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Human talent and scaling expertise

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Using Students as Technical Resources

Building and nurturing an infrastructure for learning require providers and users who have knowledge and expertise in emerging technologies and a shared commitment to standards. We need people capable of developing and nurturing an infrastructure and specialists with experience integrating technology into curriculum development and assessment in meaningful ways. The right people in such positions would give education policymakers, leaders, and educators the courage and confidence to be more innovative – and take more risk – with technology.

The challenge of providing this level of expertise on the scale our education system requires should not be underestimated. Already, for example, the number of computers per computer technician in K-12 education is estimated at 612 compared with 150 computers per technician in private industry (CoSN, 2009). To an increasing extent, students and educators are handling routine maintenance and troubleshooting of computer equipment themselves. Programs have been developed to make the technical support and troubleshooting a learning experience for students as well as a cost-saving measure. Students can also develop both technical and leadership skills through this experience.

Another level of support required is a professional educator who can engage with educators on leveraging technology for improving their professional practice. Studies have found that educators are more likely to incorporate technology into their instruction when they have access to this kind of coaching and mentoring. (Strudler & Hearrington, 2009). Innovative approaches to staffing in schools that take advantage of online learning resources may free resources that can be applied to fund onsite mentors and coaches who can help educators make good use of technology resources.

When districts first began adopting computer systems, the IT department was usually Information Technology. The department’s concerns were with the boxes, wires, and software needed to run basic financial, personnel, and reporting systems. As time went on, districts instituted Instructional Technology departments concerned with the use of technology in teaching and learning. Some districts have both kinds of IT departments (under any variety of names), and some have combined the two functions under a single leadership.

Even in the latter case, those in charge of information technology for a district or state may find they are left out of deliberations on key decisions in areas such as instruction, personnel assignment, or assessment. Those responsible for instruction, personnel, and assessment, on the other hand, are often frustrated by technology that does not meet their needs. Effective process redesign within school systems will require close coordination among all these functions.

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