In the coming years, administrators will face three major issues concerning the use of technology in their schools:
1. Can technology help schools become more accountable for student performance?
2. Can technology improve the efficiency of managing an educational institution?
3. Will their organization truly adopt technology?
Achieving these goals demands strong and committed leaders. But these leaders may need to possess different skills than they needed when their primary task was to obtain computers and build computer networks.
Here’s a closer look at these new challenges of accountability, efficiency, and integration.
The drive for accountability comes from new federal and state standards for student achievement. Technology can contribute to meeting those standards in two ways. First, computers can track student performance data in a wide variety of ways (attendance, test scores, etc.). Second, computers can be put to good use in the classroom. Many companies have developed software to assist with both of these tasks. But these software programs are far from reaching their maximum utility.
To improve accountability, student information must be linked directly to actual classroom activities and tracked in an online, real-time fashion. Furthermore, administrators must actually look at the data that has been accumulated and help teachers modify their actions, based on student performance.
Computers are used at both the district and school levels to accumulate all sorts of data. But these data are not integrated into a comprehensive picture of school management.
This is as much a “systems” problem as it is a hardware and software problem, because few schools seem ready to attempt the transformation of their systems that is needed to use this software. Commitment will be required at all levels, from the school board down to the classroom.
Districts should consider testing their ability to re-engineer their systems by choosing a single, high-profile task, such as purchasing, and try to streamline and computerize it.
The lack of integrated computers affects all employees of a school system, as well as students and parents. It is probably the hardest problem to solve.
Addressing this problem begins with a leader who relentlessly communicates his or her vision of a technology-supported future for the school or district. From this vision, specific measures can be devised to bring all functions together.