A place to portical.org: power up

a place to portical.org: power up

Rowland Baker

An online portal that addresses the education technology needs of California school leaders makes its debut this fall.

How many times have we heard school administrators say, “There may be good information on the Internet, but I just don’t have time to find it.” Because of a new statewide service funded through the California Department of Education, this may be changing.

In today’s environment, most of us can use technology in ways we never would have dreamed of five years ago. We can buy everything from books to boats on the Internet, even the kitchen sink on some sites. Our economy has taken on a whole new shape with the influence of the technology sector, and fortunes are being made and lost daily as ordinary people day trade in their robes and slippers from the comfort of their homes.

The impact of technology in our public school system has been felt by all educators. Students today can take virtual field trips around the world. By using current news feeds, classrooms can be kept up-to-date on the latest breaking news worldwide. Teachers can share lesson plans based on state or national standards that can be enhanced by the use of technology. Students are able to do research in ways that, a few years ago, we only dreamed about.

With all of these dynamic changes in education, why is it that administrators have been so reluctant to use technology and the Web in the day-to-day operation of sites and districts? Many would believe that it is because these administrators have not grown up with technology, as have some of the younger teachers and most of the students. Yet, those same administrators might go home and visit an online auction site, check the latest report on their favorite sports team, or see how much that family vacation may cost them next spring.

Many of those sites contain all of the information they need, and they are set up to provide needed information quickly. This type of site, based around a common theme, is called a portal.

Why don’t we have an administrative portal for education in California? It’s on the way! The portal, called PORTICAL (Portal for Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership) can be found at www.portical.org. The target date for launching the site is mid-October.

How did this portal come to fruition? It happened through the vision and support of many administrative organizations.

The California Department of Education knows that administrators are expected to show leadership in many areas of educational technology where they might not have the skills, information or resources they need. It was the vision of the CDE that a statewide service could help fill this need. The department met with several focus groups before finalizing the scope of this new service. The CDE then developed a Request for Applications to fill this Statewide Educational Technology Service, or SETS.

A proposal was submitted by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and selected by the California Department of Education to provide an online portal called the Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership (TICAL). This online portal will have six focus areas:

* data-driven decision making;

* integrating technology into standards-based curriculum;

* technology planning;

* professional development needs of staff in technology;

* financial planning for technology; and

* operations and maintenance.

As the lead for this project, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education has been working with various organizations since fall 1999 to implement TICAL. Those groups include the Association of California School Administrators, California School Leadership Academy, Computer Using Educators, Commission on Teacher Credentialing, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, Southern California’s Public Broadcast Station KCET and Apple Computer.

A major component to the success of this project is its dissemination model. It was our belief that you can have the best information in the world on the Web, but if administrators are not shown where it is, what resources are there and how to access it quickly, it will not be widely used. We also knew that we wanted administrators training other administrators on the use of the portal.

As the result of a statewide recruitment effort, nearly 100 administrators applied to be part of this project. ACSA and CSLA played a major role in the recruitment and selection of the group of administrators who form the cadre. The 21 cadre members selected represent a cross-section of administrators, from superintendents to principals, who hail from each of ACSA’s 18 regions. They came together for the first time last May to discuss and develop a matrix of skills and a collection of resources to help meet the needs of site and district administrators.

Elements of a good Web site

During the May training, the administrative cadre discussed what makes a good Web site. Everyone agreed that the portal can house important information, but if it is not easy to navigate and access, administrators will not use it.

By using some of the latest technologies supplied by Apple Computer, one of the partners in the project, cadre members were able to use wireless portable computers to search the Internet and project their chosen sites on a large screen for all to view. This activity helped all of us focus on the major components needed to make online administrative resources useful to California administrators.

The cadre also looked at what skills are needed by administrators to show leadership in the six focus areas. The portal will have its initial emphasis on data-driven decision making. The five remaining areas will be more fully developed once the portal is up and online.

The cadre, as well as project staff, will be electronically submitting resources to the portal, using an online data submission form. These resources will then be accessible by multiple points of entry on the portal. For example, the superintendent of a small rural school district will be able to locate the tools and resources similar districts are using to help in data analysis, financial planning or staff development. A principal from a large urban high school in the middle of a Digital High School implementation grant will be able to connect with other like administrators to share ideas and seek advice.

During the May training, the cadre became familiar with these online tools and began submitting resources to the portal. Once online, the resource submissions will continue in order to keep the site dynamic and up to date. Besides the six focus areas, many other tools and resources that can be of value to administrators will be housed on the portal.

The cadre finished the May training with excitement and commitment to this important task. Once the portal is online in October, the cadre will begin the second phase of its mission by hosting trainings in all of ACSA’s 18 regions. These trainings will demonstrate the portal to administrators and show them the tools and resources housed at the site. Dates and locations of the trainings will be posted on the portal. It is our hope and goal that this online resource will be a “one stop shopping” location for administrators.

The TICAL project has received support on a federal level, which allows the possibility of this model being replicated in other states. The project and its portal will be shown at many national conferences this next year, and presented to Congress next spring.

Next month, check out www.portical. org and see if you want to bookmark the site. After all, it’s designed for you!


“As a superintendent, I have found it difficult to provide the resources necessary to provide professional development in technology for my administrators. Each of them has unique needs based upon their assignment and they are all at different levels of understanding. This project should allow them to access one portal to receive whatever support they need, regardless of their level of expertise.”

— Bob Price, superintendent, Empire USD

“Administrators are tasked with a huge responsibility — finding the best that technology has to offer and delivering it to tomorrow’s leaders. TICAL provides the tools administrators need today in an easy-to-use portal. There is no waste of time here. Only the best of the best.”

— Rick Fitzpatrick, technology coordinator, Shasta COE

“Advances in technology make data-driven decision making possible in a way we’ve never known. The Web offers all sorts of marvelous resources and tools for analyzing and managing data, but there’s so much that it’s truly overwhelming. If we can aggregate some of the best of these and make them easily accessible to administrators, we’ll have accomplished a great service to our kids.”

— Michael Simkins, COO, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network

“I greatly enjoyed the training I received at the first TICAL workshop. The concept of an online resource for administrators, by administrators, from a variety of field experiences is a great idea.”

— Hilario Puente, coordinator of technology and special projects, Oakley UESD

Rowland Baker is divisional director, Technology Services, Santa Cruz County Office of Education.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Association of California School Administrators

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