In the late 1990s, school systems, state education agencies, and the U.S. Department of Education expended large amounts of time, effort, and money on technology in the schools. In fact, during his final State of the Union address, President Clinton discussed his plans to allocate even more resources to ensure that all schools have access to the Internet and technological tools to prepare students for the next century. Many public schools have taken advantage of federal E-rate monies, which provide funding for computer networking and Internet access based on the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches. School personnel writing grants for computer hardware and investments in educational software have become commonplace. With funding for technology, however, comes accountability for its results. For instance, teachers in several eastern states must pass technology proficiency exams by 2002 or risk losing their contracts. Thus effective teacher-training programs are neededboth to prepare educators for the Information Age and to ensure that technology has a positive effect on students' academic experiences. One such program is Oklahoma's OKTechMasters.
House Bill 1815: A Mandate for Technology Training
In June of 1997, the Oklahoma legislature passed House Bill (HB) 1815, commonly called the "Telephone Bill." It mandated the collection of approximately $7 million from telephone companies over a period of five years to support teacher training in telecommunications and distance learning. The ultimate goal: to place a "lead technology teacher" (LTT), an expert in technology infusion, in every wing of every school building in Oklahoma within five years. To organize the training effort, the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technical Education (ODCTE) took geographical factors and population density into account and divided the state into six consortia of educational institutions. All six consortia work in conjunction with the ODCTE, the financial administrator of the training funds. OKTechMasters is one consortia.
During the 1996-1997 school year, the ODCTE brought together focus groups from K-12, technical, and higher education institutions across the state to discuss challenges facing the teacher-training program. At the outset, the primary concerns included the disparity in available technology from building to building and district to district, lack of uniform technology use, differing viewpoints on who should provide technology training, varying methodologies for delivering technology, and the short (five-year) timeline to accomplish the goals set out in HB 1815.
The focus groups agreed that the program should provide teachers with training in Level II competencies. (Level III training, which focuses on competencies required in a technologically advanced classroom, will not be available until late 2000). Level I skillssuch as properly turning a computer on and off, resizing a window on the desktop, elementary word processing, and simple Web browsing and searchingare not included in the program; funds provided through HB 1815 are too limited to devote to basic skills training, which is widely available from other sources.
The Philosophy Behind the Training Initiative
Training teachers to use technology for the sake of technology is like teaching someone to drive a car for the sake of learning to drive. Driving around in a circle is neat for awhile, but what happens when the novelty wears off? For today's teachers and students, technology must be a tool rather than a plaything. Oklahoma's six educational consortia therefore focus not on the novelty of technology tools, but on the ways in which these tools can meaningfully enhance content-driven lessons.
The Who, How, When, and Where of Training
Who? In the past, school districts hired experts from outside the field of education to train teachers to use technology. Most teachers considered this method ineffective; they commented that trainers did not understand their pedagogical needs or acknowledge their limited access to technology. In response to these complaints, each consortium's advisory committee selected 10 teachers, recognized as master teachers in their fields and recommended by supervisors, to become Master Trainers (MTs). MTs participated in ten days of intensive training in Level II competencies and, based on the needs of their consortium, developed a curriculum to train LTTs that addresses each Level II objective.
OKTechMasters comprises all public and private colleges and universities, technical education institutions, and comprehensive and dependent school districts in Oklahoma and Cleveland counties. The MTs piloted and refined a new curriculum while training 30 additional MTs in their region during the summer of 1998. This cadre has delivered training to more than 1,300 LTTs, who share ideas with other teachers at their home schools and become approachable champions of technology. This cascading approach has proven effective and efficient.
How? Teachers who would like to gain proficiency in the Level II competencies and become LTTs self-select themselves for training and register for it online. MTs deliver the LTT curriculum in 28 hours of instruction and allow participants nine additional hours of hands-on time in a computer lab. Three basic formats for the sessions exist. The most common format brings together all the participants for four consecutive days of training. The first three days meet from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the fourth day ending at around 3 p.m. The second most common form brings the participants together for the first two days of training, perhaps a Thursday and Friday. Participants then return the next week on Thursday and Friday to complete the training. Standard topics include:
- creating and using graphics,
- using presentation software,
- desktop video conferencing,
- offline browsing,
- using scanners and digital cameras,
- electronic fieldtrips and emissaries,
- newsgroups and e-mail lists,
- Web page design,
- advanced search techniques,
- evaluation of online resources,
- distance delivery, and
- legal issues and ethics (related primarily to use of copyrighted material in distance delivery and on the Internet).
