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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Action Research:
Assessment & Preparation for Assessment: Implementing Technology: A Study of the Effects of Teacher Training and Student Outcomes 

by Jerry Swanitz and Chris Mullin

Two years ago, Santa Ynez High School received a California Digital High School Grant. Under the terms of the grant, every classroom was wired with Internet access and an Internet computer available to every student. The purpose was to fundamentally change the way in which students access, assimilate, synthesize, and present information. The belief about the process was that the technology could not be effectively implemented until the staff achieved sufficient technological competence to feel comfortable using technology themselves to research teaching and content information as well as to use technology as a presentation tool in their classrooms. The terms of the grant being what they were and the tremendous importance of effective and directed staff development, we concluded that it was necessary to study the efficacy of the implementation of our staff development plan. Our research focus was whether our staff training has changed instructional delivery and benefited student learning as well as what were the prevailing attitudes toward technology among the students and teaching faculty. 

To conduct our research, our entire faculty was surveyed at the beginning of the two-year period with respect to the level of their technological proficiency. We then designed and administered a number of staff developments based on the surveys. These faculty taught in-services included two full day and seven partial day trainings as well as extensive one-on-one mentoring throughout the years. Near the end of the two-year period we again administered a technological proficiency survey, this one much more specific and exhaustive. We also administered a similar survey to the students in order to ascertain to what extent they were using technology and how they felt about its integration into our standard core curriculum. We focused on growth in four major areas:

  1. teacher presentation skills,
  2. teacher Internet skills,
  3. teacher use of email as a communication tool and
  4. the integration of technology into instructional practice. Beyond gathering a substantial amount of empirical data from both the students and teachers, we also collected hundreds of anecdotal comments relating specifically to attitude, observations and personal use. 

One of the most successful areas of improvement within the faculty was in the use of technology as a presentation tool. In the various in-services we frequently used PowerPoint as a teaching tool as well as a forum for teachers to compile their proficiency portfolios. We purchased a data projector for each department suitable for daily classroom use and the end result was a dramatic increase in the rate of teacher use of presentation software in the classroom, up from 15% to 63%. Likewise, the faculty, already somewhat competent Internet users, improved substantially, from about 50 % to 80% regarding the use of the Internet for teacher research of subject matter, for finding lesson plans as well as for implementing project based lesson plans. Whereas initially only about 50% of the faculty admitted to being aware of these possibilities our recent survey revealed that now 80% of the faculty make use of at least two of these three practices on a regular basis. Our teachers have also shown substantial growth in the use of e-mail as a communication tool with students, colleagues and the community. Half the teachers admit to using the email frequently for the receipt of student work, to communicate with parents regarding student progress, to communicate with students regarding homework and student progress, and to take part in some kind of professional list serve. Beyond the fact that well over half the faculty is doing all of these things on a frequent basis, 96% said that they communicate with parents via email regarding student progress. Finally, we found that well over three-quarters of the teachers were integrating technology into their curricula on at least an occasional basis. When asked to what extent students were using technology in the classroom for research purposes, 87% answered that they saw it on a frequent basis. Regarding student use of for student presentations, 70% of the faculty said that it was not an uncommon event. Likewise the same 70% said that they at least occasionally take their students to a computer lab for research purposes. Most telling of all was the 83% of teachers who said that they at least occasionally assign a finished project that demands technology beyond word processing. In conclusion, there seems be strong evidence that if a school invests in technology and supplements the installation of hardware with regular skill oriented in-services, the teachers will show a dramatic increase in both competency with and implementation of technology in the classroom. 

When students were asked about their observations of the technological classroom, 60% of the felt that their teachers were “knowledgeable enough” to help them complete technology related assignments. Likewise, when asked if teachers have given them assignments that have helped them growth technologically, 72% answered in the affirmative. This is a fairly positive figure which points to the fact that the faculty is actively encouraging this form of skill improvement. Furthermore, when asked if their teachers had taken them to a computer lab in order to use the Internet for research purposes, 93% said that this had taken place. One of the main focal points for students’ relationships with technology was in the area of tech presentations. We were eager to see if students were

  1. using technology to round out their own in-class presentations and,
  2. students felt that technological presentation tools were effective teaching tools. When asked if they had completed even one technology rich presentation on campus, 59% said that they had. The implication is that a fairly high percentage of students at our recently transformed technological high school is already making use of the presentation tools and software loaded labs available to them. Regarding initial student perception of technology in the classroom, 77% said that they felt their learning level was higher when the teacher used a data projector connected to a computer. 89% said that they actually preferred using some sort of technological tool when making in-class presentations and the same 89% said that they simply felt education was “more entertaining when fellow students and teachers present with technology.” In conclusion, there seems to be fairly clear evidence that the student body is already matching the faculty as far as willingness to use technology as both a research and presentation tool and as far as feeling that technology has lowered the affective filter. 

On-going, intensive efforts must be made to provide high quality staff development in both technology skills and the integration of technology in teaching and learning if the substantial investments in hardware and software in schools are going to make any significant difference in student attitude and learning. Time and the necessary dollars must be provided to make technology staff development possible, and since technology advances so rapidly the commitment must necessarily be on-going. Thought could also be given to the notion of a professional teaching year wherein teachers would be afforded the necessary time for training and staff development.


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