technology at Naperville Central
Veteran technology coordinator
Tom Bohdan shares
does it take to create a really successful technology program in an
elementary or high school?
After logging over 70,000
student interactions in his instructional media center (or IMC) last
year, Tom Bohdan, Library/Media Specialist at Naperville Central High
school, is ready to share some ideas.
Bohdan is in his 22nd year
of technology work in education. He has been involved with computer
labs, library reference databases, video production, distance learning,
and the state internet initiative in local districts at elementary levels
through high school. Currently he is writing his Ed.D. thesis (in educational
administration) on integrating technology into the curriculum.
program, like those in many schools, is based in the IMC, which combines
the library and technology services. "If you have a passion for
this," says Bohdan," then this is the perfect place. Thats
because the key information that supports the curriculum is accessed
here. The faculty, the students, and the administration are all working
on projects, and were that important cog or bridge they need."
Whether centered in a library, computer lab, or audio-visual service
center, the technology program is in a position to exert a key influence
on the entire school.
Why it matters
Use of technology, according
to Bohdan, is among the areas most critical to the success of todays
One reason is the impact
visuals and sound can have on learning "We can stand up all day
and lecture, " says Bohdan, "but if you look at the research,
you start to realize thats not such a good idea. If a person just
uses a verbal approach, nearly 75% of the material is forgotten within
72 hours. If you take a more kinesthetic approach and use visuals and
audio, then you see a dramatic improvement in retention. The student
absorbs more and is more motivated as well."
reason is the way that technology lifts the drudgery of finding and
using information. "Sometimes," says Bohdan," the process
itself is so importantthe fact that our students are using these
tools successfully. You dont have to know everything, but if you
can access that information, it really does strengthen you. A person
with information access has exponentially more to offer to his company
or his school."
To help students achieve
this kind of "information power" takes a major shift in
our thinking, according to Bohdan. Unfortunately, as we all know,
this kind of paradigm shift is very difficult to achieve.
Passion and persistence
Bohdan credits his own
success in setting up technology programs on five factors: strategic
planning, staff training, willingness to partner with teachers, ability
to offer ongoing support, and measurement. "You can have the
greatest equipment in the world," says Bohdan, "but there
has to be a strategic plan." Having such a plan is not enoughit
takes leadership to get the staff behind it. "You have to make
presentations to the departments, be willing to work with department
chairs, but even beyond that, to work with the teachers one on one."
One of the themes of Bohdans
approach is persistence. Another is the personal touch. "While
we make those departmental presentations, we dont stop there.
I find that, if you put 20 or 30 teachers together in an inservice,
they will tend to be reticent, reluctant to raise their hands and
ask, How do you do that again? But if were working
one on one, they can ask all sorts of questions, and they can feel
free to make mistakes. " The persistence comes in as Bohdan seeks
the opportunity to get that one on one time. " Sometimes the
seed is planted, but it doesnt immediately come to fruition.
The next day or two days later you come back and say, Remember
we talked earlier in the week? Have you had a chance yet?"
Passion, of course, fits
into the equation as well. If a person doesnt believe strongly
in what he or she is attempting, its hard to achieve anything
at all. " You have to walk your talk," says Bohdan. "You
need to have an outreach program that says, if there are ten
people in your department, please consider me the eleventh. Please
consider our department as part of your team. You cant pontificate,
you have to be sincere. If they see that sincerity and that you really
are interested in them and their students as individuals, then suddenly
these other things start to fall into place."
One of Bohdans passions
is to increase utilization of the technology center. His team counted
over 70,000 student visits to the IMCor about 27 visits per
studentlast year. To achieve that number obviously took some
effort; but we need to realize that measuring it was a crucial effort
in itself. "You need a baseline of where you are versus what
can be," comments Bohdan. But counting visits is far from enough.
"You have to ask, what does that mean? As you analyze it further,
you begin to see how youve impacted the various curricular areas.
You need to measure which technologies and databases are being used,
so you get a sense of what skills are getting across. You start to
see how much better these students are as learners because of what
The effort can
be very rewarding. "Ive come to believe," continues
Bohdan, "that the Instructional Materials Center is literally the
hub of the school. Thats because we get into all curricular areas:
we work with all the students, all the staff, all the faculty. What
other teacher, what other area, what other department can really say
The approach in action
At the end of August,
Naperville Central put its first distance learning classroom into
operation, using it to teach an advanced Spanish language class. With
this technology, students at geographically separate sites are brought
together using video and audio signals transmitted over telephone
lines. Though there are not enough students for a Spanish Five class
this year at Naperville Central, the school is offering the class
by linking up with a teacher at Riverside Brookfield and students
there, at Naperville, and in Downers Grove.
Though the West Suburban
Post-Secondary Consortium made the basic decisions on the distance
learning equipment, Bohdan made sure he was very involved with the
planning for Naperville Centrals classroom."When the grant
went through, "says Bohdan, "I knew I had to see enough
sites to learn from the mistakes and the good ideas others had."Bohdan,
working with Uniteds Dave Woods, made several improvements to
the WSPSCs design.
Naperville is bringing
the system on line gradually. The purchasing decision was made last
January, with three major tests of the system in the spring. Right
now, one class is being offered, with others planned to begin later
this year. Bohdan frequently drops in to Spanish Five, to offer advice
and help as needed, and he is bringing other staff in for visits and
training. "With something new like this,"comments Bohdan,"
you do have to take people step by step. Its truly fascinating
to see, that when they have a chance to operate it, its really
not as scary as they might originally think."
So far, measurement of
the program is informal, consisting mainly of staff meetings and discussions.
Ultimately, however, success will be measured by the success of the
studentson what they are able to achieve versus learning objectives,
on their scores on standardized tests, and on their success in future
classes, either at the high school or in college. For it is, as Bohdan
notes, the student who is the ultimate customer of the school and
whose needs remain the center of the program.
No doubt some goals will
be met, others missed. " Ive always presented technology
as tool, not a panacea. Ill hold up a pencil and say, this
one of best pieces of technology thats ever been invented. But
its not the only piece." Theres a need for realism.
Measurement is critical not only to gauge success but to point out
where future efforts are most needed.
United Visual can help
When starting a new program,
its important to have a partner you can trust. "I probably
go back originally with Dan Ferraro at least a decade, " says
Bohdan, " and so, when I came here, I immediately hooked up with
United Visual. It was the quality of the people, the products and
the service. Theyre just a tremendous example of what Tom Peters
wrote about in his book, In Search of Excellence."
United is obviously not
in a position to help with curricular goals, but can make sure the
technology applied is appropriate and works as needed. That can be
a big help in itself. " If I can, Ill direct people to
people who can help," says Bohdan. "Ive met all kinds
of people and dealt with all kinds of service over the years. When
youve met literally thousands of people, there are certain things
that stand out pretty clearly. The people at United have a sincerity
thats very hard to find. When you see that, you just want to
continue that relationship."
If you have questions for
Tom Bohdan, you can contact him at [email protected]