Moving beyond electronic worksheets

Many organizational web sites are simply online brochures: static entities with a few pages of information. They’re not interactive. They’re not updated. Once you’ve read the text and seen the images, there’s rarely a reason to come back later. This is particularly true for web pages made by individuals, small businesses, and, unfortunately, schools.

Institutions like universities and larger corporations seem to do a better job of updating their Web content and making their sites more interactive, thus increasing the likelihood of visitors returning later. The reason they can do this, of course, is that they have more money, training, and other resources at their disposal. A small business owner (or a teacher or  secretary who’s the school webmaster) who knows little about web design but knows that she needs a web site may be hard pressed to do more than simply upload a few basic pages.

Similarly, a teacher that’s being asked to integrate technology into her lesson may be challenged to go beyond very basic implementation. She might have access to Google Docs, for example, but she simply has her students use the service to download a pre-designed document, fill in the open spaces, and either print it off or upload it back to the class Moodle site. She might have a class blog, for example, but her students use it simply to upload their typed text instead of handing in their written text on notebook paper. In other words, she doesn’t know how to go beyond this ‘electronic worksheet’ model and take advantage of the affordances of the new technologies. She’s basically replicating previous practices - only with more technological bells and whistles - instead of doing something differently because the technologies now allow her and her students to do so.

The challenge for school leaders, then, is to move their teachers beyond what Bernajean Porter calls ‘adapting uses’ and into ‘transforming uses.’ Another challenge, of course, is that school leaders may not be very technology-savvy themselves and thus don’t really know how to help their teaching staffs move in this direction.

What successes have you had in helping school administrators understand this issue? What techniques and strategies have you implemented that help principals and superintendents assist their classroom educators in moving beyond ‘electronic worksheets?

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