Reports > Leading the Learning
Leading the Learning: Expertise and Technology Integration Support Staff
Sara Dexter, University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Karen R. Seashore
and Ronald E. Anderson, University of Minnesota
This paper focuses on the intersection of three topics that are central
to the study of change in organizations, but which have different research
histories: the role of leadership, the role of experts and expertise,
and the nature and functioning of teams. In order to explore these topics,
we draw on case studies that we have conducted in nine schools that were
selected because of their exemplary integration of technology to support
school improvement. The initial focus of the case studies was to define
and develop portraits of the nature of exemplary technology integration,
but as the case studies emerged, the three themes that we explore here
emerged early and quite clearly.
In particular, we observed that in each of the sites one or more technology
specialists played an important role in providing both support and subtle
pressure for change. Support and pressure are, as Huberman and Miles (1992)
observed, among the hallmarks of effective change leadership in schools.
The technology specialists had various titles and positions, but no supervisory
authority. In each case, teachers spontaneously attributed a key role
to these individuals, suggesting that that their leadership for change
is worth closer examination.
Such personnel are often characterized as support staff, which suggests
a subordinate role, yet the majority of these technology integration support
staff were a part of a team for technology leadership. Data from these
case studies draw upon classroom observations, interviews, and site documents;
from this we present how technology integration support staff members'
actions were an essential aspect of technology leadership---which we consider
as a function of the school. Specifically, it was through their expertise
that they supported teacher and organizational learning and thereby exerted
considerable influence on how technology was incorporated into the substantive
core of teaching and learning at these school sites.
Research on Leadership
Research on leadership for school improvement tends to be highly position-focused.
In particular, most research examines the role of the principal, and there
has long been consensus in the literature (both educational and from other
fields) that organizational leaders can make-or-break change efforts (Burns,
1978; Fullan and Stiegelauer, 1994; Hallinger & Heck, 2002; Nutt,
1986). In the 1990s, the image of "transformative educational leadership"
was juxtaposed with "transactional leadership" that attended
primarily to improving the daily operations of schools. The transformative
leader was viewed as effective because he or she was able to set forth
a clear vision and mission that would guide the school in new directions-a
dramatic break with the expectation that principals were "middle
level bureaucrats" whose role was to implement the expectations of
their district officers.
In schools, the focus on positional leadership has been particularly evident
in the effective schools research, ranging from early case studies that
document the role of leaders in maintaining high standards in low-income
schools, to the increasing string of international studies of a cross-section
of schools (Teddlie & Reynolds, 2000). This image of leadership often
focuses explicitly on the transformative character of individual action
and vision. This image has been embedded in textbooks for training new
principals (Reitzug, 1997), which portray a "principal-centric"
view of change in schools.
More recently, the emerging literature emphasizes the indirect effects
of leadership behavior rather than authoritative positional leadership.
There are a variety of ways in which more diffuse leadership effects can
be examined. Spillane (2001), for example, argues that "distributed
leadership" is a practice that involves cognitive engagement with
the school's social and situational context, a perspective that is reflected
in the work of others, not only in the US (Cascadden, 1998; Pounder, 1995;
Spillane, Halverson & Diamond, 2001), but in other countries (Carter,
2002; Gronn, 2002; Harris, 2002). There is accumulating evidence that
some forms of distributed leadership are associated with effective change
and organizational performance (Kanthak, 1995; Pounder, 1995). Some research
demonstrates that schools in which teachers have more influence over decisions
that affect the school and students are more likely to have high levels
of student achievement (Marks & Louis, 1997).
The increasing interest in teacher empowerment, participation, and distributed
leadership has lead also to an interest in the effect of teams and team
work in schools. School culture or climate is an important intervening
variable that helps to account for the effects of leadership behavior
on innovation and student achievement, and leadership behaviors are often
associated with more-or-less positive relationships among both adults
and children (Hoy, Hannum & Tschannen-Moran, 1998). Many have investigated
the effects of school leadership on the teacher culture of the school,
particularly on the propensity of teachers to engage in professional dialogue
(Scribner, Cockrell, Cockrell, & Valentine, 1999) and to be open to
innovation (Leithwood & Louis, 1998). Creating teacher teams, usually
as a result of the initiative or support of the principal, is one strategy
that has often been used to foster teacher leadership for innovation and
improvement, but the results of such structural changes have been mixed.
