Leveraging Technologies To Provide Engaging Opportunities For Children To Discover Their Potential

Program evaluation

Evaluation is a systematic process, a planned and purposeful activity (Russ-Eft & Preskill, 2009). The purpose of this evaluation is to ensure and improve quality of the special education program as a whole and to convince the direct stakeholders of the need for the technology initiatives.. This is a comprehensive evaluation since there are multiple levels of support, especially with the addition of gifted services, to consider.

The evaluation involves the Drexel EdD Keystone that states “ Exemplify the curiosity, inquiry skills, and scholarly competencies needed to investigate an idea and transform it into meaningful action.” A Participatory/Collaborative Evaluation is proposed in order to understand and portray the complexities of the special education program in the district so that the findings can be used in decision-making processes for the future.

The evaluation has a clear rationale and purpose, to evaluate the effectiveness and quality of the special education program. The results of this evaluation will be used to strengthen the program with 21st century goals. Key evaluation questions would be formulated that identify current effective practices, the implementation of technology, and offer strategies and tools for future success.

A logic model is developed and provided to the superintendent and school board. The logic model is a systematic, visual presentation to share understanding of the relationships among the resources available, planned activities and initiatives, and the desired results. The inputs of the logic model would include special education staff and support staff, general education teachers and administrators, and current available technology resources. The outcomes are the quality assurances and satisfaction rates from all stakeholders, with the goal of integrating additional technology into the program for efficiency.

The primary stakeholders include the special education staff, supervisors, and support staff, as well as the general education teachers and administrators at each building level and the superintendent and his administration. School board members would also be considered primary stakeholders in this evaluation since they represent the funding agency. Secondary stakeholders, such as students and parents, would also be considered in this evaluation since their voices reflect the effectiveness of the program. Communication of the results of the evaluation to all stakeholders is crucial in order to affect change and enhance the program. (Russ-Eft & Preskill, 2009).

Frequent communication of results ensures collaboration, hence better results. A detailed communication plan includes the major stakeholders, with frequent communication in a variety of means. Data collected from the evaluations should be compiled into several reports that are tailored to the audience, the entire faculty, school board, or parents, for their review.

Leadership role

The leadership role is complex; as an outsider taking over after a 35-year commendable career leader retires, the pressure to perform is constant. Additionally, the two supervisors have been a part of the district and have connections with the current staff and support staff. The Drexel EdD keystone that reflects the ability to create and support communities for sustainable change is the primary focus. The new director must employ the theory and practice and establish a collaborative and competitive community.

This collaborative community builds a collective intelligence where mutual respect is evident. Each person within the organization has unique talents that are recognized and appreciated by the leader; this serves to enhance the individual performance as well as the group’s performance, thus creating a better organization for the employees and those they serve. The primary leadership role takes the form of transformational leadership. “Transformational leadership is the ability to motivate employees to excel beyond what is expected through the use of individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, and charisma” (Randall & Coakley, 2007).

Transformational leaders need to be able to generate motivation for team members to create and participate in meaningful change. This manifests itself in leading by example of unyielding dedication. This example of deep commitment to positive change can transform the culture of the organization. Heifetz’s theory of adaptive leadership also comes into play, since the leader must recognize what changes are needed for the special education program to thrive and must foster the necessary tools for adaptation (Heifetz, Grashow, & Linsky, 2009).

This means recognizing the rapidly changing world and responding by supporting the development of the team. The new leader must empower the primary stakeholders to grow and adapt to the needs of the community by providing targeted development opportunities. The leader is able to distinguish between essential and non-essential practices. Real change comes gradually but has sustainability. Scharmer’s idea of prototyping is also key to the leadership role (Scharmer, 2018).

By crystalizing a vision of technology integration, the leader stays connected to the desired future. Then, the director should form a core team to implement the change. Ideally, the fully committed team members would consist of the supervisors and representatives from each building level. This will help to cultivate the shared commitment. The responsibilities of each team member should be mapped out and provided to all staff; this ensures effective distribution of services while maximizing collaboration. The key roles and responsibilities are defined and shared with the rest of the special education staff for efficiency in requests. The leader can cause positive movement in a group when the organization is motivated to work collectively.

