A survey comparing how educational administration program coordinators and faculty that use computers rate the software used by graduate students in 1980 and 1990 shows that all computer applications are considered more essential to know in 1990 than in 1980. The category deemed most important by the respondents is financial applications, which includes accounting, budgeting and spreadsheet software. The second in importance is building-level applications, especially for school principals. This category includes attendance, business software evaluation, report cards, scheduling and student records. The third category is general applications, which includes data base, graphics, integrated software and statistics. The fourth group is communications, including telecommunications and word processing. The fifth group is general office applications, including calendar programs, decision-making simulations, project planning and management programs. The sixth, and last, category is classroom applications, including computer-assisted instruction, courseware evaluations, gradebook programs, interactive video and programming languages.
Full Text :COPYRIGHT Information Synergy Inc. 1990
I utilized the software packages of Excel, Statview and Mac School in teaching multiple classes of a school-finance course this year. In only two hours the students were able to create a spreadsheet, enter data and use graphics. Seven years ago I taught essentials of school budgeting with a single software package: VisiCalc. It took eight hours for those graduate students to learn how to create a template and enter data. Today's students find the newer software to be powerful, efficient and easy to use.
Could those of us who teach educational administration courses have predicted our current use of software five or ten years ago? Are we now using appropriate computer programs to prepare school leaders for the 1990s? Do our choices in software applications reflect national trends? The results of a recent poll of more than 200 universities throughout the United States and Canada reveal some answers to these questions.
Educational administration program coordinators and computer-using faculty rated the software applications used by their graduate students in the 1980s, and predicted what they would use in the 1990s. Table 1 details the six categories of software applications deemed important to the training of school administrators. They are, in rank order: financial, building-level, general, communications, central office and classroom applications.
Accounting, budgeting and spreadsheet software are grouped into this classification. The respondents considered competency in operating this software to be the most vital for both decades. The percentage of faculty valuing financial applications as "essential" rose from 26 percent in the 1980s to 62 percent in the 1990s, an increase of 36 percent.
In the early 1980s, the recalculation feature of the VisiCalc spreadsheet appealed to administrators involved
1. Financial Applications: 26% 62%
2. Building-Level Applications: 20% 58%
Business Software Evaluation
3. General Applications: 18% 52%
4. Communications: 12% 49%
5. Central Office Applications: 11% 35%
6. Classroom Applications: 4% 13%
TABLE 1: ESSENTIAL SOFTWARE
The percentage of educational administration program
coordinators who ranked clusters of software applications as
essential to school administration in the 1980s versus
in negotiating a district's budget. In this decade, more specialized school budget programs, such as the financial components of the Mac School package, are widely used. Not only the budget, but purchasing, payroll, inventories and other accounts can be automated via appropriate modules in the latest financial software. With these accounting, budgeting and spreadsheet packages, today's educational administration students are being trained to create and alter budgets as well as to disburse payments and plan project costs--all on computer.
While finance is an area useful to all educational administrators, the building-level cluster is very helpful to school principals specifically. Five applications are in this group, ranked second in importance: attendance, business software evaluation, report cards, scheduling and student records. The rankings of "essential" for building-level applications increased 38 percent between the 1980s to the 1990s. Even a short decade ago many districts, particularly those with smaller suburban and rural schools, were still manually taking attendance, entering grades, scheduling students and classrooms, and maintaining records. These once time-consuming, cumbersome tasks are now handled more efficiently with multi-user software programs, such as Mac School.
In the master's level courses, prospective principals may be introduced to a range of integrated, modular software systems that facilitate many building-level operations. These students can be taught to interface attendance applications with scanners and auto-dialing programs. Such techniques make report cards and transcripts easy to update once the data is entered, and offer flexible options for the comments section. Computer-assisted scheduling is perhaps the most significant time-saving technological advance of all these building-level applications.
The third category, general applications, includes: database, graphics, integrated software and statistics. Perceived by 18 percent of the educational administration faculty as "essential" for the 1980s, general applications increased in rank more than any other category. For the 1990s over half of the respondents view it as "essential." As computer hardware improved in the mid-1980s, graphics, statistics and database operations also became more sophisticated.