Formal teacher teams may have limited effects on student achievement (Supvitz,
2002), and may even undermine collaboration on a school-wide basis (Kruse
& Louis, 1997). However, there is increasing evidence that well organized
cross-functional or multi-skilled teams have positive effects on adaptive
change and improvement (Bunderson& Sutcliffe, 2002; Edmonson, Bohmer
& Pisano, 2001; Forrester, 2000; Leithwood, Steinback & Ryan,
In addition to research on the importance of leaders and teams in determining
the outcomes of an improvement effort, there is also a significant line
of research (again both in and out of schools) that suggests that in order
to be effective leaders of improvement, people with any kind of designated
authority-whether as formal leaders or members of teams with leadership
responsibilities- must also be regarded as experts (Friedkin & Slater,
1994; Hornstein, Callahan, Fisch & Benedict, 1968) or, at least, intellectual
leaders (Foster, 1989; Leithwood & Louis, 1998) if they are to be
influential. The role of expertise in change has been studied more extensively
outside of education, following French and Raven's well-known categorization
of alternative "bases of power" (French & Raven, 1959).
"Expert power" has been shown in numerous experimental and natural
settings to have enormous influence over peers and subordinates. Warren's
classic study of elementary schools showed, for example, that teachers
were much more likely to conform to a principal's expectations when they
perceived him as expert (Warren, 1968), while more recent studies of technological
innovation in industry suggest that the involvement of experts and implementers
in problem solving strongly facilitates a complex change process (Tyre
& Hauptman, 1992).
In schools, internal expertise is often ignored due to professional norms
(and a compensation structure) that presume a roughly equal distribution
of knowledge and skills among teachers. Some writers presume that this
is because teaching is a "semi profession" rather than a "real
profession" based on specialized expert knowledge (Lortie, 1975).
Other would argue, however, that knowledge about teaching is very complex
because of the enormous variability of students, the multiplicity of objectives,
and the imprecise research base and the nature of expertise among a group
is thus harder to define (Perrow, 1986). Whatever the reason, there is
little research on the role of expertise or experts (other than the principal
as expert) in promoting improvement in schools, although the notion of
experts and school development is implicit is some writing on organizational
learning (Leithwood & Louis, 1998).
Methods and data
The specification of criteria for site selection was a long process that
involved extensive discourse with an Advisory Committee and consultants.
The six criteria that were developed for selecting sites were as follows:
(1) a majority of teachers at the public school had to be engaged in a
school-wide reform or school improvement; (2) a majority of teachers had
to be engaged in an innovative, technology-supported pedagogical practice;
(3) the school had to be committed to meeting high content standards in
core subjects; (4) the students should be drawn from diverse backgrounds
including a number of low income students; (5) the reform effort and the
innovative technology-supported teaching practices had to have potential
for sustainability and transferability; and (6) there needed to be compelling
evidence that the reform effort and the innovative technology-supported
teaching practices had resulted in educationally significant outcomes
or gains for the students involved.
The search for sites began by sending a solicitation letter to all 50
State technology directors. Another source of nominations came from directly
contacting representatives of school reform programs and projects known
to have a major technology component. Projects designated by the Secretary
of Education's Expert Panel on Educational Technology were included. By
the spring of 2001, nominations for 86 different school districts and
approximately 110 schools had been received. The site selection process
was arduous, and included input from a variety of sources. Many weeks
were spent interviewing key personnel from candidate study sites, discussing
each proposed study site with advisors, and examining countless documents
from the schools. The 11 sites which best met the six criteria were selected
for site visits and case study reports.
Each site visit included a team of two researchers working at the school
site for 5 days. These 5 days were used for conducting interviews with
the Principal, one or more technology coordinators, other administrators
relevant to the technology reform program, 4-6 teachers, several students
in these teachers' classrooms and several parents. In addition, at each
site 2-4 classrooms were systematically observed by the researchers. All
interviews were recorded and most are videotaped. The classroom observation
periods were videotaped with one or two cameras.
Prior to every interview the prospective interviewee was informed of the
nature of the questions, his or her right to avoid answering the questions,
and the confidentiality procedures with which all of the data would be
treated. The Principal and other staff were promised that neither they
nor their school would be identified, unless they explicitly authorized
us to use the names. After collecting the data and showing them their
school's case report, all of the schools expect one gave us written permission
to use their names in our reports. In this report all of the actual school
names are used except for the school given the fictitious label "Mountain
As soon as the site visit was completed, site documents were logged and
filed for analysis and reference. The interviews were transcribed into
document files. The text segments in these files were then coded according
to a coding scheme. This scheme contained seven main coding areas. The
first was about the innovation or reform itself and is designed to capture
information about the technology-supported school-wide innovation or improvement,
the history and scope of the innovation, including its goals and origin,
the curricular/subject areas involved and its instructional organization.
