There are four major ways in which technology will contribute to school improvement. These are:
Enhancing Student Learning
Technology enhances student learning and will assist all students in achieving the academic performance standards. When combined with appropriate teaching methods, it has been found that technology increases academic achievement. Positive effects of technology have been found in all major subject areas, from preschool to higher education and for both regular and special needs students. Educational technology has also been found to have positive effects on student attitudes toward learning and on student self concepts. Introducing technology into the learning environment has been shown to make learning more student-centered, to encourage cooperative learning, and to stimulate increased student-teacher interaction. Technology facilitates a shift from a focus on memorization to complex interdisciplinary problem-solving, necessary understandings for students to meet challenging academic performance standards. Through the use of technology, learning opportunities become unrestricted by time or place, thus facilitating lifelong learning. Student use of technology for communication can also enhance access to career and continuing education opportunities.
Facilitating Access to Professional Development
Technology and telecommunication systems provide enhanced access to professional development opportunities for educators. Technology systems facilitate access to instructional resources and information, participation in online classes and workshops, and communication with education colleagues from throughout the world. Access to professional development opportunities is not limited by the traditional restrictions of time and place.
Enhancing District Productivity and Decision-making
Current practices and business trends demonstrate that technology and telecommunication systems can increase productivity and efficiency and can foster shifts in organizational structure that lead to accountability and effectiveness(1). Technology and telecommunication systems can increase productivity and efficiency in routine information management and administrative functions. Effective use of technology can enhance accountability by facilitating the gathering, analysis, and reporting of assessment data to improve decision-making.
Increasing Communication to Improve Education
Technology enhances information sharing and communication within the district and between the education community and other education stakeholders, including parents, businesses, and the community. Greater communication tends to reduce hierarchical structures and empower all participants.
Strategies to Enhance Use of Technology for School Improvement
A plan of action to address how technology will enhance school improvement could include:
The development of a planning and implementation structure and process to foster the integration of technology into curriculum and instruction across the disciplines. Reaching instructional goals will require close coordination between the district's technology coordinators and curriculum coordinators. (See Planning and Implementation and Integrating Technology into the Curriculum)
A strategy to address administrative and organizational operations, Individuals who are involved in district operations and school restructuring should be responsible for developing, implementing, evaluating, and disseminating strategies to use technology to address district administrative and operational activities. These strategies will include the use of technology by teachers and administrators for efficient and effective record-keeping. The strategies will also include the use of technologies to gather, analyze, and report assessment data to track the effectiveness of school improvement efforts.
A strategy to facilitate the use of the district's network system to enhance access to professional development. This strategy will include the establishment of a district web site with links to instructional resources, distance learning opportunities, and information on educationally-oriented discussion groups (See Staff Competencies and Communication Strategies).
A strategy to enhance the use of the network for internal and external communication and coordination. This strategy will involve the use of network communications (e-mail, e-mail mailing lists, conferencing systems) and the district's web site. Ultimately, the network system will become a major vehicle for coordinating district operations. The individuals involved with technology planning and implementation will likely be the initial group within the district to make use of network technologies for communication and coordination. These individuals will be developing models for the use of the network that can be adapted to other areas of operations.
(1) The use of network communications will ultimately have a significant impact on the educational environment. Research in the field of business, has examined the cultural implications of the introduction of a new mechanism for communication into a organization. In Connections: New Ways of Working in the Networked Organization, (Sproull and Keisler, 1993, MIT Press), which addresses the introduction of network technologies in business, the authors state: "Communication can't be separated from who is in charge of the giving, receiving, content, and use of what is communicated. Information control is tied to other forms of power and influence. When we change information control using technology, we also change the conditions for other control relationships in the organization." These findings have far-reaching implications, especially for the education community which has traditionally functioned in a strongly hierarchical structure.