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Sean Junkins

Current Conditions Synthesis Report

EDIT 760

With technology rapidly changing and evolving, schools are seeing new innovations turned into

instructional tools and resources. One new job of school leaders is to ensure new technologies

are being used effectively in their classrooms. Many school districts lay out broad technology

integration plans and general acceptable use policies, but school leaders have to know the unique

needs of their stakeholders and understand the impact new technology will have on teaching and

learning in their school building. In addition to the duties of principals in the past, the 21st

Century administrator must also ensure that the technology their students have access to is

efficient and effective and allows students to be productive. The NETS Standards for

Administrators outlines the role of a school administrator in meeting the changing duties and

responsibilities that come with being a school leader in the digital age. While being a

technologically competent leader is definitely a benefit, leading in these changing times requires

an administrator to be open to the process of change and able to empower and support teachers

and students as teaching and learning evolve as new tools emerge.

This report outlines the current conditions at Whittemore Park Middle School in regard to ISTE’s

NETS Standards for Administrators. This study will focus on four overarching themes that relate

to a number of standards and indicators found in the NETS document. The four themes covered

in this study include: school culture, 21st century literacy, digital citizenship, and technical

support. Whittemore Park Middle has some definite strong areas when it comes to evolving in

these changes times, but like all schools, it still has room to improve and grow to best meet

student needs and learning goals. The purpose of this report is to examine how Whittemore Park

Middle School is doing in its ability to meet the expectations set forth by the NETS Standards

and provide the school with an idea of what strategies are working and what areas could still

benefit from support. The findings in this study could be used by school administrators in their

role as technology leaders and facilitators as it provides a framework for how their school is

doing as an environment for teaching and learning in the digital age.

The data in this report comes from a 2015 survey administered via the BrightBytes Clarity

platform. Teachers and students completed this survey designed to provide school leaders with

information to help move their school forward in these changing times. The goal of BrightBytes

is to provide school leaders with evidence-based feedback that helps them make better decisions

in maximizing the impact of their school’s technology resources. When taken over time, the

BrightBytes Clarity survey helps schools measure the progress of their programs and initiatives

and more clearly see how changes in technology use and attitudes impacts student achievement

and growth. Essentially, BrightBytes intends to takes the guesswork out of the equation when

school leaders are attempting to measure the effectiveness of technology in their building. With

BrightBytes, school administrators have evidence to back up their decisions. With a better

understanding of how technology is being used in their classrooms, school leaders are better

equipped to address and support the needs of teachers and students to continue moving their

school forward.

Theme 1: School Culture

Leadership and support are essential to building a school culture that understands and appreciates

the increased use of and access to new technology. Educational researcher Robert Marzano

identifies effective leadership as one of the top five components impacting overall student

success and achievement. When it comes to effectively leading in the digital age, school leaders

have to be directly involved in and informed about what is taking place in their classrooms. This

requires school leaders to be visiting classes regularly, observing teachers consistently, and

engaging in conversations and discussions about best practices for teaching and learning in the

21st century.

At Whittemore Park Middle School, positive attitudes and beliefs about technology are present.

86% of teachers say technology is a regular part of classroom observations and 83% of teachers

agree that technology enhances their role as an educator. Even the students agree, 79% of

students say technology enhances their learning and 81% of students say their school encourages

them to use technology as part of their learning.

“Technology use in class can enhance student learning.”

encourages them to use technology as part of their learning. “Technology use in class can enhance

“My school encourages technology use for teaching and learning.”

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From this data, there appears to be clear evidence of administration supporting the use of

technology by teachers and students. It is also clear that both teachers and students see the value

of technology to improve and enhance learning, growth, and achievement. However, the reason

why school culture remains an area of support for Whittemore Park Middle is actually part of a

larger trend when it comes to the use of technology in schools. Nationally, many teachers do not

feel that technology is a priority at their school. A poll conducted by Walden University found

that only 66% of teachers feel administration supports their use of new technology. At

Whittemore Park, many teachers feel they are using technology to improve student learning,

meet district and school expectations, and show their commitment to the school’s vision, but

most don’t feel their efforts are being recognized or appreciated. In fact, only 28% feel they are

recognized for their use of technology in the classroom. That means almost three-fourths of the

faculty feels their time, effort, and commitment to technology is going vastly unnoticed.

