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Friday, August 5, 2011

How to Increase the Utilization of Digital Technologies in All Schools

I wrote this post to participate in Leadership Day 2011, a call from Scott McLeod for educators to blog about what administrators need to do to increase the use of different technologies in their schools. To put it simply, as an evidence based practitioner, I need evidence to imply that regularly using different technologies will improve student achievement. The student achievement that reflects how I am evaluated as a principal and how teachers are evaluated in many districts. Translation...improvements on state accountability tests.

We all know the flaws associated with standardized state accountability tests, however, how will increasing our utilization of digital technologies in all schools help students perform better on the knowledge and comprehension type questions that dominate these assessments? I have had this conversation with friends and colleagues over the past several years, and I continue to debate the issue in my mind. I have no doubts that it is critical for us to expose all students to the different technologies that are available today. In addition, social media and blogging are outstanding means for both students and educators to continue their learning outside of the school house gates that both need exposure to. From an anecdotal perspective, I have witnessed the increased student engagement that takes place when teachers utilize different technologies with their students. At School #18, all of our teachers utilize different technologies with their students on a regular basis, however, to take the next step, we need more evidence to suggest that optimizing utilization of different technologies will improve student performance on the types of tests used by our district administrators to evaluate us.

At this point, the evidence from the research literature suggests the best approach to realizing these types of student improvements lies with direct instruction...drill and kill...teach to the test...you know the phrases. As a school full of evidence based, professional educators, and as our superiors continue to evaluate us based on our students' results on our state's accountability test, we need the evidence to suggest that increasing our utilization of digital technologies will improve student performance on these tests. So, my point with this post is to throw the issue into the hands of the instructional technology scholars at our nation's research universities. It is time for these researchers to generate the evidence. Until then, as an evidence based practitioner, my press for increased technology utilization is unlikely.

In closing, I will share a conversation I had with one of my superiors about technology integration. We were discussing the need for more evidence to connect technology utilization with student achievement when the conversation turned to improved student engagement. This administrator was debating the point that teachers who use technology have students who are more engaged in school. I agreed, but countered by asking where is the evidence to connect technology use to improved standardized test scores? The administrator could not provide any, but continued to make the point about student engagement. I asked the administrator if we made a full press with technology utilization, would we get a one year reprieve from test score accountability for taking the risk. The administrator responded, "absolutely not."

Scholars, please publish some evidence.

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