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Firm, schools, students succeed with tech facilitation

Working to integrate technology into the classroom with the goal of helping Mississippi students improve their overall achievement standards and achieve technological literacy by grade eight is a laudable goal, especially since the federal No Child Left Behind Program links funding to achievements. A company based in Starkville is helping public school districts meet those goals with the use of a “technology facilitator.”

Synergetics DCS has technology facilitators who work with the classroom teacher to provide technology-infused lessons to the students that will improve technology skills while increasing academic achievement. The technology facilitator provides on-going support, feedback and follow up for teachers while they are working in the classroom.

“Significant improvements result when school districts incorporate technology facilitation into their professional development plans and hold facilitators accountable for data collection and analysis of teacher effectiveness,” said Meloney Linder, marketing manager for Synergetics DCS. “These improvements translate directly into student achievement gains, which is the ultimate purpose of the educational process.”

Part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is the Enhancing Education Through Technology program. Its goal is to improve student academic achievement through the use of technology in elementary and secondary schools. The program also seeks to ensure that every student is technologically literate by the end of the eighth grade, and establishes research-based instructional methods through the effective integration of technology, professional development for teachers and curriculum development.

Does it work? The proof is in the test scores.

“An example of the growth in reading is demonstrated by students in the Union Public School District,” said Amy Woodward, educational specialist and training manager for Synergetics DCS. “This district implemented the STAR Reading software as an assessment tool for student progress in reading. Fourth through eighth grade students demonstrated an average growth per grade level ranging from five months to 15 months in reading over the course of the year.”

Technology facilitators working with Union Public School District also assisted teachers with the implementation of the STAR Math and Accelerated Math programs. The technology facilitator provided training in group sessions and then followed up with individual, on-going assistance in the classroom.

“The STAR Math assessment was conducted in August, prior to students using the Accelerated Math program,” Woodward said. “At this time, the seventh grade students scored an average of grade equivalent 8.2. The STAR Math assessment was conducted again at midpoint, where these same students scored the equivalent of grade 10.4. At the end of the school year in May, these students scored the equivalent of grade 11.4, representing an overall growth of 3.1 years during the course of one school year. The method of providing continuing support during the implementation of this program is greatly responsible for the astounding results.”

Another example is the Kemper County School District where a technology facilitator worked with the seventh and eighth grades to help improve students’ language skills. The report card grades were examined each nine weeks to determine the effect. Over the course of the year, an average of 45% of students improved their language grade each nine weeks.

In the Sunflower County School District, the technology facilitator worked with fourth through eighth grades in language. At the first nine weeks, the students who were failing language were identified. The progress of these students was tracked over time. By the end of the school year, 33% of these students improved their language grade to passing.

Woodward says coupling technology facilitator training with available technology resources results in an effective strategy for meeting district, state, and national goals for highly qualified teachers and better student performance.

“Technology facilitator services have proven successful in producing student achievement gains and improving teacher effectiveness in the K-12 environment,” Woodward said. “A technology facilitator, also sometimes known as a technology integration specialist, or technology coach, has the primary responsibility to facilitate the integration of technology into the curriculum. This facilitation is provided to teachers in the classroom, thereby supplying support during the instructional process.”

The facilitator serves as a coach or mentor to classroom teachers as they learn the appropriate uses of technology in the curriculum, and assist teachers to locate and use technology resources in their lesson planning. During this process, the classroom teacher is learning to use the power of technology to improve teaching and learning.

According to the Mississippi Department of Education, technology facilitators do the following:

• Provide sustained, embedded professional development to teachers while they are working in the classroom.

• Guide teachers in the creation of high quality, technology-rich lesson plans.

• Provide on-going support, feedback and follow-up for teachers as they move through a continuum of activities.

• Coordinate meetings where teachers are given opportunities to share innovative ideas, lesson plans and successes with their peers, fostering a spirit of collegiality and collaboration.

• Encourage the creation of innovative classroom strategies using technology that enables teachers to transform the classroom environment from the traditional teacher-centered lecture format to an atmosphere of student-centered discovery.

The services of a technology facilitator are designed to assist school districts as they strive to meet the goals outlined in the state technology plan that include having all students meet or exceed the state standards for student literacy in technology by 2008. The state plan also requires all teachers will be qualified to use technology for instruction by meeting the Mississippi Technology Standards for Teachers by 2008.

“Clearly, these goals reflect the need for our educators and students to be technologically literate in order to compete in a global society,” Woodward said. “To accomplish this, our teachers must effectively integrate technology into the curriculum; our administrators must be the leaders and supporters of those efforts; and our students must achieve greater levels of performance through the use of technology as a tool.”

The program has also shown great success is helping improve the skills of teachers. In the Sunflower County School District, teachers scored an average of 70% on the Mississippi Technology Standards for Teachers at the beginning of the year.

“At the end of the school year, the overall average was 93%, representing a significant increase in the teachers’ technology proficiency and confidence in using technology in the classroom,” Woodward said.

Jean Millen, Sunflower County School District’s technology coordinator, said their teachers just needed someone to help them through the first hurdles of using technology in the classroom.

“Our teachers showed so much improvement on their technology skills,” Millen said. “Having someone there to help them through the rough times and show them how to do it made the difference. Our technology facilitator was wonderful. I wish I had more of them!”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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