Section V: Need and Previous Technology Efforts for Intstructional Improvement

INSTRUCTIONAL NEED:

NEED 1: Student performance in core content areas needs to improve

Student performance in math, science, social studies, and communication arts needs to improve in the Warrensburg school district. Below is a chart showing the percent of key skills mastered at several grade levels. A number of these scores are in the 40's, 50's, and 60's, indicating a need for programs that offer innovative teaching approaches for core content areas. The Warrensburg schools, as of the 1998-99 school year, no longer administer the MMAT's. We will be administering the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) assessments, however, and the available MAP scores also indicate that there is a need for instructional programs that will boost performance in core content areas (see the second table below).

Percent of Key Skills mastered on the MMAT (Warrensburg Schools)

1996 1997 1998

Grade 4
Reading

76%

76%

76%
Math

77%

85%

85%
Science

71%

71%

78%
Social Studies

87%

87%

87%

Grade 5
Reading

65%

75%

65%
Math

56%

63%

69%
Science

62%

77%

69%
Social Studies

55%

70%

65%

Grade 7
Reading

75%

71%

71%
Math

56%

44%

44%
Science

60%

53%

53%
Social Studies

79%

74%

74%

Grade 9
Reading

65%

73%

69%
Math

50%

50%

56%
Science

44%

50%

50%
Social Studies

60%

65%

65%

 

Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) scores (Warrensburg Schools)

Percent Scoring in Top 2 (Proficient and Advanced)

1997

1998

Math
4th Grade

42%

42%
8th Grade

19%

19%
10th Grade

10%

7%

Science
3rd Grade

-

54%
7th Grade

-

15%
10th Grade

-

4%

Communication Arts
3rd Grade

-

40%
7th Grade

-

26%
11th Grade

-

19%

 

NEED 2: Learning activities that address Show-me Standards involving problem-solving, responsible decision making, communication, and technology

Alignment of district curricula with the Show-me Standards and Curriculum Frameworks has only recently begun in our district and there is a need for development of instructional approaches that specifically address the Show-me Standards. The Show-me Standards are a powerful statement of the importance of offering students learning experiences that are more engaging and motivating. Real world problem-solving and decision making, effective communication, and use of technology are strong themes throughout the Standards and we must attempt to design curricula to facilitate this. Although a detailed list of Show-me Standards, along with activities of this program that address them, is provided in a later section (see Section VII), the following is a list of examples of Show-me Standards involving problem-solving, responsible decision making, communication, and technology:

1.1 (Goal 1, Standard 1) Develop questions and ideas to initiate and refine research

1.2 Conduct research to answer questions and evaluate information and ideas

1.4 Use technological tools and other resources to locate, select and organize information

1.5 Comprehend and evaluate written, visual and oral presentations and works

1.7 Evaluate the accuracy of information and the reliability of its sources

2.1 Plan and make written, oral and visual presentations for a variety of purposes and audiences

2.3 Exchange information, questions and ideas while recognizing the perspectives of others

2.7 Use technological tools to exchange information and ideas

3.1 Identify problems and define their scope and elements

3.5 Reason inductively from a set of specific facts and deductively from general premises

3.6 Examine problems and proposed solutions from multiple perspectives

4.1 Explain reasoning and identify information used to support decisions

4.3 Analyze the duties and responsibilities of individuals in societies

4.6 Identify tasks that require a coordinated effort and work with others to complete those tasks

4.8 Explore, prepare for and seek educational and job opportunities

Clearly, if these Standards are to be effectively addressed, we must begin initiating programs that involve students in real-world problem-solving, decision making, and information access and communication using technology.

NEED 3: Warrensburg teachers need training and assistance in instructional applications of technology

An important aspect of this proposed project is a large-scale, systematic training program that will allow 50 participating teachers to get intensive training tailored specifically to the instructional activities of the project. The Warrensburg district is making an effort, after many years of being far behind in technology, to make technology available to all teachers and students. This effort is exemplified by the designation of a teacher as a full-time technology trainer/support person (Mr. Stan Smith, Instructional Technology Coordinator). This position makes it possible to carry out an ongoing, large-scale training program during school hours, such as the proposed project. The following reports confirm the need for such a program:

A. District Technology Plan

The current district technology plan contains the following overall vision statements:

The proposed project addresses all of the above vision statements of the District Technology Plan, with a program of customized teacher training, allowing access to updated technology, and student activities involving real-world problem-solving and communication with community professionals.

