5. Technology Mission and Vision
b. Vision for technology use
Guidelines / Requirements for compliance in this section (from the Peer-Response Rubric):
- The plan includes at least one page of narrative descriptions or scenarios of how (1) instructional uses of technology; (2) administrative uses of technology; and (3) parent/community uses of technology can best support students’ achievement of the QCC in the future.
- The narratives illustrate what types of things System members will see, hear, and feel if the mission is being fulfilled.
Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) supports the instructional use of technology in each of its schools. Each school includes three staff members with a focus on instructional technology use: the Media Specialists, the Local School Technology Coordinator (LSTC), and the Technology Support Technician (TST). LSTCs and Media Specialists are certified educators, and the TST supports and maintains school technology. In addition to these professionals, GCPS provides the infrastructure to access essential information through technological systems and processes that support effective performance. In this way GCPS proactively addresses all issues associated with the expanding demand for digital resources focused on educating students in the 21st century. On the following graphic, a simple diagram of the interconnectivity of these three roles is illustrated.
GCPS has also developed several case studies that relate to the use of instructional, administrative, and parent / community uses of technology to fulfill Quality Core Curriculum (QCC), Georgia Performance Standard (GPS), and the GCPS Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) requirements. These case studies are examples of how GCPS is working to improve the use of instructional technology throughout the school district, and represent the leaders in the school district for technology use in the classroom and throughout the school.
Students will have greater access to multimedia network resources during the school day, unencumbered by delivery issues due to a limited network capacity. With this increase in network capacity, students will be encouraged to utilize the growing collection of audio and video resources available to all Gwinnett County Public Schools students. During peak times of network usage, students will be capable of working with network intensive resources without slowing down the network for those students engaged in online assessments or other critical applications.As the number of teachers who integrate network resources into instruction grows within GCPS, so too will the demand placed on the network to carry these resources to students and teachers. Today’s digital materials include a growing number of high quality, high resolution multimedia resources, graphic intensive websites, and online applications requiring large amounts of data. A robust and well managed network infrastructure will successfully enable the continued development of learning situations that rely on digital resources of continually increasing size and complexity.
Case Study: Alton C. Crews Middle School, Lawrenceville, Georgia
Making Learning Stick the First Time
Dr. Janet Blanchette, LSTC at Alton C. Crews Middle School in Lawrenceville, Georgia, exemplifies the GCPS philosophy that technology should not be taught as a separate entity, but instead should be integrated as a tool to teach curriculum objectives.
No matter how comprehensive it is, having a technology plan is not enough. “You need a school-improvement plan, where technology is one of the tools used to accomplish your plan’s goals,” says the 2003 Crews Teacher of the Year.
No teacher seems to have any “extra time,” and some teachers still think that technology instruction is an extra – something you do “if you have time.”
“These teachers need to realize that you don’t teach out of a book, then if there’s time left over, come to the lab and teach it some more using technology. It makes so much more sense to spend that initial teaching time in the lab, or with the laptops in their classrooms. The lessons will be more effective and more memorable, from the start,” says Dr. Blanchette.
Quantifying the value of technology-based instruction as an effective teaching tool, however, can be very difficult.
Dr. Blanchette had a teacher at Crews MS try an experiment. The teacher had two of her classes each study “The Life Cycle of a Star.” One class was taught from the book, while the other class came to the computer lab to draw the cycle and prepare a presentation. Dr. Blanchette and the teacher, the late Lou Ann Caldwell, planned this lesson together. Dr. Blanchette is convinced that planning with the content objective in mind is the essential ingredient for making technology-integrated lessons effective and meaningful, as well as high-level.
Immediately afterward, “We tested both groups. Both scored equally well. So, we were thinking, ‘We were disappointed … we really had expected the technology-taught kids to do phenomenally better.”
But, six weeks later, she tested both groups again on the same information. “The groups that had drawn the life cycle on their computers remembered the information flawlessly. The classroom-taught group did not.”
Dr. Blanchette observes, “It’s these types of studies that convince us that, when the kids come in and have the opportunity to “draw” different concepts, like the parts of the flower, make it grow, write about it, present it, and celebrate it, they remember it!”
“As teachers, it seems like we spend half of our lives reviewing with the kids the things we taught them the day before. Technology-based instruction can help make the learning stick the first time,” she emphasizes.
Case Study: Lilburn Elementary School, Lilburn, Georgia
Lilburn Elementary School is an example of the way individual Gwinnett County Public Schools take the administrative data supplied by the Information Management Division (IMD) and focus it even more sharply for their local students. Because GCPS grants extensive instructional autonomy and site-based management to each local school, Principal Jackie Beasley is able to, in her words, “...look at the direction of the data, analyze the gaps it reveals, and then based on our students’ individual needs, redeploy some of our resources in ways that benefit my school.”
