Ross Middle School
As principal of Ross Middle School, Scott McColgan feels like his responsibilities include "just about everything." Any principal can relate to that! Besides a hundred other things, Scott serves on a committee that reviews and revises standards for software, hardware and infrastructure. He facilitates his school's site council, which he sees as his "best opportunity to let parents and teachers understand the importance of investing in technology and sustaining it.
Scott calls himself a "self-developed techie." He started working with computers in his high school days, but he really got involved with them as a teacher of a core lab. His experience so far tells him technology has had a positive impact on education, especially in the area of information. He embraces technology because of its value in terms of productivity and communication. Says Scott, "I have always been willing to try something new if it gets the job done better or faster. I am a very strong advocate of technology at our site and always looking for new ideas or pushing people to seek the new ideas themselves."
At Ross, Scott doesn't wait for technology to happen; he sets the stage and advocates. As he puts it, "I'm always pushing all staff -yes, even the custodian--to get trained. I use lots of money to train any staff member that wants it."
Where does that money come from? Ross has had the "luxury" of some grant funds for professional development. The school formed a partnership with the local JC to provide training. Ross also takes advantage of services offered by CTAP.
Scott believes data-driven decision-making is a must "for any decent principal."
"Each year, we review our local and state measures. We do internal and external audits of our curriculum, assessment and instruction. We meet monthly to discuss our results. Information systems-we use SASI--and software (e.g. Excel) have been crucial to bringing this process into our school system. This is a huge part of what we do. Without the ability to examine our data, we would have a much more difficult time determining what programs work for our kids and what professional development we need."
But what about curriculum integration? "That's the toughest part," says Scott. "I have a veteran staff and this offers some challenges. Integration of technology into the curriculum is a tough sell. I started by providing technology to teachers for professional use so that they experience the value of the technology themselves by utilizing it for productivity and communication. I think we are just passing this stage and staff realizes not only the value, but also the necessity of technology.
"At our school integration shows up in different ways. History works on presentations and research and PowerPoint. Language Arts works on word processing and file importing. Science works on information literacy. In math, we primarily use some software to assist with remediation and testing.
"Kids coming in now expect to have access to technology. Most of them have computers in the home, and we have computers in every classroom. I am seeing more student wanting to use the computer to produce their work, and they're letting the teachers know it!"
Scott also knows the value of technology for his own productivity. "E-mail saves me time! It means fewer conversations with people over trivial issues."
When asked what three accomplishments in technology he is most proud of, Scott had no trouble answering.
"Number one is simply bringing technology to my school site. Three years ago the fastest computer we had was a 133 MHz. We only had 25 computers for a student body of 400. I picked up the technology plan that was in place at the time and brushed the dust off. The plan called for 4 student computers per classroom and a second media lab. So I went to work. We now have 125 up-to-date computers, including a mobile wireless lab. All computers in the school have access to the Internet.
"Second, making E-mail a part of every staff member's life was crucial. I had all teacher computers configured to start up with e-mail in the morning. I let everybody know they were responsible for anything sent via E-mail. This last year was the first year everybody used it. That was so satisfying! Slowly but surely, each and every staff member has seen the value of this type of communication. It was fun to see the evolution.
"Learning how to use an information system like SASI" is the third accomplishment Scott cites. "This has helped me to convince people that it's time to 'move their cheese.' Most principals know the weaknesses in their program. At times, you have to argue your way through change based on your observations. With information and good software, you can allow people to come to similar conclusions and empower them to solve an issue related to student achievement. Data (usually) does not lie, does not argue with you, and doesn't tell you what do to!
Ultimately, what does Scott see as the potential of technology for education?
"I see most of the potential in the area of data collection and information sharing and communication. There are, and will continue to be, good software programs. But other than that I really see technology as an extension of pencil and paper. You still need good teaching no matter how much technology we have or how good it is. I do get excited about the prospect of PDA's for students and combining that with wireless technology. It would be nice to "send" letters home, progress reports and notes regarding students that parents could access as soon as their child walks through door."
So how does this technology leader spend his free time? Golfing-or, as he humbly puts it, "looking for my golf balls." And what about vacations? Ha! It was easier to get these when he was a teacher, Scott says. Nonetheless, he managed a summer trip to Alaska. Here's hoping he didn't get frostbitten fingers!
October 28, 2002