Senge’s idea of “Leading without Control” encourages the director to lead successfully through delegation; by allowing others to have power in the organization, one creates a community that collaborates. The leadership is not a top-down process, but rather each member of the group can contribute his strengths to the whole organization. One of the most important things the new director can do every day is listen. Listen to others, to the collective, and to yourself. The way in which we listen can bring about surprising revelations.

Listening means suspending the voices of fear, cynicism, and judgment. By actively listening with an open mind, others can be influenced. Scharmer’s Theory U (2016) plays a key role in the action plan. According to Scharmer, “seeing form our deepest source” is sensing and operating from one’s highest future potential. Using the Theory U diagram (Scharmer, 2016) to empower the staff for change gives a visual representation for the stages of becoming aware and the steps to institutionalize new action. Utilizing the ideas of “open mind, open heart, and open will” are necessary in developing sustainable change (Scharmer, 2016).

By modeling these leadership strategies daily, listening actively, and demonstrating dedication and motivation, it is possible to overcome the hurdles of this new position. By envisioning the future and empowering the team to do the same, the new director can create a cohesive team that embraces innovation.

Leveraging Technologies

In this fast past world, new technologies are creating shifts in teaching and remodeling the view of the classroom. Technology in special education, in particular, can help to level the playing field for students with disabilities. One of Drexel’s EdD keystones is “using the full range of emerging technologies to reach across generations, communicate effectively and engage others in meaningful change. “ ISTE provides 14 essential conditions for leveraging technology (ISTE, 2017) that need to be followed in order to create sustainable change.

Since the setting is K-12, these conditions are applicable in this scenario. Of the ISTE conditions, several are in place. Given the charge of the superintendent, it is implied that there is a shared vision among the stakeholders, consistent and adequate funding, and equitable access. Implementation planning and Technical support are crucial to using technology successful. Teachers require ongoing professional learning in order to be comfortable using new technology. Training for a new program cannot occur only one time; there must be regular training sessions scheduled through professional development with follow-up sessions as issues arise.

Since technology has not been used in the past, the new director can start with an IEP writing software program that would make writing the IEP less time-consuming and make the documents more accessible. These programs assist the general education teachers and administration, as they would have convenient access to a student’s accommodations and modifications. While all special education teachers would be trained initially, a core group of volunteers could receive additional training to serve as resident experts. This would allow for additional accessible tech support from fellow teachers.

Overall the software would increase productivity, create professional presentations, and empower teachers with knowledge. Other technology implementations can occur naturally with the director utilizing Google docs, Google forms, and Google calendar for fast and effective communication throughout the department. In turn, teachers may implement these tools in their classrooms. Other technology software applications for use with students could be housed in a central database. On-line remedial reading and math programs, such as Achieve 3000 and ALEKS, are useful tools for individualized instruction as well as progress monitoring of individual goals. Multiple training sessions for teachers would need to be scheduled, preferably before implementation. Again, a core group of volunteers could start using programs like these in their classrooms in order to become experts. This would lead to larger implementation of technology.

Quality assurances

In order to assure quality, stakeholder satisfaction, and program success, regular evaluations, both formal and informal, need to occur. Using a case study approach, the new director may employ a responsive evaluation at each building level. In this way, she can discover individual concerns, conceptualize the issues, and collect quantitative and qualitative data. Data can be collected through archival records, observations, surveys and questionnaires, and focus groups. Multiple opportunities for gathering data are recommended in order to avoid bias. Regular department meetings with the entire special education staff should be scheduled weekly in order to provide updates and feedback on the program. Administrative team meetings should also occur regularly in order to build upon the collaborative efforts of the team.


In the 21st century it is more important than ever to blend theory and practice as change is more rapid with technological advances. Both theories of adaptive leadership and adaptive change (Heifetz) appreciate the culture of the community by adjusting mental models to maintaining aspects of past practices while integrating new innovations that serve to create sustainability. In his discussion of Creative Schools, Sir Ken Robinson states that education is meant to take us into the future, instead of grounding us in the past. He encourages educators to strive for creative capacity in which we educate the whole child and link educational practices with the world outside the classroom. Senge also advocates for a systems change in order to meet the demands of the global society.

With the world at our fingertips through the internet, it is no longer acceptable to expect students to memorize information; the process of learning is now more about doing and how this relates to real life outside of school. As educators and leaders, we must strive to provide engaging opportunities for children to discover their potential.

03 December 2019
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