The challenge at Lilburn Elementary is significant. Over 77 percent of the students speak another language besides English in their homes. Over 85 percent of them are below the poverty line according to federal guidelines. In the past nine years, the school has gone from 32 percent of its students receiving Free and Reduced Lunches to almost to 85 percent today. High mobility is another facet of the challenge: many students fall behind because they don’t attend on a regular basis.
To meet those challenges and become Gwinnett’s only School of Excellence in the 2005-2006 school year, Lilburn Elementary relies heavily on technology. “Technology is one of the best vehicles I have,” says Jackie Beasley. “Next to a really good teacher and purposeful staff development, technology is the powerful tool that helps our kids do what they do.”
Once Ms. Beasley has analyzed the data provided by the central office, she works with her staff to fashion Lilburn Elementary’s Local School Plan for Improvement (LSPI). An LSPI is created in each local GCPS school to bring the plan to the local population, an essential step in a county with such a wide spectrum of student levels. Once the LSPI is established, the “individualizing” filters down even further as each classroom teacher develops a Results Based Evaluation System (RBES). The RBES then becomes each teacher’s marching orders for the year.
Ms. Beasley and her staff believe that SuccessMaker, The Star Report, Inspiration, Accelerated Reader, and other instructional software play major roles in their success with their challenging student population. SuccessMaker adds additional value because it is correlated to the learning concepts assessed on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). LSTC Jane Evans says, “SuccessMaker takes a major burden off our teachers. We test the children at the beginning of the year and get a reading level on them. We enroll them in SuccessMaker for reading and math and target the levels they need to score 320 on the CRCT.”
In a school with such a high ESOL population, a fifth-grade teacher may have students reading anywhere between kindergarten and eighth grade levels. One teacher can hardly meet that many needs. SuccessMaker, with its real-time data, is able to adjust to where each student is functioning today. Accelerated Reader is a reading emphasis software that is especially good at helping second language students acquire vocabulary.
This School of Excellence in Lilburn is bridging the gap through the use of administrative and instructional technology. As Jackie Beasley says, “If there's anything that my kids will need 10 or 15 years from now, it's the ability to deal with whatever technology is out there.”
Case Study: Berkmar High School, Lilburn, Georgia
The diversity within Georgia’s largest school system is as unpredictable as it is pervasive. Growth and migration within the metro Atlanta area has meant that, within any 10-mile circle of Gwinnett County, you will find several schools with totally different populations and needs. The growth is so rapid and transient that two things are necessary to cope with it: (1) autonomy for each school’s instructional approach and (2) a heavy reliance on the tools of technology.
Barbara Marschke, the LSTC at Berkmar High School, is quick to say that technology is the thing that is enabling her school to cope. “We are using technology to identify areas of needed instruction for specific students and student groups. With technology, we can identify in advance the students who are coming to us without the essential skills. The county provides several forms of data – we’ve just found a way to pull all that data onto one screen.”
In Marschke’s first year at Berkmar, her principal described a need. Multiple data sources were available from the county, but teachers and counselors didn’t have the time or the patience to go to each source, record the data about each incoming freshman, and shuffle all those paper notes together to plan student schedules and class sizes. The principal wondered if there were any way Marschke could pull all the data together on a single screen.
The LSTC set to work using Microsoft Excel and ACCESS. She developed a format that put all the IMD-supplied test scores and course histories on one screen. The system made it possible for planners to recognize needs for special class groupings – groupings that probably would have gone unnoticed amid all the paper shuffling that was formerly required. “All I was doing,” Marschke recalls, “was letting technology do the secretarial work so the planners could do their jobs better and faster. That’s the kind of thing that technology does best.”
Of course, one success leads to multiple “opportunities.” In response to another request, Barbara Marschke developed a database that makes it easy for math teachers and their students to track student achievement every three weeks. Instead of waiting until failure is looming, students are entering their scores every three weeks and realizing how each score effects their final grades. The system has helped so much with math performance that Marschke has been asked to set it up for all curriculum areas. By having the resources combined into a database easily accessible by teachers, more time is made available for teachers to focus on instruction.
Another victory for technology at Berkmar has been Barbara Marschke’s “localizing” of the data supplied by the county. Data at the county level cannot possibly include all the factors of each local school. For example, the county’s student scheduling program, part of a larger tool called SASI, may determine that a student is ready to take a certain course without knowing that the student lacks one or more prerequisites for that course or that the course is not offered during a certain time period. Marschke has taken the county’s data and added to it the prerequisites and other requirements of her local school.
