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Software and Online Resources: Selecting and Installing

Implementation of Technology Applications TEKS requires that tools such as computers, printers, projection devices, digital cameras, and online resources become pervasive in classrooms, and that teachers and students become proficient at using technology for meaningful curricular tasks. The best method of assuring progress is for students to use productivity software to accomplish specific lesson objectives. Examples of excellent productivity software include Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Producer, Inspiration, Kidspiration, iMovie, KidPix, TimeLiner, Graph Club, Neighborhood Map….

It is not the role or intent of the Instructional Technology Department to approve or disapprove specific software purchases. The responsibility of ITD is to facilitate the preview process, communicate with vendors and appropriate personnel, summarize and communicate results, and assist personnel in using software that has been purchased.

Technology makes it easy for students to login, take a pretest, receive prescribed lessons, and view resulting reports. The technical capabilities of such management programs are impressive and the software is very convenient for teachers since little instructional planning is required. However, this type of software typically provides assessment rather than instruction and lends itself to poor instructional practices (i.e., students going to a computer lab, logging in, working on whatever content the software generates, with little teacher involvement and little correlation to a specific lesson objective). The result is additional practice in answering multiple-choice questions rather than significant improvement in student understanding. Once purchased, management software often becomes the predominant curriculum in a computer lab even though its use does not result in mastery of Technology Applications TEKS.

Publishers and vendors often provide examples of districts or campuses with significant gains in test scores after using their products. Scientific researchers who view those results often identify flaws in research methods and report little evidence that the software caused the gains. It is best if research regarding the impact of software on student achievement is conducted by qualified, third-party sources that are not in a position to benefit financially from sales of the applicable product.

Before software or online resources are purchased for districtwide use, a Technology Resources Preview Committee studies the materials and provides input. Several campuses should be represented in the preview process. District subject-area coordinators and technology specialists must also be included.

When the group’s recommendations are finalized, the district subject-area coordinator submits purchasing requests to the Assistant Superintendent for Technology and the Executive Director of Elementary and/or Secondary Instruction. Documentation such as sign-in sheets from preview sessions, individual feedback forms, system requirements and price quotes should be maintained and provided with the purchasing request.

Issues considered include but are not limited to:

  • At a minimum the preview team should include teachers, district subject-area coordinators and district technology department personnel.
  • Technology resources must support subject-area and technology applications TEKS as well as AISD curriculum initiatives and objectives.
  • Consideration should be given to whether the District already owns software that can be used to accomplish the same tasks.
  • Technical requirements (operating system, standalone vs. network versions, processor speed, hard drive space, memory, monitor resolution, colors, sound cards, microphones, CD or DVD drives, ongoing fees for upgrades or licensing, ongoing support required…) must be carefully studied and considered.

If resources are purchased with district funds, CTMs and/or LAN Techs store and manage the inventory. If CDs are required to run a program, the CDs will be temporarily checked out to the teacher, then returned to the CTM or LAN Tech for inventory purposes.

Several recent textbook adoptions included software, and in some instances, the software was shipped directly to classroom teachers. The question then became whether the software could be installed on classroom computers and who was authorized to install it. Teachers are free to install such software on classroom computers or to request help from a CTM if needed. The installation process must include reading and complying with applicable license agreements.

Teachers make decisions about the appropriateness of instructional materials on a daily basis. Whether the format is print or electronic media, the important issues are whether materials serve a meaningful instructional purpose and support the curriculum, including the TEKS, for the particular grade level or subject area involved. If a teacher personally owns legal software
that meets the above criteria, he/she can install it on classroom computers. Installation must be in compliance with the number of licenses owned. If the teacher, for example, owns one copy or license, the software can be installed on one computer. The teacher must store the original software at school so that the legality of the license can be verified at any time. The
teacher should understand that district personnel (campus technology trainers, CTMs, LAN Techs, district technicians…) should not be expected to invest time installing, learning or troubleshooting software purchased by the teacher.

When persistent technical problems exist on a district-owned computer, the machine is re-imaged meaning that the hard drive is completely erased and the original software and settings provided by the district are restored. Any custom software or settings are lost and must be reset, if needed, by the teacher who originated them.
 

  

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