Newer DOS-based microcomputers have enough memory (RAM) to run database programs serving entire urban and suburban districts. One frequent use of a database package is to maintain comprehensive student information files. Also, more school leaders are finding graphics and statistics packages of enormous assistance in reporting to school boards. The student of educational administration can be trained in applications for enrollment projections, fiscal forecasting and staffing needs. General applications have definitely emerged as significant planning tools for the 1990s.
The fourth most-valued software application area is communications, including telecommunications and word processing. This grouping was ranked "essential" in the 1980s by only 12 percent of the survey participants, but for the 1990s nearly half of the respondents consider it "essential." Heavy paperwork, faced by both the participating administrator and the graduate student, is one reason for the high ranking of word processing.
There is still a great range of word processing software from which colleges of education may choose. And the introduction of integrated software packages in the mid-1980s, such as AppleWorks and Microsoft Works, allows students to be taught to merge text files with database, spreadsheet and graphics files. For example, the newest versions of WordStar, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Works can link text with other business applications in just a few keystrokes.
Teaching prospective school leaders how to connect schools to one another as well as to outside information sources in the new decade also demands telecommunications skills.
Central Office Applications
This category includes calendar programs, decision-making simulations, project planning and management programs. Considered "essential" in the 1980s by only 11 percent of the respondents, that figure rose to 35 percent for the 1990s. Preparing future superintendents in the appropriate application of these decision-making tools is now a priority.
Calendar programs have become more sophisticated in the last ten years. Administrators may be taught how to utilize calendar programs to schedule activities and to rearrange meetings in case of conflict. School leaders, aware of the need for effective time-management skills, are also using the built-in calendar functions of newer hardware.
Unfortunately, currently available decision-making simulations are designed more for business enterprises than school situations. In these simulations, alternative variables are selected and weighed in the decision-making process. Some of the more sophisticated simulation exercises now employ interactive video as well.
Project management, closely associated with facilities planning, can engage the student of educational administration in activities such as the cost analysis of a building-construction process. Thus project management software can be a powerful tool for decision-making if the student-administrator is trained to recognize those areas where business and school needs overlap.
Included in the last cluster are these classroom applications: computer-assisted instruction (CAI), courseware evaluations, gradebook programs, interactive video and programming languages. Only four percent of the coordinators considered classroom applications to be "essential" to the training of educational administrators in the 1980s; for the 1990s, a low 13 percent of respondents viewed this category as "essential." Used more often by teachers for instructional and classroom management purposes, professors of educational administration do not see these applications as a priority.
Of the four areas in the classroom-applications cluster, knowledge of gradebook programs may offer the most practical benefits to future school administrators. Principals have found that these applications can increase the number and quality of the students' grade reports sent to parents. As a result of the ease with which weekly, and even daily, grade reports can be generated, student progress can be more closely followed. Once the graduate student-administrator is exposed to the various types of gradebook software, he or she can decide how these might be used to help both student and teacher.
While some computer applications are more useful than others to the educational administrator, all are considered valuable and all are ranked as more essential to know in this decade than in the last one. Teaching computer skills in the graduate course of study is compatible with the idea of the school administrator as both leader and manager. Leadership skills can be channelled using decision-making software and onerous managerial tasks can become less burdensome using project-planning software, calendar programs and databases.
To better prepare students for the coming millennium, educational administration faculty must be aware of the innovations in software and new applications. It took my students four times as long to do a school budget in 1983 than it did in 1990 (and the latter included both text and graphics). If this trend in increased productivity continues, the future looks bright indeed.
Virginia E. Garland is assistant professor in the administration and supervision graduate programs of the department of education at the University of New Hampshire. She has taught computer applications in educational administration since 1983.
Source Citation:Garland, Virginia E. "Software trends in the training of school administrators." T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education) 18.n4 (Nov 1990): 86(3). Computer Database. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 13 Oct. 2009
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