IT Integration Planning: The Role of the Facilitator

8 05 2007

Julie left a great question on my last post about our tech integration framework:

What sort of technology facilitator to teacher ratio are you advocating? One to 100 for example? One to a year level? One to a school section? Given that most schools, from what I can tell, have not embraced this position(s) as worthwhile….(what, not have your own classes!) I suggest you could come up with some suggestions as to what the facilitator model can look like. How many classes/students do you cater for? Is it too many? Also, administration structure…who makes the decisions? How powerful are YOU in your school? It would be interesting to compare notes on this.

This has been a very big decision at our school – just how much time is enough time to facilitate the integration of technology into our core classrooms?

Let me start with a little background about our school:

Right now we are focusing on the middle school to pilot our integration program. We are also integrating at the elementary and high school level, but the schedule has not been as flexible so most of the “pioneering” is being done at the middle school level. Here is the breakdown:

  • Our middle school has about 180 students.
  • Each grade level has 4 sections of about 15 students each (meaning 4 math classes, 4 social studies classes, 4 English classes and 4 science classes).
  • We operate on a 6-day rotating block schedule, meaning each day has 4 classes in 90-minute blocks, each student takes a total of 8 classes and each class meets every other day.
  • There are about 20 middle school teachers (several of whom also teach high school classes).
  • Teachers are required to teach 5 blocks (out of the 8 total blocks) to be full time.
  • We have 4 computer labs (1 is dedicated for middle school use) and 3 laptop carts (1 is dedicated for middle school use).
  • Each classroom has one “teacher’s” computer and some have 3 “student computers” (oh, how I hate those terms).

building-blocks.jpgThis year I am 60% IT teacher (teaching those wonderful 9-week exploratory classes to 6th, 7th and 8th grade) and 40% Facilitator, which means I teach 3 blocks out of the required 5 blocks that all full time teachers teach. The other blocks are free for co-teaching and planning integration projects with other teachers. Although this has been a great year, and we’ve laid the groundwork for next year, 40% is clearly not enough time.

Our plan for next year:

The middle school IT Facilitator will be 100% facilitation. The middle school IT exploratory classes will be canceled and 1 elective will take its place. This means that students are no longer required to attend any IT classes during their middle school years as it is expected that IT will be fully integrated into the curriculum. However, they will have the opportunity to take an elective class to learn about technology topics that may not be covered in the core curriculum (although I won’t be teaching here next year, I have some fun ideas about where that class can go).

This means that we will have:

  • 1 full time Facilitator (with no scheduled classes) for 20 teachers and 200 students working only with middle school classes (6-8).
  • A clear and documented mandate for technology integration which gives the Facilitator some authority over which projects are implemented.
  • A set framework which clearly outlines that every technology integration project must go through the Facilitator (who then liaises with the Student Services Coordinator and Librarian).
  • A public forum for documenting technology integration projects making it very clear to see who is participating and who is not.

We put all of these structures in place after observing how the process went this year. We realized that teachers need one-on-one support in order to effectively and appropriately integrate technology in their classroom, which means that the Facilitator needs more time to work with these teachers during the school day. We also realized that, although we have a lot of equipment, having scheduled classes in the lab blocks out many core classes from every utilizing the computers. Removing those scheduled classes will greatly free up our available resources.

One of my major complaints all year has been the lack of any authority given to the Facilitator. In reality, I am a teacher, equal to all of the other teachers, which means I have no right to request that teachers conduct certain projects or to ask them to modify their teaching strategies when working with technology. All I can do is advise.

This has put me in quite a few awkward situations this year, especially considering that technology integration is totally voluntary at this point. Teachers were not mandated to use technology this year, they were just encouraged. This meant that I only worked with teachers that were interested (which was very nice for me, but is clearly not fair for the students).

We have dealt with this issue by putting in place a mandate requiring teachers to integrate technology. We’ve had training sessions with the core teachers to present and discuss the mandate and to clarify expectations for next year. This should help with the authority issue.

Many of the teachers that were not successful with technology integration this year did not really understand how the whole process works. We had a few teachers assigning technology rich projects “for homework” and others who just never did anything because they didn’t know where to start. We tried to resolve this issue by creating a clear framework which outlines exactly what each person is responsible for. We are trying to put an achievable process in place so that everyone is clear on exactly how to go about integrating technology.

What kind of structures does your school have in place for the IT Facilitator’s role?

