How Does Technology Influence Student Learning?

As my eyeballs are cross eyed from mind numbing work, my fingers ache (type five minutes, wait five, type five, ad infinitum), and my eyes wander outside wanting to goof off, I took a break from typing to contemplate my thesis project. I was contemplating how schools across from Virginia are getting rid of ITRT’s and the impact that we make on test scores, I came across this article from ISTE’s magazine:

Evidence is mounting to support technology advocates’ claims that 21st-century information and communication tools as well as more traditional computer-assisted instructional applications can positively influence student learning processes and outcomes. The Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET) has gathered compelling research and evaluation findings to answer frequently asked questions about how technology influences student achievement and academic performance in relation to three primary curricular goals..:

To finish reading the article, click here.

In the words of the famous Christmas poem, “Yes, Virginia, there are ITRT’s making a difference.”

10 Tips for ITRTs/TRTs to Remember

Liz Davis of The Power of Educational Technology writes a post that is a goldmine for my colleagues across the city and state as we remember how to reach the classroom teachers with integrating technology:

1. It isn’t really about the tool it is about how you use it
2. Differentiate
3. Don’t be the only teacher
4. Ask lots of questions
5. Enlist your PLN
6. Remember there is great teaching without technology
7. Acknowledge your teachers’ anxiety and expertise
8. Start with the early adopters
9. Observe your colleagues
10. Don’t touch the mouse

Read the full post here

Ramblings: Who Needs an ITRT* Anyway?

Chalk this up as one of those days where you want to run and do anything that causes total mind rot as your lower jaw hangs open and you sit there, staring blankly ahead, and making weird noises with your mouth, “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…” To whit:

a) This morning, while at work, I was asked to do all the work/teaching by a teacher, and I responded with, “I’ll be happy to assist you and show you how it’s done.” She stomped out.
b) Another one said, “I want to be a TRT and have it easy.”
c) This semester is 1000% harder than any class I’ve taken so far (Instructional Technology Masters) and my brain is flat lining.
d) A year ago I was in London seeing Big Ben ringing at midnight. This year, I’m mumbling through Instructional Design wishing for a breakthrough with cognitive enthusiasm.

How does one convince your staff the importance of technology integration? How do you encourage, coach, inspire, without being a glorified computer lab teacher? Thanks to Langwitches, a great post was written on (“Where education meets technology and they become good friends”), Technology graveyards: Why schools need instructional technology integrators. Take, for example, this passage: But on their own, the best teachers can’t possibly do a thorough or excellent job teaching and keep up with technological advances. This is not meant as an insult to the abilities of teachers to handle the complexities or additional demands; rather, it is an affirmation of their professional commitment to their career. Teaching — for those of you who are blissfully unaware — is an overwhelmingly demanding lifestyle that requires at least 50-60 hours a week when schools are in session to do well. To expect teachers also to keep up with emerging technologies is asking for superhuman accomplishment and sacrifices to other aspects of the teaching arena.

Ah, the bliss of NECC 09: we’re not alone!

*Instructional Technology Resource Teacher

My Perfect ITRT/TRT World

I looked over the shoulder of my colleague and heard her whimper, “No one ever responds to my blog/library Ning!” and she then looked at us (TRTs) with those sad puppy dog eyes. Even Tammy Worcester has talked about this same phenomenon. That got me to thinking, “What is a ITRT’s/TRT’s Perfect World? Here’s my Top Ten List:

(10) I hear laughing in the midst of stress (laughter makes the worst of stress go lower!). Thanks Dr. Stuckwisch for the guest speaker today!

(9) “I explored [name program] and found the coolest thing!” Thanks Mrs. Collins!

(8) “Put me in your calendar for [specific time] so we can plan a tech. integration unit for [SOL #].” It’s so neat when I hear this; so much better than, “Come on out anytime you want to.” Grrrr! Thanks, Ms. Brewster, S. Webb, Hawkins, Ruben, Diddle, Moulton, Bradshaw, JT Third grade team, and Mr. Haugen!