This allowed a comparison of reforms on the basis of their purpose and
intent to improve the quality of instruction. A second code area was about
the school itself and allowed the organization of information about the
site, including background information on and the demographics of the
school and its community. With this code the pertinent information was
also tagged about the school culture, its leadership, and any external
relationships the school established to aid their technology implementation.
This group of codes allowed the capture at a relevant meso-level information
about the school's setting and how together they helped to create a favorable
context for the classroom uses of technology.
Another set of codes focused on the technology and the technology support
present at the site. These codes supported the analysis of the vision
for technology and the specifics of what the site has put into place and
how it keeps it working and teachers prepared for its use. The next two
sets of codes focused on students and teachers and their roles, practices,
and outcomes. Together, these codes support the description and analysis
of the classroom-based teaching and learning with technology. The final
two sets of codes allow us to capture the elements of the site that contribute
to the sustainability and transferability of its innovation. The elements
of the innovation itself were differentiated between the classroom, school,
and district components. These two codes were often used as a second additional
code to some other pertinent information.
Each team of two researchers divided up the interviews to code; codes
were assigned to sections of transcripts with the qualitative analysis
program NUD*IST NVIVO. This program allows any length of the segment of
text to be coded with as many codes as the analyst sees fit to apply.
After all coding was complete, the NVIVO program was used to gather all
text segments from that site's transcripts into a report for each code.
The main points and themes for this paper were derived from analysis of
the reports within the technology support and leadership and culture code
areas. These reports were run in batches so coded segments from the teachers',
support staff members' and the principals' interviews formed separate
files, to aid the analysis of themes by role.
Background on The School and Technology Contexts
The nine sites presented here include four elementary schools, four middle
schools, and one senior high school. The tenth school in the study was
a magnet high school; its enrollment of 200 students meant that there
were only 12 teachers on staff and no one in the role of technology integration
support staff. The eleventh school in the study was a virtual school,
and thus was so different a model that so for this topic was not appropriate
for comparison with others presented here.
One middle school is quite large with over 1300 students; otherwise, the
schools tend to be somewhat average or typical in size. Newsome Park is
a magnet school and only about 6-years old. The remaining schools are
older, more established schools. Four schools reside in sizable urban
areas and five in suburban communities. (See Table 1.)
There is considerable variation in the racial diversity and family poverty
(as measured by the percent of students receiving free or reduced-price
lunch) of the schools. Three schools have relatively little diversity
and poverty: Frontier, Mantua, and Mountain. Six schools have 60% racial
minority or greater and very high poverty levels. (See Table 1.)
Demographic Information for School Sites
Size of Place
+ As measured by free or reduced lunch.
*Indicates school name is a pseudonym.
All of the schools had a classroom-based student to computer ratio
that met or exceeded the national average (which also counts computers
located in labs). Two sites had a 2:1 ratio and two sites had a 1:1 ratio
in their classrooms. For the six schools where the classroom-based computer-student
ratio was higher, 5:1 and 4:1, the arrangement of the technology in the
school was somewhat flexible so additional computers could be brought
into the class or made available to the students (See table 2).
In addition, most if not all of the computers in these new schools were
networked, so file sharing and Internet access was available. The teachers
all had some sort of large screen display capability available for them
to display a computer screen's content; digital cameras, scanners, and
printers were also available to the teachers. Together these features
added functionality to the use of their computers. This high level of
access is significant because it meant that technology was usually readily
available as a tool to the teachers and students. It also meant that teachers'
work to integrate technology generally could focus on curriculum and pedagogical
concerns without worrying about scheduling conflicts or complicated logistics
necessary to rotate all of the students through a limited number of computer
Summary of Innovative Technology-Supported Reforms and Student to Computer
||Improvement Effort Underway for
||Student to computer ratio
||Project learning using wireless laptops
||Basic school powered by technology
||Technology to support student project
work and student achievement data analysis
||Constructivist learning environments,
supported by technology
| Mott Hall
||Laptop one-on-one program for all students,
and increased use of project-based learning
||Technology to support standards-based
high student achievement
||Thin clients supporting academic performance
||Inquiry teaching supported by technology
|| Whole language supported by technology
*Indicates school name is a pseudonym.
The technical support---troubleshooting, repair, and maintenance---was
deemed excellent by the teachers at eight of the nine schools. Only at
Mott Hall, which had a program of a laptop per student, did we hear teachers
complain about the reliability of their equipment, saying that the laptop
repair program was slow and left students without a computer for too long.
Several districts explicitly stated that they made providing excellent
technical support a very high priority, explaining that without this,
teachers would likely be unwilling to plan for the use of technology.
