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Principals In Native American Schools Need Technology Help

Anyone interested in knowing more about the relationship between leadership, technology and education in Native American schools might have a tough time finding an up-to-date study or one that goes beyond discussing access and infrastructure.

A study released on Wednesday in the Journal of Research in Rural Education tried to fill that void by delving into those issues for Native American schools. Native American reservations are among the country's most-rural populations.

Although the technology leadership challenges in Native American schools are similar to those in other rural schools, there are significant differences. Native American schools' leaders must walk an "educational, cultural, and technological tightrope," balancing their schools' distinctive histories and cultures alongside the unique economic, political, educational, and social circumstances in their communities, according to the study.

Researchers interviewed nine principals in federally-funded Bureau of Indian Education schools, and they focused on technology leadership as described by the National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators. Those standards represent a national consensus of what school administrators need to know and do to support technology integration.

The study found seven major themes on the technology leadership challenges principals faced. Those included: unreceptive staff, lack of a technology coordinator, isolation/poverty, poor physical facilities, family problems, outdated technology, and unfamiliarity with technology leadership standards.

Of those, the three most prevalent were unreceptive staff, a lack of technology coordinators, and isolation and poverty. Schools that lack professional development opportunities and teachers who are willing to learn force principals to do what they can with interested teachers. Schools that don't have technology experts lack someone who can help and train teachers. And isolation and poverty affect schools' technology infrastructure, the technology resources available to students after school, and schools' ability to access business support for technology.

On the brighter side, researchers said the interviewed principals indicated they wanted to be effective technology leaders. These principals acknowledged the need to make wholesale changes that would honor their culture while incorporating technology, and many had a vision they were working to make a reality.

For solutions, researchers recommended more technology leadership training through online learning. They suggested WiMAX, a wireless alternative to cable or DSL internet, as a potential solution to providing the internet to the most isolated communities.

Researchers noted this study's findings can't be generalized across Native American schools. It was based on interviews with nine principals on seven reservations, and reservation schools vary widely in terms of political, cultural, geographical, technical and societal circumstances.

The report also called for more research on technology leadership and on the relationship between casino funding and technology integration.

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