Professional development is a critical link in turning a district from a technology laggard to a technology leader, says Robert Van Zanten, the superintendent of schools in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
In just four years, he transformed Yorktown into a school system that has brought computers into everyday use for students of all agesfrom kindergarteners sending eMail, to third-graders creating PowerPoint presentations, to highschoolers creating multimedia projects. This is the second district to which he has brought rapid, wholesale changes in access to and use of computers.
Some of these changes include:
• For about $1 million per year (including salaries), Yorktown Heights has obtained computers for every classroom and connected them all to high-speed networks.
• Each school has a computer technician to maintain the system and help teachers and students improve their use of the machines.
• Teacher training is offered year-round and at convenient times and locations. To motivate teachers, the district provides full reimbursement or in-service credit for taking computer courses. These in-service credits lead directly to merit raises.
• The teachers with the most interest and skills will be offered opportunities to become technology liaisons in their schools and will receive stipends for their extra efforts.
• Teachers also have been offered assistance with the difficult task of revising their lesson plans to incorporate technology.
Next steps include a faster permanent online connection, network access for students from their homes, and formal classroom arrangements with schools in other countries. For example, Van Zanten wants to link up with schools in Britain so that when American students study the Revolutionary War, they can learn about Britain’s perspective.