Supporting teachers and acknowledging their use of technology is essential when it comes to

building a school culture that values the inclusion and integration of technology. While there are

many positives in this area, Whittemore Park still has room for growth when it comes to

appreciating the efforts of teachers in the classroom.

Teachers feel rewarded for integrating technology into teaching.

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Theme 2: 21st Century Literacy

Teaching and learning in the 21st Century is an ever evolving and challenging task. Teachers are

expected to prepare students for high-stakes, standardized tests while also ensuring they are

obtaining the skills necessary to be globally competitive in a changing world. Being literate in

today’s society means much more than being able to read and write. Modern day literacy

involves the ability to understand computers, visual images, the media, and many other digital

forms of communication. Today’s students need to be able to effectively communicate,

collaborate, create, and think critically. It’s the difficult task of the school leader to ensure

academic standards and district and state expectations are met while also encouraging teachers to

foster these lifelong skills in their students. If technology is intended to drive student growth and

achieve, students are using it in beneficial ways. New digital tools can provide access to

immediate feedback to help teachers make better data-driven students that ultimately benefit

their student learning outcomes. Being aware of what is happening in classrooms and the

learning experiences of students is critical to the success of a school in the 21st century.

For Whittemore Park, there are positives in the data when it comes to supporting the foundations

of 21st Century teaching and learning. Teachers are taking advantage of online assessment

resources that allow them to provide students with immediate feedback. If teachers are expected

to create personalized learning paths to best meet individual student needs, then feedback is

essential to ensure their actions are wholly data-driven.

Teachers administer digital or online assessments to a majority of their students

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Where the concerns lie at Whittemore Park Middle School are in the use of technology and

resources to allow students to create, collaborate, and communicate digitally and build those skill

sets that will allow them to become digitally literate 21st Century learners. From student

responses it’s clear they are not being given the opportunity to collaborate, create, or innovate in

the classroom on a regular basis. In a given month, only 49% of students say they are asked to

collaborate online with classmates. Only 47% say they are asked to write online in a given

month. Likewise, only 54% of students say they are asked to identify and solve real world

problems using technology on a monthly basis.

Teachers ask students to engage in 21st Century Skills.

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Theme 3: Digital Citizenship

Instant communication is now an essential part of a student’s daily life. Nearly all aspects of their

life, including education, come with some form of immediate interaction or feedback. However,

it’s critical for school leaders to understand that just because this generation of youth are digital

natives, they still need support in developing the skills that allow them to effectively and

appropriately communicate and interact with the world and the people around them.

Additionally, students may be proficient in using technology, but lack the expertise of how to use

technology as a productivity tool that can benefit them as a global citizen. It’s the job of schools

to foster conversations about the value of technology and its role in best meeting the unique

needs of all students. Technology does not make leading and learning more challenging, but it

does present school leaders with an extra layer of responsibility. Technology is no longer an

option in schools. If school leaders want their students to be competitive on a global level, they

have to be open to any opportunity that can improve instruction.

Whittemore Park Middle School has a culture and climate that values technology as a tool to

improve instruction. Access to technology and positive beliefs about its value are certainly

factors that support digital citizenship. However, there are other aspects that need to be present as

well. Providing access to technology is often a first step, but modeling and promoting its

appropriate use requires an on-going and fully sustainable commitment from school leadership.

As previously mentioned, 100% of teachers, and 80% of students, agree the use of technology in

the classroom enhances learning and likewise, both groups positively indicate their school

encourages them to use technology as they teach and learn. However, from teacher and student

responses it is evident that adequate time is not provided to ensure students know how to use

digital tools and resources appropriately, ethically, and legally.

