To explore the use of education technology in rural schools, Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest is working with the Iowa Department of Education, Central Rivers Area Education Agency, and five rural Iowa school districts to form a networked improvement community (NIC). The NIC is focusing its initial work on identifying best practices to incorporate technology into instruction.
The NIC will use a continuous improvement process to identify the problem, create an intervention, iteratively test and refine the intervention, and share their findings. The NIC met this spring to identify main challenges to incorporating technology in education. This analysis identified two primary needs for schools and districts to improve technology integration—clearer expectations about how schools will use technology and professional development opportunities. In the fall, the NIC will develop a theory of action around one of those needs. In turn, the NIC will use the theory of action to develop an intervention, administer it, collect data, and reflect on the results.
REL Midwest has previous experience with NICs and continuous improvement research, which will inform the work of the Iowa NIC. During the 2015/16 school year, REL Midwest formed a NIC in Michigan, known as the Michigan Focus NIC, that tested an intervention to improve mathematics fluency. REL Midwest also formed a NIC in Minnesota to explore ways that the Minnesota Department of Education could enhance supports for the state’s Regional Centers of Excellence, which in turn support school improvement efforts.
To learn about the work of the Michigan Focus NIC and the Minnesota NIC, explore the following resources: