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Know the ISTE Standards for Administrators: Systemic improvement

By Helen Crompton 2/4/2015 Leadership Professional learning

ISTE Standards for Administrators 4: Educational administrators provide digital age leadership and management to continuously improve the organization through the effective use of information and technology resources.

To best understand the fourth ISTE Standard-A, we first have to unpack the definition of systemic improvement. For the improvement in your school or district to be truly systemic, it must involve a step-by-step procedure that staff can conduct on an ongoing basis. And to ensure the procedure really works, a good administrator would also find a way to measure the effectiveness of his or her educational organization and apply this same measure on a regular basis to ensure continuous improvement.

Systemic improvement should happen at both the district level and the school level. Although administrators are responsible for multiple systems, this article focuses on instructional practice, and there are many strategies you can use to evaluate instructional practice.

One strategy is classroom observation. Check out the ISTE Classroom Observational Tool (ICOT), a free computer-based tool designed to support observers in assessing technology use in educational establishments. You can print out the ICOT sheet to use as a paper-and-pencil assessment, but it works best if you download and use it on a mobile device in the classroom. Tech coaches and teachers can also use this tool, which is available for use with permission. (Contact permissions@iste.org for more information.)

The three approaches in the table below show a few different strategies a school principal could use to begin a process of systematic improvement of technology use for instruction. Any of them could be expanded to the district level.

Standard 4: Systemic improvement

Educational administrators provide digital age leadership and management to continuously improve the organization through the effective use of information and technology resources.

Approach 1: This administrator has chosen to evaluate the use of technology throughout the school by walking around the building to observe how technology is used and writing notes about things that appear noteworthy. Approach 2: This administrator has decided to use the ICOT tool to evaluate the use of technology. This tool interprets the data, and the administrator shares it with the school staff. She then determines strategies to meet the needs that the evaluation uncovered. Approach 3:This administrator has developed a bi-yearly evaluation schedule using the ICOT tool. The data are interpreted and after each evaluation the results are shared with the school staff. Strategies are determined to meet the needs uncovered by the evaluation. To support continuous positive change, this administrator puts in place a policy to ensure that staff who are hired at the school use technology creatively and proficiently to advance academic and operational achievement.
a. Lead purposeful change to maximize the achievement of learning goals through the appropriate use of technology and media-rich resources. Absent: No plan is evident for using the data to enact change. Addressed:A plan is in place to collect data and initiate strategies to improve technology use. However, a one-time evaluation will not result in continuous improvement. Addressed: A plan is in place to collect data and initiate strategies to improve technology use.
b. Collaborate to establish metrics, collect and analyze data, interpret results, and share findings to improve staff performance and student learning. Absent: There is no evidence of organized data collection. Addressed: The ICOT is used to collect data, which is then interpreted and shared. The administrator initiates strategies to improve technology use based on the data. However, a one-time evaluation will not result in continuous improvement. Addressed: The ICOT is used to collect data, which is then interpreted and shared. The administrator initiates strategies to improve technology use based on the data.
c. Recruit and retain highly competent personnel who use technology creatively and proficiently to advance academic and operational goals. Absent: This approach does not address this indicator. Absent: This approach does not address this indicator. Addressed: A policy is put in place to recruit staff who use technology creatively and proficiently to advance academic and operational achievement.
d. Establish and leverage strategic partnerships to support systemic improvement. Absent: This approach does not address this indicator. Addressed: By using the ICOT, this administrator is partnering with ISTE. She is also sharing the ICOT data with the rest of the staff. Addressed: By using the ICOT, this administrator is partnering with ISTE. He is also sharing the ICOT data with the rest of the staff.
e. Establish and maintain a robust infrastructure for technology, including integrated, interoperable technology systems to support management, operations, teaching and learning. Absent: This approach does not address this indicator. Absent: This approach describes only the one-time use of the ICOT tool. Therefore, the change will not become fully established or maintained. Addressed: Through the continuous plan to use the ICOT tool to improve technology use throughout the school.

In Approach 1, this principal has chosen to evaluate the use of technology by doing a walk-through observation and making personal notes. This example has no systematized approach, no evaluation of the collected data, no sharing of information and no plan to continue these observations. Therefore, this approach does not meet any of the indicators of this standard.

The school principal in Approach 2 decided on the systematic approach of using the ICOT to conduct the evaluation. She then interpreted the data and shared it with the school staff. This process also includes developing strategies to meet the needs the evaluation uncovered. This approach addresses many of the indicators for this standard. However, the principal has not developed a plan to conduct continuous evaluations of the use of technology over time. This means that she won’t be able to do comparisons and measure growth over time. There is also no plan to recruit staff who are competent technology users.

In Approach 3, the principal has decided to use the ICOT twice a year to evaluate technology use to see growth over time. This systematic approach includes data interpretation and data sharing with the staff. He develops strategies to meet the needs the evaluation uncovered and has a plan to assess the technological competency of potential new hires. This approach provides evidence of meeting all of the indicators for this standard.

Bottom line: To ensure that improvement in your school or district is systemic and continuous, you must not only implement a step-by-step process, but also put in place the means to measure, update and repeat on a regular basis.

Acknowledgement

Diane Burke, a former high school principal from Monument, Colorado, and professor emeritus at Keuka College, New York, assisted in writing this article.

Helen Crompton is an assistant professor of instructional technology at Old Dominion University in Virginia. She is a researcher and educator in the field of instructional technology, and she earned her Ph.D. in educational technology and mathematics education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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