Image 1: http://www.iaqu.net/images/content/building%20blocks.jpg
Image 2:

http://www.businessinnovationinsider.com/images/2006/01/Cartoon%20flowchart.gif


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11 responses to “IT Integration Planning: The Role of the Facilitator”

    8 05 2007
      Alecia Berman-Dry (20:14:19) :     

    You know, Kim, I’m in exactly the same spot for next year that you were last year. The teachers in our school are “encouraged” to integrate technology, but not required. I have a good amount of support from the administration. Their philosophy derives from the “Field of Dreams” model, “Build it and they will come.” That can work ok, as long as it eventually leads to requirements that no one minds because they were eased into it through an encouragement phase. The thing I struggle the most with is the balance of power to which you allude. In order for my teachers not to feel threatened by me, I have to remain a colleague, a teacher. The moment I become administration to whom they are accountable, all of a sudden I am enemy to be resisted on principle. Have you encountered this, or it it just culture at my school?

    8 05 2007
      mark (20:20:29) :     

    Kim, as usual great stuff! Our middle school facilitators are consistently put in … well … the middle; they are expected to make positive changes with their peers, but not being administrators they have no authority or ability to force change to occur. As the incoming Tech Director i was hoping to help out in “the muscle” department and have a full commitment from the MS principal to help ensure our teachers are achieving their technological best, all while continuing the plan of celebrating (loudly) teacher successes (Utecht). I would love to read the wording of your school’s integration mandate, if you wouldn’t mind sharing. I am also interested to see how your school has set up its method of ensuring accountability from its facilitators. We have made some giant steps in the thirty-six months that i have worked here but still have lots of room to improve.
    As always, your post is fantastic,
    thanks
    mark

    9 05 2007
      Julie Lindsay (01:30:24) :     

    Kim, good for you! I so enjoyed reading your post! OK, I am bookmarking this and will come back to it again as I move into my new position next year and start again with new challenges, aspirations and hopes. I was particularly interested in your ‘public forum’ for documentation and the need to not only document but to celebrate technology integration projects. All too often the interesting and evolutionary projects in a school, however small or large, are not shared with the immediate or larger community. A school needs to foster a sense of ownership and pride in what they achieve and encourage their teachers to be out there sharing and not feeling as though what they are doing is insignificant (I mean, not worth talking about or sharing). A lot to think about!

    9 05 2007
      dharter (08:17:50) :     

    Awesome post. A discussion/thought that I have often!

    At our school we have two of us. Our ES facilitator is 100% ES facilitator and is responsible for about 700. I am 100% MS/HS and responsible for about 1200 kids.

    Luckily the ES guy helps me A LOT!!!!

    Excellent Delicious tag on the shopping malls of BKK! You are definitely ready to get here!

    9 05 2007
      Kim Cofino (13:27:08) :     

    Alecia,

    Good question! To be honest, I haven’t really tried to pressure to exert any power over any of the teachers this year. I have had the same experience as you in previous schools – teachers do not like being told what to do and without any authority to do so, it just backfires. So, I’ve been happily working away only with the teachers that are interested in working with me. It makes for much easier planning, but there are some big gaps where students have not experienced a quality tech-rich project. Next year when the mandate is in place, I think the Facilitator will have more of an authority to start connecting with those teachers and influencing which projects happen and when.

    Mark,

    Thanks for your positive feedback! The mandate is actually linked within this post (and I’ll link it again here)- it’s on our wiki on the “School Wide Vision” page, at the bottom.

    It really has helped to have my Tech Director totally on board with what we’re doing. He often supports me when issues arise that I don’t have the authority to deal with. Plus, if the Principal is supporting the process, teachers will eventually have to accept that this is something they have to do.

    I like your question about holding facilitators accountable. One thing that we’re doing is tracking the progress of every project and keeping a running record of which standards are met (both are on our wiki). The only problem (in my opinion) is that we still have the old NETS standards, which do not reflect the type of work we’re doing. Clearly, we need to upgrade to the new standards…

    Julie,

    Yes! I want to start getting a real community blog going to share successes. I post things on the wiki and on the blog, but I’m not 100% sure who is reading – it’s there, but who notices… This is something I’m really going to focus on next year at ISB.

    Dennis,

    You have a tough job! No wonder you’re always so busy! I’m ready to help out next year, though. We’re going to be an unstoppable team!

    2 03 2009
      Neil Anderson (12:56:17) :     

    This is our first year with 1-to-1 laptops at Grade 7 and the teachers are learning the best they can. Pretty steep learning curve for most of them. Any teachers there talking about leaving (or have left) if technology is mandated?

    9 03 2009
      Kim Cofino (09:50:17) :     

    @Neil,

    This was a previous school that I worked at, but no one left because of technology while I was there. I think even the most resistant understand that technology is part of the wider world (not just schools) and that these are skills they will need if they hope to get another job in future years. Sometimes that’s a good way to approach new training as well – how marketable it will make you to have had this experience. The bottom line for teachers, in my opinion is: are you willing to be a learner? If not, maybe teaching isn’t the right career choice…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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