For example, the Lemon Grove district technology director recognized that
technology support was an essential condition for technology use:
And I tell you, to make it work in these rooms, it has to work all
the time. To make teachers adopt it, and accept it, it's got to work,
and they have to trust that it's going to work. And their trust is going
to take a long time to build.
Other schools provided reliable technical support through a combination
of on-site and district, or other outside, support staff. In sum, these
schools varied in the size and location, but the majority had mostly non-white
and high poverty populations. The sites were very similar in that they
had a relatively high level of access to technology for students and staff,
and had some person(s) serving in a role that provided technology integration
support to teachers.
Designated Leadership Teams
The technology activities at these sites were most often coordinated and
led by a team of people. At the school level, the team members included
the principal, instruction-technology support staff member(s), and some
teachers. For the two district led initiatives the teams included district
administrators, the instruction-technology staff members, and some representative
teachers. Below, these teams are described briefly to give a sense of
the range of input from different role representatives.
Newsome Park Elementary pulled together grade level representatives, the
technology teachers, and the administrators into a leadership team to
write their professional development grant. Through this work the school
adopted a particular three-stage approach to project-based learning; this
led to their planning how technology could support this pedagogy.
Mantua Elementary School had committed to the Boyer Basic School movement
when they received money for technology as compensation for a nearby oil
spill. Their whole staff's involvement in implementing the Basic School
philosophy was extended to the technology plan they had to create to receive
the compensatory funds.
At Canutillo Elementary School the principal had created a technology
leadership team, comprised of the technical support person at the school
and teachers representing each of the grade levels.
Emerson High School and Mountain Middle School's additional funds for
technology came from their district, which did require them to explicitly
plan for how technology would support student achievement. At Mountain
Middle a building council, comprised of teachers, administrators, classified
staff, and parents, met weekly to plan how to work towards improving students'
attainment of standards; technology was considered in that discussion
as one of many tools to help differentiate instruction so all students
can meet the curriculum standards.
Lemon Grove Middle and Jennings Junior were the two schools in our sample
whose technology integration and implementation efforts were led by the
school district. They were similar in that the purpose for technology,
the hardware and software, the technical support provided, and the integration
training all were planned for and provided by the district office. Lemon
Grove District had 100% of its teachers participate in the training offered
at the district level, and so any staff member was able to represent a
technology viewpoint at meetings and on committees; some teachers took
on an instructional support role informally, by presenting to peers at
staff meetings. At Jennings Junior, the training was offered to anyone
and was framed in terms of supporting inquiry-based instruction, which
they emphasized would improve students' performance on state tests. Teachers
were encouraged and volunteered to sign up in teams to attend the unpaid
training, which was a condition---but not a guarantee of---receiving a
technology classroom (with 2:1 student to computer access). This resulted
in a shared goal of using technology to support inquiry among the teachers
in the technology classrooms (who had completed the training), but thus
the participating did not represent the entire school. The district technology
team was made up of the superintendent, technology director, the technical
support staff and the technology integration specialists.
Technology Integration Support Staffing Models
There were three basic models of instruction-technology support staffing
employed within these schools. These staffing models seemed to have emerged
from the school's historical traditions and constraints, particularly
with regard to funding for technology and technology support. All sites
had access to experienced technology-using teachers as instruction-technology
support staff; this was in addition to the technical support described
in the previous section. These staff members supplemented the professional
development opportunities offered by the district or by outside vendors'
The first model, which we call "In-House," characterizes the
full-time instruction-technology support staff present in four school
buildings. The second model, present at two of these schools, relied upon
"Computer Class Teachers" for at least part of their technology
integration support staff for technology. These teachers worked full-time
in their own classrooms teaching computer skills to students. They co-planned
the content of those courses with other classroom teachers and also made
presentations to the school staff. (See table 3.)
A third model of staff was for all of the instruction-technology support
staff to be staffed from the district level. At two of these three sites
the scope and direction of the technology integration originated from
the district level. In Jennings School District the superintendent dedicated
two former classroom teachers to provide integration support to the teachers
who participated in their district's training and received technology
classrooms. The Lemon Grove School District had one person teaching much
of and coordinating the entire district's technology professional development
program, but experienced teachers who also led classes aided her. At the
third site, their half-time instruction-technology support person was
staffed at the district level. At Canutillo Elementary School the funding
for this staff position came from and was staffed at the district level,
but the school formulated its own vision for technology use. (See table
Table 3 summarizes the title of the instruction-technology support staff
personnel, and lists what staffing model was in place for these personnel.
The last column also indicates the number of full-time equivalent staff
(FTE) represented by the technology integration support staff.
Summary of Innovative Technology-Supported Reforms and Technology Integration
Title for Technology Integration Support Staff
Technology Integration Specialist (computer class
Computer Class Teachers (2.0 FTE)
In-house (1.0 FTE)
Curriculum Technology Resource Specialist
In-house (1.0 FTE)
Lead Teacher for Instructional Technology
Outside Staff (assigned .5 FTE to school)
Computer Class Teachers
Computer Class Teachers (3.0 FTE)
Student Achievement Specialist
In-house (1.0 FTE)
District Project Director
Technology Integration Specialists
In-house (1.0 FTE)
Leadership from Technology Integration Support Staff
The data presented here focus in on support provided to teachers for their
use of technology to contribute to teaching and learning. We present the
actions of the staff providing this support as leadership because the
actions and interactions of these instruction-technology support staff
members provided direction for the instructional uses of technology throughout
the whole school and exerted influence on the shape and nature of those
uses towards supporting the overall school improvement effort. We illustrate
this through examples of how they planned for school wide learning opportunities
and interacted with staff about specific lessons. To some degree the methods
used were associated with the staffing model in place for the technology
support staff; this is represented in the organization of the following
two sections reporting our findings.
Providing direction through formal programs of classes.
In the Lemon Grove School District the project director for their large
technology grant and the district's technology director worked together
very closely; however, the staff development programming was mainly the
responsibility of the director of Project LemonLINK, Barbara White. This
site represents an example of the "outside school" staffing
model. While a district project director is in a role that is perhaps
more readily acknowledged from the outside as a leadership position, from
teachers' perspectives, district administrators are sometimes suspect
as to how helpful they will be. In this case it appeared that it was Ms.
White's belief that learning to use technology in the classroom was a
process, and that talking about technology use in terms of curriculum
was the best way to engage teachers resulted in an effective design of
the yearlong, paid learning opportunity provided to all district teachers
over the course of the five-year grant. In an interview Ms. White described
how her ideas provided direction for the professional development program
she put into place, and as a result, to teachers' learning about educational
The LemonLINK model called for every teacher to participate within the
five years of the grant. In order to provide an appropriate point for
each teacher to begin at, Ms. White created a program that presented learning
about technology as a process and provided differentiated instruction
for the teachers. She explained that allowing people to join in at a place
that met their needs let her then assert that everyone should be able
to participate at some level:
And when people understand it's a process, you can be anywhere on that
process and not feel that you are left out. This is something everybody
is going to do. Everybody can do it. You can start here, or you can
be here. But we are all on this process and moving along. And we are
going to help each other to do that. So we had to build a mind set and
get a team of teachers going.
As a part of the activities associated with the professional development
sessions she implemented journaling and peers visiting one another's classrooms,
in order to facilitate growth along the continuum of learning. She related
that she firmly believed that teachers had to see integrative activities
in action, so she provided support and a process for visiting another
technology-using teacher's classroom:
And every teacher that's out there will say I didn't understand what
you were talking about until I went and saw my colleagues doing it….When
we get places where people are far enough along, they have a vision
[of technology use], we send them out and we send somebody with them,
somebody who is already using it too---we call it guide on the site.
We have certain "looked for" we want them to see. Then we
come back, and we talk about it.
Ms. White's ideas about adult learners meant she was always comparing
the kinds of offerings she provided and their pacing against the group
of teachers with whom she was working:
You have to know where these folks are all the time, because they are
all at different stages. And what does this group now need? And you
listen..… we don't have a standard thing that we are just doing, doing,
doing. You listen, you modify, you change, you give them what they need.
And you have different things going on with different people.
An additional way she led the learning about technology in Lemon Grove
was by her emphasis on the curriculum as a focal point, and not the technology:
It was always looking at every curriculum strand and saying, what can
we do with the technology to improve everything else that we are working
towards as a District. [It was] Technology as training, not as a focus….
She went on to explain how her adopting this focus facilitated "buy
in" about the fact that technology could contribute to the classroom
and it also set a direction for how technology would be discussed in the
.…when you focus in on the curriculum, it is a shared belief I would
say that they have a vested interested in….So that's a shared thing
and you didn't have to really choose it or lead structure toward, because
they are teachers. They teach curriculum. That's what is important;
by using that as your model, you're choosing something that you would
have some consistence on….So I think that was probably an excellent
way to bring the technology into this part about student outcomes. You
know, they [teachers] want to make a difference with what happens with
Ms. White's expertise concerning the ways technology could support teaching
and learning and how to work with adult learners influenced the design
and the substance of these teachers' learning opportunities. She provided
direction and exerted influence on technology use at Lemon Grove Middle,
as well as other schools in the district, by working with the technology
director at the district level, the schools' principals, and with the
teachers who took part in the professional development sessions.
At Jennings Junior High, the instructional technology support provided
was another example of the outside school staffing model; these district
level Technology Integration Specialists were two former elementary teachers
who were the district's participants in a state-sponsored pilot of the
advanced technology classroom model that was later adapted for use in
the Jennings School District. From their experiences during this pilot
they and the district technology team devised a yearlong professional
development model. In this model teachers first participated in the training
and then were selected to receive an advanced technology classroom. Through
their design and teaching of the training and then recommendations for
who would receive an equipped classroom these technology integration specialists
exerted considerable direction and influence over how and where technology
integration developed in the district.
Ms. Kicielinski and Ms. Moore designed the training at Jennings so that
the first half of the year focused on the operation of the technology,
and was taught by the technical support staff members, and the second
half of the year was focused on integration. They described that the worked
to help teachers understand "how do you actually use it [technology]
in your classroom as an inquiry base format." She went on to explain
how through their modeling and explanation they exerted influence on the
participating teachers' developing understanding of the role of the teacher
and the technology in a classroom:
We take them to sites that are educational, sites that we have them
look at the different aspects of what is inquiry-base versus what is
a worksheet, just reading information. We also show them different sites
that they can go into to write lesson plans if they choose to, our server
spaces, things that will help them as teachers, but also basically driving
home the idea of what's inquiry based---changing their philosophy about
education from their college education courses. These are out the window,
and saying now that there's a tech room, these things are totally different.
You become a facilitator. You're not in charge of the information. They
are in charge and actively involved in finding the information themselves.
You're there to facilitate. So it's kind of getting them to rethink
everything they learned in schools.
They further explained that in their monthly learning sessions for teacher
who have already received an advanced technology classroom they continue
to illustrate ideal uses for the technology by providing examples of useful
ideas or materials:
… we have a monthly meeting with them to go over new things that we've
learned while we've been out and about, things we read about, and we
also give those teachers the opportunity to bring something that they
have found that works in their classroom, whether it be classroom management,
or website use, or a lesson.
Through their close work with the teachers throughout this year of training,
the two technology integration specialists look for those who they feel
would succeed in an advanced technology classroom. The district technology
team does set some goals for grade levels and content areas for the expansion
of the technology, and tries to select pairs of teachers, so they can
help one another learn, but the decision is largely based upon the recommendation
of the technology integration specialists. Ms. Kicielinski explained:
It's an open-door policy; anyone that wants to go to training, we don't
refuse. It's just basically, we're looking for certain teachers, though,
at the end of that year that will be taking over the [technology equipped]
classroom….After that first year we go back and look at the list and
we decide who would be a well-suited teacher to have a technology classroom,
and that next year they're put into a technology classroom….
These technology integration support staff helped to lead the technology
efforts underway in Jennings School District by providing the specific
direction to the sorts of uses for technology that were promoted. They
exerted influence over who received an advanced technology classroom,
which further shaped the how technology was positioned to support teaching
It appeared that in general, whether the technology integration support
staff worked with a school's teachers through whole group or one-on-one
learning for staff members depended upon the staffing model in place.
The outside school staff models tended to use use the whole group models.
Next, we illustrate how when the technology integration support staff
members were located in a school the direction and influence from these
staff members tended to occur through one-on-one help for the school's
Exerting influence through one-on-one work with teachers.
At Newsome Park Elementary the technology integration support staff members
are also computer teachers to students on four out of five days of the
week. Mr. Klaud indicated that at the time of our visit the students'
time in computer class served as prep time for teachers; since this meant
the teachers were not in the lab with the students, these sessions were
not a time for teachers to learn along side their students. Mr. Klaud
and Ms. Gray hoped to in future school years to implement a different
way of scheduling students into the lab that would even better facilitate
complementary instruction between the computer and classroom teachers.
At the time of our visit, Mr. Klaud and Ms. Gray worked to co-plan with
the classroom teachers so that the time the students spent with them during
the computer class in the lab complemented what the teacher needed the
students to be able to do in class. Ms. Gray explained how she attended
grade level meetings to stay abreast of what was happening and also made
herself available to go into classrooms:
Basically I invite them into the lab if they want to be a part of what's
happening so they can see that. Also if they have anything that they
want implemented into the classroom and I can come in and help with,
I can do that….Basically it's the training in the lab and working with
them through that and through the grade level meetings and trying to
understand how we can help that way. That's our main communication line.
It was through this co-planning and impromptu one-on-one sessions with
teachers that they were able to provide direction and exert influence
on the uses of technology.
Newsome Park Elementary School's computer teachers tried to schedule
their lessons so that the limited number of sessions for each teacher's
students were grouped close together. This facilitated the students' recall
about what they learned, and that the technology components linked to
what the classroom teacher was doing. Through the ideas they suggested
to teachers for students to learn and by ensuring students were able to
readily use the technology they influenced both how and how much technology
supported instruction at the school. Ms. Gray shared an example of this
in describing her work with a third grade teacher:
Ms. Price wanted to do her spreadsheet in her classroom. I was doing
the jellybean count [spreadsheet exercise in computer class]. She came
in the lab and she was telling me what she was planning to do. And I
said well I'm planning to do this, come and be a part of it, and then
it might make what you're doing in your classroom easier. She came in
the next week and was very much a part of what was going on. Now she's
doing it [spreadsheets] in her classroom because the children now know
how to implement and move through the program where before they didn't
have a clue. They thought a spreadsheet was something you put on the
bed. Working through it and helping them to understand that it is a
program where you're putting information into columns and cells and
rows and then all of the sudden it comes to life. And then while we're
working on it we say, "This is what we're doing. This is why we're
doing it." Then she can pick that same knowledge up and put it
into what she's doing….Like Mrs. Price said last night, they were able
to go and do their spreadsheets with [their project on] buildings because
we had done the jellybean count in the lab.
These staff members also helped to lead the learning about technology
in this school through Mr. Klaud's membership on the school leadership
team that oversaw technology. In addition, they offered professional development
sessions for the entire staff of Newsome Park when the district supported
paid time for the teachers to learn and also upon request sat down with
teachers to help them learn a new piece of software or how to operate
hardware, such as a digital camera. Ms. Gray explained "we're always
trying to stay right up on whatever's happening and keep the teachers
involved and informed… there's always training going on even if it's not
a sign up [session]. It's forever one on one. There are phones in every
room; if they need us they give us a call. There's always an open door
policy for them if they have a need."
At West Middle School, the technology integration support staff person
was at the school, and so an example of the in-house staffing model, but
was funded partially by the district, which had a strong focus on technology,
and standards-based instruction and students' achievement of them. As
a result, Ms. Martinez's title was Student Achievement Specialist, and
while planning with teachers one-to-one and through more formal staff
development activities she provided direction for the district's intent
that technology would support students' achievement of curriculum standards.
There was another Student Achievement Specialist at the school as well,
but she worked on staff development and student achievement as it related
to standards, leaving the technology specific work mainly to Ms. Martinez.
Ms. Martinez indicated that as the school's teachers' technology skills
had developed the classroom teachers had taken over teaching their students
how to use the technology and as a result, she now spent most of her time
working directly with teachers. She offers learning opportunities on a
three-tier model. The first tier is direct instruction on how to operate
new software or hardware; these sessions are scheduled as needed and developed
from a needs assessment she conducts. Tier two is directed at integration
support, and she offers this mostly through one-on-one planning. The third
tier is a coaching model, which she facilitates among the teachers. Tiers
one and three can allow teachers to earn credit towards advancement on
the district' salary schedule.
During the time she works with teachers one-on-one she is able to direct
their efforts towards aligning technology to the curriculum standards.
She described to us how standards were a newer point of emphasis from
the district and provided an example of how she was regularly leading
teachers in that direction.
I think that having the standards to look at helps us to really define
what we're doing and look at it a little bit more closely. So that when
we go to plan lab time with teachers, instead of, "what do you
want to do and what program do you want to use", it's more, "what
standards are you trying to address through this lesson". So it's
changed the way that we plan….we really talk about what are students
going to be able to do as a result of this activity, and relating that
to the achievement of the standards.
She also described using a template to guide technology integration planning
and that through it she directed teachers' attention to standards.
Ms. Martinez also exerted influence on technology uses in the school through
the way she set up other learning opportunities for teachers. She was
in charge of facilitating the Vanguard Program, a tier three professional
development effort they described as leadership training. In it, five
teachers in the school were designated as coaches; each teamed with another
teacher to plan a unit and then the coach presented the lesson, the coachee
observed it, and they debriefed and talk edabout what they saw. They then
switched roles. Through her facilitation the teachers developed ways of
talking about technology with one another, ideas for classroom uses, and
start to shape a model of successful technology use at the school.
At Emerson High School Ms. Zacagna was in the role of Peer Coach. The
main thrust of her job was to help the school embed the instructional
approaches of whole language and cooperative learning throughout the school.