(7) I have an ongoing conversation going (translation: comments) on this blog. Read Tammy’s post here. Thanks Mrs. Barth, Froehlich, Meents, and Mr. Fisher!!!

(6) I have more requests to assist in classrooms/planning sessions than I have time. This really is something that puts a TRT on a “high!”

(5) The Gradebook Missing Grades Report is empty.

(4) Being psyched and “pumped” from teaching that day.

(3) I have a teacher that faces their fear of technology head-on and doesn’t give up. Thanks, Mrs. Rhodes and Mrs. Collins (and the 2nd grade team for tackling Gradebook!)

(2) I meet someone who meets overwhelming stress with a smile and upbeat spirit. Thanks, Mrs. Westbrook, for always being an encourager!

(1) …When I hear a teacher say, “Wow! Look how much I’ve learned!” Thanks, Mrs. Hawkins, Patgorski, and Miss Webb!

Do you want to make my day? The first teacher from JT and OB who has not responded to my blog before, or for a very long time, and responds to a post gets a free lunch from me.

And Your Job is What? Instructional Technology

I need to be writing a paper. I need to focus. I want to be in my chair in the living room, fast asleep, enjoying the cool breeze through the window and the sounds of the crickets outside. I’m doing none of these. I need MOTIVATION! Both my daughters are working on their Bachelor’s, so dad needs to set an example. I am pumped, though, for one of our readings for The Paper To Write actually caused a rush of oxygen to the brain and a cognitive awakening. Ah, Paula, you’ve made my evening!

Paula Christopher, in her “What is Instructional Technology? — a personal reflection” paper, writes a quote that made me high-five the air:

What is an instructional technologist? It is someone who enjoys learning; understands learning theory; communicates well; is flexible; can see the “big picture;” has an inquiring mind; has developed good problem-solving and analytical skills; can manage people, time and money; is well-versed in learning delivery techniques; has a technical knowledge of the inner workings of acomputer; and above all is creative — in short — Superman and Wonderwoman. Besides leaping tall buildings with a single bound, what does an instructional technologist do? Anything and everything.”

For my fellow ITRTs out there, three cheers!

For further reading, Paula’s paper is here: christopherwhatisit

ITRTs (Virginia) Help Improve SOL Scores wonder what benefit a TRT/ITRT has with instruction? Teachers are stressed trying to meet SOL passing score benchmarks, and a recent study by SEDTA (State Educational Technology Directors Association) reports “In 2006 the VDOE…examined the relationship between the instructional technology resource teacher program and levels of technology practiced in schools, impact of the instructional technology resource teacher program on classrooms and teachers, …and on students. The results indicate major improvements occured in 32% of the subject areas tested by the Standards of Learning tests, most dramatically in English reading.” Interested in reading more? Click here: Virginia ITRT program report from SEDTA

How Does a TRT/Tech Resource Specialist Best Meet the Needs of Teachers?

VSTE is looming on the horizon. The Movie Maker workshop for the art teachers is getting close. Am I ready to work on a Masters through Va. Tech? How’s Internet Safety coming along? Time to schedule meetings with the primary teachers about the Gradebook report card roll out. Orchard training on Tuesday–need to review that one more time. When’s your next morning Starbucks session? I need to prepare for Kerry D’s visit to sixth grade and prepare for the luncheon. The Promethean Board punch list needs to be completed. The QX3 microscope is being ugly–could you come upstairs and take a look at it? I better update my weekly log. Get the COW cart to first grade early so in case there’s a problem, it can get fixed before class starts. Spring workshops need to be prepared.

The life of a TRT! And, my colleagues and I still will get that nagging feeling in the back of our minds, “How can I better serve my staff?” It’s a constant struggle of wondering how to better meet the needs of teachers of encouraging, serving, and assisting.

One way is by empowering through training.

This can be done in small groups, before school (i.e. Starbucks Sessions), after school, and city-wide workshops. We (I.T.) are preparing for workshops in the spring that will address needs listed in the assessment survey that teachers filled out in the fall. The most requested workshops were Movie Maker (and it will be improved even more for those who have taken it before), PhotoStory, and PowerPoint strategies.