In fact, 83% of teachers spend three hours or less teaching topics related to digital citizenship

and 50% of those teachers admit they don’t teach it at all. 60% of teachers spend less than three

hours of instruction on the legal use of web content and 70% spend less than three hours a year

on the topic of online safety.

Students are taught how to share information about themselves online.

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Time spent per year teaching about creating an online presence.

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Time spent per year teaching about using social networks for learning.

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Providing students with a framework for how to engage as digital citizens is essential. Students

need a basic understanding of how to use digital tools to appropriately engage with their world.

So often, students embrace new technology without ever understanding the possible

consequences. Students need to understand how to look at new tools rationally and critically and

understand the vast new role technology plays as an instructional resource to make them

competitive as individuals on much broader scales for success.

Theme 4: Technical Support

According to the BrightBytes survey data, 81% percent of staff feel that foundational technology

skills are easy to perform and even when it comes to more challenging tasks like collaborating

online, manipulating photos, and recording and editing audio. Where teachers at Whittemore

Park Middle School still see room for improvement lies within the tech infrastructure and

support itself. While the school principal may not be able to directly resolve or alleviate these

issues, it is still the job of the school leader to advocate for support and ensure teachers are

provided with working technology in order to meet the instructional needs of their students.

Currently, only 28% percent of teachers at Whittemore Park feel the quality of tech support they

receive is excellent or at least above average. The good news for Whittemore Park, however, is

that 84% percent of teachers say they feel comfortable in their ability to fix many of the

technology problems they encounter.

Teachers report that the quality of support for problems disrupting instruction is

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Teachers report that the quality of support for hardware repair is

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Timely and efficient tech support are critical to a school’s success with any technology initiative.

Teachers are unlikely to try new things in their classroom if they cannot rely on the technology

itself to operate effectively. Adequate support can alleviate teachers concerns and encourage the

use of new tools and resources to drive student learning. The good news for Whittemore Park is

that many teachers feel comfortable troubleshooting in an attempt to remedy their own problems,

however, if a technology issue is to overwhelming, teachers have to feel there is a system in

place to provide them support when it is needed. High quality technology and support is a

essential to fostering instructional growth with digital learning tools.

In many ways, I think Whittemore Park Middle School is ahead of the curve when it comes to

adapting to an every changing, technology infused learning landscape. The attitudes, beliefs, and

mindsets about the role of technology as a tool for teaching and learning are great signs. Getting

stakeholders to buy in to new technology initiatives is often a challenge in itself, but it appears

Whittemore Park has already cleared that hurdle. Where Whittemore Park needs to focus its

efforts is on sustaining their early successes and building for the future. Teachers have bought

into the school’s mission and vision, but if they do not feel their efforts are being recognized and

appreciated, their commitment, and enthusiasm could quickly dissipate. Additionally,

Whittemore Park is a Title I school with a challenging, and often low-performing, population.

There’s great pressure from state and district officials for the school to focus on improving

performance on standardized tests and assessments. While there’s no quick fix to resolve the

issue, state-mandated testing is likely depriving students of opportunities to create, collaborate,

and innovate in ways that allow them to build a repertoire of 21st Century learning skills. What

Whittemore Park can do to address the areas of concerns in this report is devise a plan to provide

students with some form of digital citizenship training. It could be embedded within content

areas to eliminate the perception of its inclusion as a distraction from academic content. Students

could be reading about digital citizenship topics in their English classes and staying up on

current technology trends and topics in Social Studies and Science. Finally, tech support is not

something a school leader has inherent control over. Many times, the district, or outside

companies, are responsible for hardware repairs and infrastructure upgrades. But schools, just

like Whittemore Park, have successfully created in-house help desks and even developed student

technology teams in an effort to provide faster, in the moment assistance to teachers and

students. Again, Whittemore Park is on the right track and at a great place, but there’s always

room for improvement and growth when it comes to the changing nature of technology in the

digital age.