Because technology had been identified by the school leadership team as
an important support to that, she provided one-on-one support to teachers
on technology integration. She asserted that because she was in no way
responsible for the evaluation of teachers as they tried out these instructional
approaches, they were more willing to approach her:
And the first year, the first two years [of her four year in this role]
maybe, the seasoned teachers were very hesitant about coming to me and
asking me anything. Now they're not hesitant at all, because I do not
evaluate. I support. And that is a key….When I sit down with a teacher,
I'm telling the teacher that I'm there to assist them with all their
problems. If they think that I'm going to evaluate them, they're not
going to tell me what their problems are. They'll be very hesitant.
Thus, it was through her non-evaluative approach in working with teachers
that she was able to exert a greater influence on whether or not they
would try these methods and, in general, move in the direction of the
Specific contextual conditions allowed these technology integration support
staff members to be effective. The prior condition of teachers' sufficient
access to reliable, working technology was met and so the teachers and
technology support staff could focus and collaborate on technology integration.
That is, knowing that they could use working equipment when they needed
to seemed to let teachers focus on learning how to use the equipment to
support students' learning.
The leadership for these substantive changes to the core teaching and
learning in these schools came from a team of people. In this team, the
instruction technology support staff members were absolutely key, but
would not have achieved these outcomes working alone. Rather, they supported
the learning phase that was a necessary part of the overall school improvement
The power and practices that the technology integration support staff
members could access and use were related to their position, and more
constrained than, for example, a principal's, but were sufficient, as
evidenced by their overall effectiveness. Instead of their power to make
change coming from line authority, it came from their expertise, and the
fact that the teachers chose to work with them. The working relationships
surrounding these instruction-oriented positions were voluntary and motivated;
teachers saw these support staff as providing essential help, and thus
as important leaders towards the overall school improvement effort. In
that way, the nature of their leadership was more transactional, than
Implications and Conclusions
Dexter, Anderson, and Ronnkvist (2002) characterized technology support
according to its content---technical or instructional---and the method
by which it was delivered. They described technical support as focused
on the access to, and operation and troubleshooting of hardware, software,
and network resources and instructional support as focused on integrating
technology use into curriculum and enhancing different teaching methods.
They also described technology support in terms of the types of resources
used to deliver such services, including facilities, support staff, professional
development, including one-on-one consulting, and incentives. (See table
4). Drawing upon teacher survey data from a national probability sample
of schools, they found that quality technology support positively impacted
both teachers' own uses of technology and their integration of it into
Technology Support Content by Resource Type used to Deliver Technology
Support to Teachers
||Network and Internet access; hardware, software
||Content-area specific software, communications
access to pedagogical expertise
||Computer experts for trouble-shooting
||People providing instructional support have instructional
expertise and background
||Technical support; help desk; network services;
opportunity to learn about operating equipment and software
||Guided practice; personal consultation; technology
pedagogy and integration strategies
||Free hardware, software and network access; anticipation
of expert status
||Release time for support focusing on instructional
This study builds upon the technology support framework and findings
from Dexter, Anderson and Ronnkvist (2002) by illustrating how technology
support is one component of technology leadership. This study illustrates
how support is not just a matter of consulting with teachers about their
technology issues, but it is a matter of using one's expertise to provide
technology and instruction ideas, recommendations, and help to the school
as a whole. We argue that such support is a form of leadership because
without such input, the school would flounder and lose direction in its
technology-relevant programs. Discussing support as an aspect of leadership
reminds us of how complex changes in schools require significant attention
to details, and cannot just be obtained through visionary statements alone---but
we do agree that vision is important.
These cases suggest that successfully implementing a complex improvement
effort warrants a team-based leadership approach. This appears to be especially
likely for an improvement concerned with using technology in schools to
support teaching and learning; not only does such an effort include both
technical and curriculum and instruction issues, but technology is constantly
evolving and many of these changes have implications for teaching and
learning. It is more likely that through a group of people working together
on technology leadership effort the correct complement of expertise would
be available, and that the team could keep up to date and cover all the
A leadership team that together represents the necessary expertise begs
the question Toward what end? If the authority and value of a non-positional
leader stems from his or her expertise, as was suggested in these cases,
then perhaps a prior conditional contextual factor for team based leadership
must be a widely agreed upon need to learn, in order to validate the expertise
offered by various members of that team.
Just as any teacher provides direction for the study of course material
and exercises influence over students' interactions with it, and their
eventual constructed understandings, so did these technology integration
support staff. However, in that their charge was derived from a whole
school improvement effort and their students were the teachers of the
school, their leading the technology learning for the school's teachers
was an important part of the site's technology leadership.
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