Even though I want to be all things to all teachers, I realize that the best way for me to meet the needs of my 71 teachers and 1,000 students is to remember what I went through in my 20 years in the classroom and roll up my sleeves.

Huzzah to my wonderful staff members! Thanks for being the kind of wonderful teachers that make it fun to come to work and come into your classrooms! If you ever need help in the classroom, don’t hesitate to shadow my office threshold!

A TRT’S Top Ten List of To Dos


For the past twenty years, my wife and I have taken our Christmas break to recharge our batteries and induce a self-imposed sabattical from daily stressors. Now that I’ve had time to recover, what do I want to plan to accomplish this year?

1. I WILL learn Sony’s Vegas.
2. I will encourage Nancy to enjoy learning it with me.
3. I will major the majors and minor the minors.
4. I will not worry about those things that cannot be solved by worrying.
5. I will not fret about my younger daughter graduating this year from high school.
6. I will coteach in a second grade classroom. All other grades have invited me.
7. I will listen to Bill and Nate and start working out.
8. I will stay calm as I think of presenting at VSTE in February.
9. I will probably break #4 as I panic thinking that I will have TWO daughters in college at THE SAME TIME.
10. I will think of something good for number ten!

What new thing will you do with technology this year?

Reflections of a TRT/ITRT

Are you a Busyoholic? Are things going so fast that you forget to stop and catch your breath?

I wish that there could be a Virginia ITRT Get Together (NOT to Shop Talk) but to have one of those, “What, you too?!?” lunches/dinners/socials. This past week our first Log Reflection was due, and as I reviewed my first quarter, it was amazing how time just seemed to be swallowed up and not everything got finished that I had hoped to do. I have 71 teachers and 1,000 students that I’m responsible for serving, department responsibilities, lesson plans, administrators, training schedules to prepare for, the on line Pinnacle Gradebook pilot at Olive Branch, and so on and so on, and wonder how 24 hours can be extended! Add to that family responsibilities, outside activities, and, well, you get the picture.

This all came into perspective yesterday.

My wife and I, along with six other friends, met a family from Myanmar. There were three generations, and only one person, the teenager, their translator, spoke survival English. We found out that for nine years they lived in refugee camps in Thailand and finally were able to immigrate to the U.S. The weariness showed on their faces and hardship was evident. The two children, though, (four? five?) were oblivious to the sufferings of the elders, and played at their feet. The eldest is just a year older than I am and looked 20 years my senior.

Their work schedule is grueling and put in 72 hours of work a week just to survive. Imagine not only this, but not understanding the language of the people you work with (when I worked in China, for example, after a month of Mandarin, I was EXHAUSTED). Two thirds of the way into our visit, the grandfather broke down and cried just from the exhaustion, stress, and responsibility. It was as if the last ten years finally reared their ugly head.

And we complain because we don’t have the latest toys (plasma TVs, new cars, ad infinitum). Suddenly, the stressors came into perspective. I might not get to all 71 teachers the same week and be all things to all people, but, it was fascinating to see how technology integration has increased in our schools. What was the secret, I think? Taking time to get to know each other first, realize that we’re all in this together, and being a former classroom teacher, I know exactly where to jump in the trenches with you and how to watch your back.

This weekend was a good time to reflect over not only my work, but in how we spend our time here on the earth. For example:
• My wife, daughter, and I watched a squirrel making a nest.
• I was approached about working in Europe next summer.
• I met the family from southern Asia.
• Looking at my ClustrMap (to the right), I was amazed how many friends from around the world have looked at the blog.
• My wife had a candlelight dinner for us for no particular reason—just to have one.
• A friend from Brazil wrote and said he’ll be at our home for Thanksgiving.
• My daughter called and will be home (Lexington, KY) for Thanksgiving. She’s bringing a friend.
• The family watched movies together and didn’t do any work.
• I wanted to hear some Christmas music. I played it. Who cares if it’s not December yet!
• I turn 49 tomorrow. A colleague gasped and said, “You sure don’t look that old—you look much younger!”

Life is good, in spite of not being able to be every where at every moment and being able to do everything.