre-K data and another program for High Schools to collect data related to college and work readiness by adding SAT and AP scores. Then all this data would be massed together into a statewide longitudinal data system. The required 25% of funds for teacher professional development would be used for training teachers on how to use this longitudinal to inform and adjust their instructional delivery to students.
I’ll write below why this is a really bad idea. Those of you who have already figured that out, emails or letters to your state legislators and State Senator Liz Ducheny Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, (916) 651-4040 [email protected] who is pushing this policy. Make the following points in your appeal, and please also share how much you would get and how those funds are used in your district:
- The funds are way overdue (ARRA/EETT was signed by the President in Feb. 2009!) Funding should have been distributed last November.
- The funding criteria by the feds should be honored or we are in danger of losing the $72 million.
- The funds were intended to be spent quickly in order to save jobs.(stated in the Fed. guidelines)
- The LAO’s suggestions for directing the funding to P-20 is premature. (CDE testified to this).
- Some districts have already spent their own funds and are intending to be reimbursed by the grants.
- LEAs know better than bureaucrats how and where to target the funds and they had to prove that through their grant applications.
- Finally…………RELEASE THE FUNDS TO THE SCHOOLS AND THEIR STUDENTS!
Hasn’t the legislature already done enough damage? These are federal “pass through funds”. The state contributes nothing to education technology.
[The text comes from Virginia Strom Martin, Legislative Advocate for LAUSD — Thank you Virginia!]
Why this plan? This is truly a case of the tail wagging the dog. The state feels it is under enormous pressure to improve its position for federal grants, and said as much in the hearings, like RttT. The state was deficient in two areas in the first round, one of them centered on not having a good longitudinal data tracking system for students. They want to shore up CALPADs the statewide student data system to make it “P-20″ compliant. EETT is seen as an easy source of funds for that.
There is one huge problem with that approach. Spending EETT funds on a data tracking system does not meet the primary goal of EETT, supporting and enhancing classroom instruction. The mis-match is evident in a couple of key places. It does it not meet the improving classroom instruction by having kids using technology (what are you going to do, have the kids do analysis on their class scores over their school “career”?). The part about providing information to help individual teachers improve instruction is another whopper.
Electronic longitudinal data on students is a nice piece of data for teachers to have, but it’s not critical information. Remember, I’m not talking about current grades and test scores, but being able to go back through their entire student history, and manipulate the data for analysis. Does a high school teacher *really* need to have every students’ Pre-K to current grade records in electronic form so they can analyze it? Yeah, it’s nice to see what history a kid has, but you can look in their paper CUM record for that. The advantage of an electronic data system is more for meta analysis of larger trends, and patterns. Frankly, it doesn’t tell you much about a given student, or class, that you can’t figure out intuitively after spending some time with them. The scope of data required for this is not data to inform teachers, but more for research and policy purposes.
You can really see this mis-match in goals with another requirement of EETT, that 25% of funds be spent on teacher professional development. I want you to picture this, they will be starting a new round of RFPs for grants, grading them, sending results, and then giving out money. If they are really fast, it might get out by December. I’d bet on January of 2011 myself. That means they have only half a school year to get the projects up and running, and 7 months to spend 25% of $72M (that would be $18M) in teacher training.
First, most districts have already implemented new student information systems to be compliant with new CALPADs requirements. Those trainings were only 6 hours, not the multiple days required to spend this kind of money, because how much time can you spend showing folks how to generate a graph or report? The LAO and CDE talked about it in terms of having trainings that would center on how teachers could use the data from the system to improve instructional practices. The only thing is, there was no discussion about what those instructional practices would be. What will they be? They entire focus was on data and there was NO discussion of instructional practice or methods, or squat. The use of this data system under those conditions would be like getting a diagnosis, but being told by the doctor, “I’m not sure what treatment or medicine to use, but I’m sure there’s something at the pharmacy, why don’t you go there!” That would be malpractice in any other profession.