“Technology” evokes different responses among educators. In some school systems, the purchase of computer equipment is just a first step. The hard work must follow: defining the role of technology in instruction, integrating it into the curriculum, paying for staff training and planning for future upgrades. In other school districts, technology is not used effectively; initial costs and ongoing costs can compromise the commitment administrators are willing to make to new systems. The master planning, design, installation, training, updating and use of technology vary with each district.
The “No Child Left Behind Act” increases the amount of money available from the federal government to local educational agencies for technology. It also boosts the requirements those local agencies must meet. States applying for funds must submit a long-range educational technology master plan that addresses many issues, such as how to use the money, how to increase student achievement, how to use distance learning and how to train staff. No less than 25 percent of these funds must be spent on professional development, integrating technologies into curricula and instruction.
Schools have learned to differentiate between the desired and the necessary, says Craig Paul, principal of the 3,000-student Wayzata High School in Wayzata, Minn. Technology master plans in the 1990s were hardware- and product-oriented. Master plans of the 21st century are focused on operational issues, in-service training, technology upgrades, infrastructure, hardware and software.
Ten years ago, 3 to 5 percent of the construction cost of a high school was earmarked for technology (video, voice, data and security). Now, that figure is 10 percent. That percentage may increase further because of security issues, and the need for additional computer access and e-mail addresses for students.
The surge in the use of the Internet in the late 1990s greatly influenced the use of technology in school and at home, says Jim Boddie, assistant superintendent of the Osseo School District, Osseo, Minn. Online technology has allowed real-time information to be incorporated into day-to-day instruction. It enhances research quality, diversity, opinions and perspectives; promotes collaborative projects; and makes individual, self-paced learning a reality. Boddie points out some major technology issues confronting districts:
Paying for staff training.
Preparing the programming for curriculum integration and determining the role technology plays in instruction.
Keeping up with technology and avoiding obsolescence.
Breaking Ranks: Changing An American Institution states that high schools must lay a foundation for students to participate comfortably in an increasingly technological society. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 99 percent of the nation's K-12 schools and 87 percent of classrooms have Internet access; yet only 33 percent of teachers feel well-prepared to integrate the Internet into their teaching.
Rydeen, FAIA, is an architect/facility planning specialist and former president of Armstrong, Torseth, Skold & Rydeen, Inc. (ATS&R), Minneapolis. He can be reached at [email protected].