School technology leaders assembled in San Diego August 10-11 to discuss vision and development for their districts at the National School Technology Leadership Conference. More than 200 educators, vendors, and school technologists put aside their regular summer vacation plans for two days of sun, networking, and professional development.
John Clement, a senior researcher at the Educational Statistics Service Institute, kicked off the conference Aug. 10. In his keynote speech, Clement spoke about new trends in educational technology and presented some solutions for school leaders seeking better ways to integrate technology.
Clement cited encouraging statistics about the increasing prevalence of technology in education. For example, he said, research demonstrates a five-year increase in schools connected to the internet, from 35 percent in 1994 to 95 percent in 1999.
Despite these encouraging figures, Clement cited another study revealing that only one-third of all teachers felt “well-prepared” or “very well-prepared” to use technology in their classrooms. Clement lauded schools for their efforts to bring hardware and connectivity to their students, but acknowledged there is still work to be done.
“Global connectivity is here,” he said. “It’s our challenge to help students and teachers master this creation space.”
During the breakout sessions, attendees were enlightened on a variety of topics within two tracks, “Leadership and Vision” or “Development and Technical Integration.”
Among the highlights, Eliot Levinson of Brennan-Levinson Enterprise spoke about schools that have developed winning technology plans in his session, “Proven Models to Help You Integrate Technology.”
Levinson cited the Poway (Calif.) School District as a great model of site-based management. In Poway, the management information systems group reports directly to Superintendent Bob Reeves, who is directly involved in the implementation and use of technology in his district’s schools.
In the “Emerging School Technologies” session, the four presenters discussed various cutting-edge developments of interest to school leaders. Particularly timely was a discussion of file-sharing programs such as Napster and Gnutella by Palisade Systems’ David Clark.
Clark outlined three basic problems with allowing students to access such programs. He warned educators that these types of programs will keep kids from staying on task, can eat up bandwidth as kids try to download music and video files, and can create liability for schools if students download copyright-protected material, hate information, or pornography.
Symbol Technologies’ Stefanie Snyder also talked about the future of electronic books, or eBooks, in schools.
“Textbooks are obsolete and frightfully expensive. Also, I’m here to tell you that textbook research can destroy a whole class period. That time is just a killer, and I want kids to get to the meat of what they are doing,” she said. “eBooks are here, and they will be used.”
Patrick Hartley, of Evergreen (Wash.) School District, discussed the intricacies of ensuring that school networks are secure in his breakout session. He also discussed the highly publicized network breach his district endured.
“It was real baptism by fire,” he said. The discussion led educators through the basics of important security measures such as passwords, firewalls, and acceptable-use policies.
“A security policy is a balanced document that takes a high-level view of the type of service you want to bring to users on your network,” he explained.
Rob Quinn, an expert in recruiting for Pricewaterhouse Coopers, addressed the topic “Recruiting and Retaining High Quality School Technology Personnel.” He offered tips for how schools facing financial constraints can find the very best technologists on the market.
“By far, the highest driver of retention is quality of supervision. In fact, employees say they expect quality leadership,” he said.
The August 11 keynote speaker was Dale Mann, professor of education at Columbia University Teacher’s College and president of Interactive Inc, a company that specializes in measuring the impact of technology on education.
Mann cited West Virginia as an example of a state that recognized the need for technology and implemented it in a radical statewide program, with great results.
Mann’s research estimated that 11 percent of the academic growth for fifth-grade basic skills in West Virginia could be attributed directly to instructional technology. In a six-year longitudinal study, Mann and his company saw a state that ranks 40th in the nation in terms of per capita income skyrocket to 11th in the county for children’s achievement since the start of a comprehensive statewide technology plan.
Quoting a recent study, Mann said, “Worldwide, the best predictor of student achievement is a computer at home. That figure is based on 43 countries.”
He summarized the need for technology in schools as simply: “Kids have changed. They can multi-task. We have to adjust to that.”
The conference was sponsored by eSchool News, with special support from eschoolmall.com, a leading provider of online, business-to-business education procurement tools.
Eschoolmall.com, which is not affiliated with eSchool News, allows schools to save time and money by integrating available technology such as the internet and various workflow tools into the procurement process. Attendees were able to view the eschoolmall.com product at its corporate exhibit and speak with representatives from both eschoolmall.com and Gateway. Gateway, the other conference sponsor, is committed to bringing cutting edge technologies to education.
School Technology Leadership Conference