As technology changes how we work and live, school districts find themselves in the position of choosing what, if any, new technology will a. help their students learn more easily and b. help them communicate more effectively with their public. It is very difficult now to find a school district anywhere in the US that hasn't made technology an integral part of their strategy for classroom learning and communicating to their public. Districts are asking themselves, is an iPad a luxury item or is it a tool that can help students of all skills sets learn?
Dr. John Marschhausen of the Hillard City Schools cites a noticeable improvement in student performance thanks to technology:
Student access to technology is essential in today's instructional climate because it promotes personalization of the learning process. Technology empowers students, in almost any learning environment, to be actively engaged in the acquisition of knowledge and skills. When students are engaged and empowered, when students have the tools to facilitate learning, they perform better.
The biggest question districts must ask isn't if students need individual devices. The biggest question is how we are going to insure all students have access to individual devices. Will a district require students to bring their own devices, will the district provide devices or will the district have a combination of both?
Districts benefit from embracing, rather than shying away from, technology. Districts can utilize various different technological platforms to engage their community and seek their input. By ensuring there are provocative topics and the need of feedback from the community it will ensure things are interesting. Readers like to know you are really interested in what their opinion is. Using technology can help bring your school community together.
For example, Dr. Marschhausen was able to connect to his community by utilizing technology:
Technology permits districts to communicate with communities in a 'where you are' model. It is easy to post a story once and have it available to constituents in various formats -- Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Wiki Spaces, webpages, text messages and email blasts. One entry can reach our community with one simple post. The proliferation of multimedia smartphones also creates endless opportunities to capture videos and picture. We can literally film a video and post it from an iPhone.
Technology that seems cutting edge but is a one trick pony can get schools into a costly and time-consuming trap. When technology is acquired just to stay "cutting edge" schools can find themselves in a situation that could cost their taxpayers a lot of money with very little impact to either student performance or communications.
Our biggest challenge with technology is providing professional development, meaningful training, for our teachers to facilitate change in our instructional practices. There are many vendors and programs that claim to be the silver bullet. The truth is technology doesn't replace quality teachers; technology is a tool that coupled with skilled educators personalizes instruction and prepares our students to be successful in the future. We mustn't seek an easy panacea; we must engage our teachers to utilize technology to evolve our learning environments. We must teach students how they learn rather than expecting students to learn how we teach. Students today are digital learners; we must be digital teachers.
Now in a time of strained budgets, communicating not only to your students but the community as well in a clear and engaging way about everything from the district's education mission to academic and extracurricular success stories can help your district achieve more community support financial and otherwise. Most Americans agree...technology in schools is a must. However, using the right technology that will be multifunctional will not only ensure that the taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck they deserve but that the district will be successful in their technological endeavors.