GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY/Schools lead community training
A 21st century classroom requires more than sophisticated multimedia tools and high-speed Internet connections. It requires 21st century teachers – technology-savvy professionals who can employ those technologies in the classroom. “For students to successfully use technology, teachers must lead the way,” says James Frazee, coordinator of educational technology for Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) in California.
School districts are striving to implement technology training programs, and many are developing unique training opportunities through extended development programs and student-taught courses. For example, SUHSD recently elevated training through Project ACT Now, a five-year plan that focuses on teacher training in technology and the development of an Advanced Curriculum through Technology (ACT) for schools. SUHSD is working to integrate technology into the curriculum and increase technology use within the entire community.
With a five-year, $4.29 million Technology Innovation Challenge Grant, which was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education in 1996, the district has implemented technology tools for professional development. Every teacher will have the opportunity to participate in at least 40 hours of professional development by 2001 through the Teacher Technology Training Academy funded by the grant. Teachers who voluntarily attend 40 hours of technology training receive new, Internet-ready multimedia computers for their classrooms.
The South Burlington School District in Vermont also is seeking to increase the use of technology throughout the community by escalating training efforts in the schools. Located in Chittenden County, South Burlington has a population of about 13,000 residents.
For the past several years, South Burlington High School (SBHS) teacher Tim Comolli and students have provided technology training across the district, which consists of five K-12 schools with 2,580 students, 188 teachers, 163 staff and 14 administrators.
“Our best step in our technology training program was to train our administrators,” Comolli says. “They went back to their own buildings and demanded that technology changes be made. Having administrators modeling technology was the single most important step to the success of our technology programs.”
In a twist on the usual mode of instruction, SBHS students often serve as teachers for technology courses. Comolli’s students have taught in-service courses on graphics and animation for teachers, and courses on presentation software and the Internet for administrators.
“Any fears that surrounded teachers being taught by kids have melted in the face of reality,” Comolli says. “Teachers welcome their instruction.”
Students also have taught graphics courses to parents and community members through the city’s recreation department and have instructed middle school students through an at-risk program run by the police department. Future plans call for Internet courses for senior citizens.
To make technology training available year-round, the district established an Information Technology Mentor program. The program trains K-12 teachers who have volunteered to be mentors to other teachers in the district.
As technology becomes more a part of everyday life, at school and at home, it is crucial for teachers to receive training that will enhance their work. School districts can take the lead in training and extend that instruction to their communities to create a technology-savvy population.