B. The Goals and Beliefs of the Warrensburg School District

This document, adopted by the Board of Education on April 14, 1998, is part of our comprehensive school improvement plan and summarizes the main goals we wish to accomplish and the beliefs we use as guides in making decisions. The document contains the following statements:

The proposed project addresses the above goal and beliefs, particularly in its offering of a large-scale training program, preparing students for a technological future, and learning activities involving ethical decision making.

C. The Astra Phoenix Report

In 1997 the Warrensburg School District hired an educational technology consultant, the Astra Phoenix Group, to assess the district's technology needs and to make recommendations. Their report contains the following statements:

These observations and recommendations lead up to the recommendation that there be additional attempts to provide teachers with as much assistance with technology as possible. This grant project would allow 50 teachers in the district to participate in a customized training program resulting in a strong connection of technology to the curriculum.

D. The Show-Me Technology Plan

This project supports the Show-Me Technology Plan, which was developed by the Missouri State Board of Education to guide and facilitate state and local technology planning. These statements come from this plan:

E. MSIP Standards and Indicators

This proposed project addresses the technology and staff development aspects of the MSIP standards, including the following:

7.3 Item 3 Instructional equipment is appropriate to the curriculum and up-to-date.

7.5 Instructional Technology is an integral part of student learning.

7.5 Item 2 Appropriate instructional technology is available for students and staff.

12.1 A and B Professional Development. There are 6 items here that are addressed by this project.

Teacher training, particularly in technology integration, is fast becoming a major focus of school reform efforts, as these MSIP standards, and many other documents, indicate. This proposed project addresses this concern with an innovative approach to systematic training of teachers in a relevant instructional application of technology.

F. Faculty Surveys

The Warrensburg School District has recently considered a variety of different approaches to staff training in technology use, in an attempt to establish the best possible training program. To assess the perception of our teachers of the approach proposed in WebQuest Academy, that of offering release time to attend training for specific effective instructional applications of technology, a survey was distributed to all teachers in the district. A total of 118 surveys were completed and returned.

113 teachers (97%) indicated that they supported this approach to teacher technology training.

93 teachers (82%) specifically stated that they wanted to participate in the program.

Clearly, the response to this program, and the strategies it promotes, is very positive. In fact, there are far more teachers interested in participating than the 50 needed to fully carry it out.

G. The 1998 Missouri School Computing Census

Although some progress has been made in the last few years, Warrensburg Schools are still deficient when it comes to numbers of instructional computers, and therefore technology/curriculum integration. The numbers in the table below, which compare Warrensburg to state averages, illustrate this deficiency:

Category

Warrensburg Schools

Missouri
Students Per Computer

9

6.6
Students Per Internet Capable Computer

12

8.6
Students Per Internet Connected Computer

18

14

By increasing the number of Internet connected computers and providing training in instructional applications, the WebQuest Academy project will increase the level of technology/curriculum integration in the district.

PREVIOUS TECHNOLOGY EFFORTS LEADING TO THIS PROJECT:

The Warrensburg Schools Technology Committee is currently in the process of revising the district technology plan, which promotes, more than ever, the training of teachers in technology use and integrating technology into the curriculum. The district recognizes that technology must become an

integral part of teaching rather than an add-on, and that teachers cannot be expected to take this leap without numerous opportunities for training and assistance. This proposed project is ideal for the district in that it addresses both of these needs.

While the Warrensburg schools are still behind in acquisition of technology (see the table of numbers above), the district has made progress over the last two years. Although Warrensburg Schools had 18 students per Internet connected computer (as compared to 14 for the state) in 1998, this value was 83 students per Internet connected computer (compared to 24 for the state) the year before, in 1997. Progress has been made, but it is clear that the district still has a challenge ahead. Even more importantly, a result of our late "coming of age" with technology is that we have a teacher population with very little expertise with technology and technology integration. There is a real need for programs that 1) provide opportunities to engage in innovative technology integration activities, and 2) provide innovative approaches to staff training and assistance. This proposed project is designed to accomplish both.

The district has made significant progress in networking over the last three years. We have nearly completed Local Area Networks in each of the six main schools, and these networks are now connected by wireless transmission, forming a Wide Area Network, which is connected to the Internet by one T1 line (from MoreNet). We anticipate that all the Local Area Networks will be completely functional by the fall of 1999. This infrastructure will allow teachers and students to gather information and communicate in the proposed WebQuest Academy project. In this project students will communicate with representatives of various professions as they solve the problems featured in the WebQuests created by their teachers.

