Critical Technology Issues for School Leaders
reviewed by Michael McVey - July 05, 2006
Every administrator who spends district money on educational technology, both software and hardware, must surely pause to contemplate the creeping shadow of technological obsolescence. As a personal example, in the year 2000, I purchased a digital camera for my school capable of storing four digital images on a single floppy disk inserted directly into the device. A mere two years later, a small mega-pixel camera capable of storing thousands of images on an inexpensive solid-state disk banished my first camera into an extreme form of obsolescence. With my cautionary tale in mind, the author of any book about technology issues in schools must be aware that the subject matter is a moving target, at best, and requires an approach that is dangerously general in nature to avoid falling off the precipice of obsolescence as did my first digital camera.
Susan Brooks-Youngs book, Critical technology issues for school leaders, attempts to provide some essential insight into evolving technology issues for K-12 school administrators without painting too broad a generalization along the way. The overall strategy for each chapter is clear: 1) outline the issue, 2) frame its importance, 3) support the position with facts, 4) offer suggestions and recommendations, and 5) provide additional resources. This organizational strategy sometimes has the effect of missing her intended audience but, generally, she hits the mark.
For the purpose of this review, it is important to note that the perception of educational technology has shifted over the last few decades. Instructional technology was, in the early days, viewed primarily as media production. For example, companies were producing educational films almost from the beginning of filmmaking. In 1914, Richard Bennetts Damaged Goods warned viewers of the effects of venereal diseases. By the 1960s, scholars viewed educational technology as a process. For example, Finn (1960) suggested that educational technology should be viewed as a way of looking at instructional problems and examining feasible solutions to those problems. By 1977, the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) adopted a definition embracing the complexity of educational technology as an integrated process involving people, procedures, ideas, devices, and organization, for analyzing problems . . . and managing solutions to problems (p. 1).
Today, scholars view educational technology as a means of facilitating learning and improving student performance. Impressive advances in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) over the past decade have created a host of complex issues that have made an immediate impact on the working lives of teachers in ways educational technologies never have before. Issues of digital copyright, protection of students from online predators, and government funding for new technology in the classroom can each stand as issues worthy of full texts for administrators. The one issue that most scholars appear to agree upon is that where educational technology is concerned, the crux of most of the issues is change, how teachers deal with change, and how change affects learning and teaching. This is not to say that the issue of change itself is without controversy.
On one hand, there is piecemeal change, in which administrators are able to effect change in small measured doses as funding becomes available. Although there are local administrative debates over such issues as updating the schools Acceptable Use Policy and the use of student blogs in the classroom, broad systemic change is taking place in statewide legislation and in district policies (Reigeluth & Duffy, 2007, p. 210). Recently developed hardware and software for Information and Communications Technology is changing the work environment for teachers, the social architecture in which schools operate, and the districts relationships with students, their parents, and community stakeholders.
Regarding the evolving role of the technology coordinator, Brooks-Young is at her best as both advocate and champion for this emerging partner for every administrative team. The author argues that the role of the technology coordinator is evolving beyond hardware and software installation and resultant troubleshooting. Reporting requirements for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and organizing data for funding applications have placed many technology coordinators in a position of responsibility for data collection and analysis. Of even greater importance is the degree to which technology coordinators have taken on responsibility for supporting instruction. In fact, this book could quite easily serve as a guide for explaining the nature of the skills required of technology coordinators in schools today.
According to the author, school-wide discussions of issues related to the integration of technology for teachers, the changing nature of the technologically well informed student, and the nature of information literacy have made the technology coordinator an essential participant of any administrative team. If educators seek to develop an intelligent plan of action for issues such as the creation of a media center, a policy about digital copyright, or the training of teachers to use new technologies, they call upon the technology coordinator. When schools want to determine where blogs fit into the classroom, how teachers and students should access streaming video, or how best to develop a web presence for the school, it is the technology coordinator whom they approach most often for input.
The author makes a very strong case for schools to concentrate on how they will use technology to support learning, make the best use of instructional space, and involve teams in major decision-making, but her analysis is limited by the structure of the book itself. With the understanding that this book serves as a starting point, she has provided many online resources for further reading. In effect, this book can serve as a guide for administrators who are determining the nature of the role of the technology coordinator in the schools of the 21st century.
Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1977). Educational technology: definition and glossary of terms. Washington, DC: Association for Educational Communications and Technology.
Finn, J. D. (1960). Technology and the instructional process. AV Communication Review, 8(1), 5 - 26.
Reigeluth, C. M., & Duffy, F. M. (2007). Trends and issues in P-12 educational change. In R. A. Reiser & J. V. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.