The MTs use a "teach-show-do-apply" method and use more than half of class time for self-paced, hands-on activities. The classroom is a community of about 20 learners, with an MT acting as a facilitator of discovery rather than as an instructor delivering packaged knowledge. MTs give examples, model methods, and guide attendees in revising existing curricular components to include technology where appropriate.
Just as a carpenter does not have to stop and think about the way to swing a hammer, teachers should not have to stop and think about the technology they use to improve teaching and learning. For this reason, MTs model transparent use of technology for LTT participants during training sessions, and LTTs in turn model the same for their peers and students. For example, a social studies teacher may use a spreadsheet application to demonstrate how a newscaster can predict presidential elections with only a percentage of polls reporting. Without focusing on the spreadsheet as an end in itself, the teacher can use it as one tool in a lesson. The students may then learn to use a spreadsheet to report survey data on such topics as favorite cars or ice cream flavors. In this way, students begin to gain technological skills that they will need in the workplace.
Where and When? The quality of facilities and equipment is uneven from district to district. To ensure the availability of the best labs and technology tools to all teachers in each of the six regions, each institution makes whatever facilities it possesses available to all institutions in its consortium. In the OKTechMasters region, this means that teachers from any district or school may attend LTT training sessions held at any other school. While some districts or schools may have more participation than others, no school or district can block the participation of teachers from other schools or districts. During a given week, up to five different sessions may be running concurrently at different locations. Diverse groups of teachers from both public and private, K-12, technical, and higher educational institutions attend sessions at any location they choose. This arrangement offers teachers from across Oklahoma and Cleveland counties access to equipment within 50 miles of their homes. Depending on the equipment available at the training site, the MTs adapt the instruction appropriately. Their adaptability models the idea that the content, not the hardware, should remain the focus for teaching at any level.
Depending on their individual schools and/or districts, certified LTTs may serve one of several functions. They may continue to teach their full load and provide mentoring for those teachers that ask for help. They may collaborate with other LTTs from their own district in order to demonstrate how infusing technology has changed their teaching or improved student learning. Some LTTs even take on full-time special assignment positions for one or two years to provide mentoring within a school or district.
In order to meet the state legislature's goals, MTs hold training programs for LTTs year-round. MTs receive hourly pay for training hours that exceed the contracted workday for their school or district. HB 1815 funding will be available until 2002, when the state legislature will consider the continuation of funding.
Results of the Training Initiative
There are approximately 50,000 K-12, higher education, and technical education teachers in Oklahoma. In the past three years, 2,500 of them have received LTT training and implemented newly learned skills into their instruction. As a result, Web-based lessons and technology projects have been infused into every grade level and content area in the state educational system. The OKTechMasters consortium has worked to integrate technology into its schools particularly well. In addition to training MTs and LTTs and providing follow-up training, OKTechMasters recently became the state partner for ThinkQuest, an international competition that awards scholarships and other prizes to teams of students who develop instructionally valuable Web sites.
An initial evaluation of the state-wide training program (based on anecdotal reports from trainers and learners) indicates that teachers have successfully infused technology into their classes, student achievement has increased, and student interest in learning has skyrocketed. In a preliminary report to the legislative telecommunications task force, Dr. William A. Coberly (1999), Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Tulsa, declared that the program "has been very successful and cost effective . . . The vision of the legislature, the administration by the Oklahoma Vo-Tech System, and, most importantly, the enthusiastic response of Oklahoma's teachers should be commended" (p. 4).
The ODCTE currently monitors the training completion rates of LTT participants but has not conducted formal research on how the program affects instruction or student achievement. As data from Oklahoma's state skills test (PASS) and other standardized tests become available, a more rigorous analysis of the relationship between technology-infused instruction and student achievement will be possible. We hope to report detailed findings to The Technology Source within the next year.
Coberly, W. (1999). Educational benefits of HB 1815: Preliminary findings. A report to the telecommunications technology task force. Oklahoma City: Oklahoma State House of Representatives.hidden objects gamesdownloadable pc gamesdownloadable gamesmanagement gamesbrain teaser gamescard gamesshooter games