Tech Leadership

A Personal Evaluation of Integration

by Lane B. Mills

You have all the latest bells and whistles of technology in your classrooms and it looks like the equipment is being used when you walk through the building. But how do you know your investments in technology hardware, software, personnel and professional development are really paying dividends for your students and school?

Regardless of what technology is present or absent from your classrooms, evaluating the integration of technology is a prime role for 21st-century superintendents. Aside from information gleaned from formal evaluations, developing your own informal method for assessing the usage of technology in your schools can provide the groundwork for conversation and planning with your administrators and staff about expectations for technology in the school district.

Counting the number of computers and other technology equipment and computing the ratio of students to hardware is not a metric that yields great value for providing technology-rich instruction and learning. Moving beyond counts and ratios will require administrators to question current practices and anticipate future needs.

A good starting point is developing a set of questions to ask yourself and others as you visit your classrooms and schools.

Opening Queries
Each district and school has its own culture and climate, so your personal evaluation of technology integration surely will assume your district’s style and personality as well as your own.

However, some primary questions to ask yourself as you visit classrooms and instructional areas could include the following: How does incorporating technology enrich, support and extend the learning for the lesson or activity? Is its application just something added in isolation or as an afterthought? Is the usage of technology simply a new way to do the same type of task? Do you even notice the technology being implemented?

While the view from your angle is crucial, don’t overlook the input of others who are in these environments on a daily basis — students, teachers and technology staff.

A rich source of information is the students’ viewpoints. Ask the students about their experiences with technology in a variety of classes. What do they think is going well with technology and how are their teachers incorporating the technology they have? Do they feel challenged or is the technology just another way of doing the same old thing? Are some subject areas incorporating the resources in different ways?

The preceding questions will work well with teachers, too. Other questions for teachers might be: What has been the hardest part of integrating technology into your instructional practice? Tell me about your favorite lesson that incorporates technology.

Terry Goff, executive director of technology for Wilson County Schools, Wilson, N.C., believes these questions should be followed up with a teacher’s reflection on the lesson to determine how students were affected by the technology integration and what revisions, if any, should be made in the lesson. This process should also be used to determine whether the teacher feels that appropriate resources and support are being provided for successful integration.

Don’t forget to talk with your technology staff about their expectations and observations. You trust them to implement and manage the hardware and software resources so why not get their feedback. In their opinion, who really knows how to make the technology work for their class? Are there barriers due to limited access or downtime due to repairs that might be hampering the usage of technology? Which schools are more inclined to take advantage of ongoing technology professional development?

Formal Evaluations
Busy administrators need practical approaches for assessing technology integration. This information can serve as a foundation for more formal formative or summative evaluations to address school district needs.

Developing your own personal way of evaluating technology integration in your schools and district can start with basic questions and observations. While simple, and often just plain old good conversation with your staff, this information can be the first step to changing how technology can provide for successful outcomes for students and staff.

Lane Mills is associate professor of educational leadership at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. E-mail: millsl@ecu.edu

Additional Resources
Lane Mills suggests these rubrics can be used for an evaluation of technology:

Florida Center for Instructional Technology rubric

International Society for Technology in Educations National Technology Standards for Teachers rubric

Northwest Educational Technology Consortiums Observational Protocol for Technology Integration in the Classroom rubric