How can administrators make informed decisions that result in successful uses of technology for teaching and learning? How can they know if their decisions are having an impact? To many administrators and school technology leaders, these questions present major challenges. However, a growing number of educators have discovered a solution. They are using TAGLIT (Taking a Good Look at Instructional Technology) to determine the perception of technology use and impact at their schools and to measure changes resulting from technology projects and initiatives. Mississippi administrators are among those using TAGLIT to evaluate technology initiatives.
TAGLIT is an online suite of self-assessment tools for school leaders, teachers, and students that provides measurements of progress over time (www.taglit.org). Dr. Sheila Cory and Jennifer Peterson developed the tools for participants in the Principals Executive Program. The Web version was initially supported by the BellSouth Foundation and is currently Web-enabled by SAS with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As a result of this support, many educators are aware of and have used TAGLIT tools. Why? Every state has a Gates Foundation state challenge grant for technology leaders, and a requirement of the grant is that all participants—mostly principals—in the grant must complete the TAGLIT assessment for school leaders. In turn, the school leaders are to have their teachers complete the teacher tool, and they have the option to have their students complete the student tool.
The Mississippi Department of Education was one of the earliest users of TAGLIT as a component of the Gates Foundation challenge grant. The grant established the Technology Academy for School Leaders (TASL). Participants in the week-long academy and follow-up sessions have discovered that TAGLIT data help them accomplish the TASL goals:
In the Mississippi TASL project, the suite of assessments is explained to participants during the academy and during the Day 1 Follow-up Activity conducted three months after the academy. Participants are trained to interpret the Data Summary Report and generate their Final Report. Each participating principal in TASL is responsible for monitoring the administration of TAGLIT to 100% of the instructional staff and 50% or higher of the student population in grades 3-12 and for completing the leaders' assessment for his/her assigned school. TAGLIT generates valuable data for administrators about ways technology is being used in their schools. Administrators did not previously have a means to collect and analyze this type of data, especially in the quantity that TAGLIT provides. School leaders answer 69 questions on technology planning, hardware, software, instructional and technical support, budgets, polices, and community involvement. Teachers answer questions (61 for elementary teachers and 71 for middle and high school teachers) on skills, frequency of use, how technology affects classroom activities, technology planning, hardware, software, and instructional and technical support. Students complete questions on skills, frequency of use, and how technology affects classroom activities—15 questions for elementary school students and 53 for middle and high school students. With this quantity and range of data, school administrators who administer the assessments periodically have a means of measuring progress of technology use and impact at their schools.
For our administrators, TAGLIT has played an integral part in helping them better understand the following:
The results of the TAGLIT assessments have been an eye opener for many of the TASL participants. One of the statements on the Day 2 Follow-up Activity (conducted nine months after an academy) was "The TAGLIT information provided my district/schools was valuable information that has impacted our professional development program and technology integration." On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5—Strongly Agree, 4—Agree, and 1—Strongly Disagree, 78% of the participants rated this question a 5 and 22% a 4. Comments made by some of the participants included:
Many of the participating principals have used the TAGLIT assessment results to document the considerable need for training in the area of technology use and integration. As a result of their analysis of the data, they have scheduled the Phase Technology Trainings offered through the Mississippi Office of Educational Technology and the MarcoPolo Training (online classroom technology integration). Additionally, principals are also sending teachers to technology training sessions to become school-site technology trainers and placing more emphasis on technology-based professional development. Many are encouraging teachers to either take courses online or participate in interactive video (distance learning) course offerings to receive advanced degrees, licensure renewal, and/or technology professional growth.
Increased emphasis on technology professional development is not the only result of having the TAGLIT data available, At the state level, we have used it as part of our project evaluation and to help improve the activities of the TASL project. Certainly the data will be useful for future grant proposal writing and for state program policy development.
Whether at the school level or with the state project, TAGLIT, as a tool for measuring a project's results, is making a difference in the Mississippi school districts.
Note: The Taking a Good Look at Instructional Technology (TAGLIT) assessment tool is an element of each state's Bill and Melinda Gates Technology Leadership grant. For further information on the use of TAGLIT, contact the administrator of your state's Gates Technology Leadership Grant.
—by Katherine Tankson, Director of the Mississippi TASL Grant,
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