As the Warrensburg schools have become Internet-connected during the last several years, we have experimented with various instructional uses of the World Wide Web and have followed the trends in this area in the literature. A number of teachers have involved their students in web research projects and web page authoring projects, with positive and exciting results. The most impressive use of the web, however, was discovered when a group of teachers attended a two-day workshop on technology integration in the spring of 1998 (Facing the Challenge of Technology Integration, by McREL, held at Central Missouri State University). Here we had the opportunity to investigate the use of WebQuests, a powerful learning activity developed by Bernie Dodge and Tom March at San Diego State University. When participating in WebQuests, students use the power of the web to conduct research on a real-world problem, work cooperatively to construct possible solutions, and often they can share their solutions with others via the web. Using pre-existing WebQuests can be a very powerful learning activity, which requires little preparation for the teacher. We soon recognized the fact that WebQuests could be modified to fit the needs of individual teachers, which lead to the idea that, with adequate training, teachers could create their own WebQuests specifically design to meet the needs of their students. This idea, along with the need for an innovative teacher-training program, resulted in conceptualization of the WebQuest Academy project.

The Warrensburg district is currently experimenting with various approaches to teacher technology training. We have tried several variations of after-school training programs, as well as single-session inservice day training, which have shortcomings of one type or another. The training model of the WebQuest Academy project is based on the successes of our previous training efforts and on repeated requests from teachers to offer this type of program. The result will be a refined model of successful approaches to teacher technology training and assistance, which can be adopted by other school districts.

PROCESS AND PERSONS INVOLVED IN DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROPOSED PROJECT:

In the fall of the 1997-98 school year, the Warrensburg district made an important step in its commitment to technology/curriculum integration and staff training. Mr. Stan Smith, previously a middle school Life Science teacher, was hired as Instructional Technology Coordinator to develop and carry out innovative programs involving technology and training. In a position that is not split with teaching duties, Mr. Smith has the unique opportunity to devote complete attention to the coordination of such a program.

With Mr. Smith as the project coordinator, the WebQuest Academy project, which involves a great deal of teacher training and assistance, will not be bogged down by a lack of time or personnel. Mr. Smith has had extensive experience in staff training of all types, particularly technology use, including the teaching of several graduate-level classes focusing on instructional technology use. He has also had extensive experience coordinating innovative programs involving student technology use, including multi-school and multi-district programs of student communication and collaboration.

The project coordinator is also very familiar with the Show-me Standards and the Missouri Curriculum Frameworks. He served as a writer on the Science Curriculum Frameworks writing committee and has attended, as well as presented, numerous workshops on developing curriculum that addresses both the Standards and the Frameworks. His experience in this area will help to insure that this project effectively supports these state education reform efforts.

The WebQuest Academy project is an effort involving 50 teachers from K through 12'th grade, as well as community professionals who agree to provide feedback to the solutions of students. In planning this project, it has been important to include input from representatives of all grade levels and interests. The project's planning committee includes:

Stan Smith, Instructional Technology Coordinator and WebQuest Academy project coordinator

Doug Ebersold, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services

Sue Huffman, 1st grade teacher, Ridgeview Elementary School

Dawn Baylor, 1st grade teacher, Ridgeview Elementary School

Kelly Brooks, 3rd grade teacher, Ridgeview Elementary School

Jeannie Jones, 5th grade teachers, Sterling Elementary School

Jill Smith, 5th grade teacher, Sterling Elementary School

Vicki Guier, Media Specialist, Warrensburg Middle School

Kelly Blackwell, Special Education, Warrensburg High School

Chuck Appleton, Band Director, Warrensburg High School

Jerroll Edwards, Special Education, Warrensburg High School

Wanda Evans, A+ Coordinator and Guidance Counselor, Warrensburg High School

All members of the project planning committee are excited about the project and have contributed to its design, including logistical details of teacher training sessions, hardware and software selection, and activities promoting student learning in math, science, social studies, and communication arts. The planning committee has agreed to continue to work together in the fall, upon funding of the project.

During the 1997-98 and the 1998-99 school years, the WebQuest Academy project coordinator, Mr. Stan Smith, conducted extensive research of possible programs that would involve students in innovative, real-world applications of technology, and would provide teachers with an opportunity to design their own technology integration activities. The goal was to develop a program that would also address Show-me Standards related to problem-solving, responsible decision making, communication, and technology, as well as content knowledge in all four core content areas. The idea of creating the WebQuest Academy came up after exposure to WebQuests in the workshop mentioned above. Seeing the potential for an exciting technology integration project, an exhaustive search was carried out for information related to WebQuests. Training teachers to produce and then use their own customized WebQuests is an ideal approach that will meet the needs of the district. As students participate in these WebQuests, they will learn concepts related to the four core content areas and many problem-solving skills needed to function in the 21st century.

Once the equipment and software is in place, and teachers have had extensive training, this program could easily continue over the next few years, even if additional funding is not available.