An LSTC’s primary job is to train teachers. In a large high school like Berkmar, the myriad schedules of teachers and department heads make it almost impossible to schedule training sessions. So Barbara Marschke has made creative use of technology to meet that need. She began sending out short emails with "Tech Tips." Everyone liked the tips. A few people saved them but others began to flood Marschke with emails asking: "What was that Tech Tip you sent about..." or "I can't remember how to do..." Next step: Marschke created an Intranet housed on the school’s shared drive so that faculty members could easily access all the Tech Tips, links to all the testing sites, links to various curriculum resources, and even links to the local database such as the online checks for Progress Reports. Marschke says she tries to create “one-stop-shopping.”
Another Berkmar need has been met through online classes. Advance Placement students and others frequently need to take classes that are not available. There may not be enough students for a class or there may not be a teacher qualified to teach it. So Berkmar utilizes classes available online to meet those needs. Students can take remedial courses or any number of AP courses online. Some of the courses are offered by GCPS and others are taken through joint-enrollment with Gwinnett Tech and other schools. Since many students don't have computers at home, a bank of computers has been set up at school just for online classes. Some come in before or after school to use these computers. Others have periods specified in their schedules for online classwork. The Media Center stays open an extra hour so students can work after the school day.
Case Study: Live Homework Help
Gwinnett students in grades 4-12 have a personal online tutor as close as their home computer or the Gwinnett County Public Library, thanks to Live Homework Help. The service is free, easy to use, and available to students when they need homework help the most… between 2 p.m. and midnight, seven days a week. And now, Spanish-language tutoring also is available between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., Sunday through Thursday.
The online tutors-- teachers, college professors, and graduate students-- undergo a background check and extensive training before they are certified by Tutor.com, the nation's largest online tutoring service and provider of Live Homework Help. Tutors specialize in mathematics, language arts, social studies, or science. Spanish-language tutoring is available for mathematics and science.
Here’s how it works:
- From home, the student logs onto the library web site-- www.gwinnettpl.org-- clicks on the "Live Homework Help?" icon; then, enters his library card and personal ID number. (Students using a computer at one of the library's 11 branches, simply click on the icon on the main screen. No card or ID required.)
- First-time users at home are prompted to download software, which is an easy process.
- The student selects the subject and grade level. Then, it takes just a minute or so to connect with a tutor.
- The average session lasts about 15-20 minutes, but a tutor will stay online until the student understands the concepts. In the electronic sessions, participants use an interactive white board where they can draw a graph, work through a mathematical equation, or diagram a sentence. Tutor and student communicate via a chat function.
Live Homework Help is funded by a grant secured by Gwinnett County Public Schools and Gwinnett County Public Library.
The above case studies demonstrate that technology infused learning environments provide tangible benefits focused on student learning. With an improved network infrastructure and the high quality resources that will become accessible through it, GCPS will build upon these exemplary models of instructional technology enhancing all student learning environments, in the physical and virtual world.
Administrative Use of Technology
As teachers and administrators strive to support students in achieving the QCC, they will have a variety of technology tools that enhance proven educational practices. By making the most of available technology tools, teachers and administrators will improve their skill sets and stay on top of current best practices and instructional methods to support student learning.
To access and manage GCPS data resources for the effective and efficient management of instruction, (detailed in Section 3c) a number of system-, school-, and classroom-level data resources are available to monitor and adjust student learning activities. Teachers and administrators are currently provided with a combination of tools to help them in their tasks. With an enhanced network, GCPS administrators and teachers will be provided with world-class technology tools that will readily accept the evolving resources available in electronic formats.
While this list is not comprehensive, GCPS is constantly working to improve and augment the electronic resources available to the local schools and teachers. By upgrading the district's infrastructure and providing administrators and teachers with enhanced instructional technology resources, the above items will become district standards to be utilized in student achievement of GCPS.
Technology Use by Parents and Community
Parents and community members are invited to use technology to support student learning through a variety of activities and resources. Many schools host Technology Nights to showcase student technology use. Some schools with diverse ethnicities are also hosting "family" literacy classes that include the whole family in the use of ESOL software. Still other schools provide parents-only training on basic technology concepts so that parents have enough skills to encourage the use of technology in the home. A recent addition to technology resources includes CRCT Online, which supports the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). Schools use the CRCT Online resource to help students get comfortable with the content and style found on the CRCT by taking mini-assessments.
Some other technology-related resources available through GCPS include the following: