Use of technology integration in resource scarce situation

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Critical Issue:


A Catalyst for Teaching and Learning in the Classroom This Critical Issue was researched and written by Gilbert Valdez, Ph.D., director of North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium and codirector of North Central Eisenhower Mathematics and Science Consortium (NCEMSC). Editorial guidance was provided by Barbara Youngren, director, The Critical Issue team would like to acknowledge the following experts for reviewing this article: Marla Davenport, director of Learning and Technology, TIES; Kathleen Fulton, director for Reinventing Schools for the 21st Century at the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future; and Robert Nelson, Learning, Leading and Technology.


The interface between educational technology and science and mathematics instruction is integral and symbiotic. Few of the examples noted in the Glenn Commission report (National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, 2000) would be as advanced as they are without the use of technology: Literacy in these areas [mathematics and science] affects the ability to understand weather and stock reports, develop a personal financial plan, or understand a doctor's advice. Taking advantage of mathematical and scientific information does not generally require an expert's grasp of those disciplines. But it does require a distinctive approach to analyzing information. We all have to be able to make accurate observations, develop conjectures, and test hypotheses: In short, we have to be familiar with a scientific approach. Educational technology, especially computers and computer-related peripherals, have grown tremendously and have permeated all areas of our lives. It is incomprehensible that anyone today would argue that banks, hospitals, or any industry should use less technology. Most young people cannot understand arguments that schools should limit technology use. For them, use of the Internet, for example, plays a major role in their relationships with their friends, their families, and their schools. Teens and their parents generally think use of the Internet enhances the social life and academic work of teenagers:

The Internet is becoming an increasingly vital tool in our information society. More Americans are going online to conduct such day-to-day activities as education, business transactions, personal correspondence, research and information-gathering, and job searches. Each year, being digitally connected becomes ever more critical to economic and educational advancement and community participation. Now that a large number of Americans regularly use the Internet to conduct daily activities, people who lack access to these tools are at a growing disadvantage. Therefore, raising the level of digital inclusion by increasing the number of Americans using the technology tools of the digital age is a vitally important national goal. (U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, & National Telecommunications and Information Administration. (2000, p. xv)

The very concept of the Internet would not be possible without technology. This is paralleled by the incredibly rapid growth of information that likely would not be possible without this technology. Research centers with no computers would arouse suspicion about the completeness, accuracy, and currency of their information because science and mathematics information grows daily and much of that new information can only be found through the use of technology. In fact, very few would argue with the statement that computers are essential to the work of professional scientists and mathematicians.

Given the vital role of technology in today's world, t his Critical Issue will examine the value of effective technology use in classrooms with specific references to mathematics and science instruction, programs, and curricula. It will attempt to answer the following three questions that are essential to making technology use more effective in instruction :

What prevents educational researchers from giving us definitive answers about technology in the classroom that would satisfy both critics and advocates?

What does the best quantitative and qualitative research tell us about educational technology's effectiveness and the conditions and factors necessary for maximum effectiveness?

Why is educational technology important to the teaching and learning of mathematics and science and what are the important considerations and resources that make technology use more effective?


Teaching is changing and, in many ways, becoming a more difficult job because of increasingly numerous contradictory expectations, including the following:

We are living in an age of information overload with the expectation that students will learn high-level skills such as how to access, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize vast quantities of information. At the same time, teachers are evaluated by their ability to have students pass tests that often give no value to these abilities. Teachers are expected to teach students to solve complex problems that require knowledge necessary across many subject areas even as they are held accountable for the teaching and learning of isolated skills and information. Teachers are expected to meet the needs of all students and move them toward fulfillment of their individual potential even as they are pressured to prepare students for maximum performance on high-stakes assessment tests that are the primary measure of student and school success. Technology can actually assist with some of these expectations and make teachers—and their students—more successful. However, as the world becomes more complex—virtually year-to-year instead of the generation-to-generation pace of most of the last century—educational needs continue to shift from teaching and learning isolated skills and information within each content area, to teaching skills that enable students to solve complex problems across many areas. Educators must prepare for a technology-rich future and keep up with change by adopting effective strategies that infuse lessons with appropriate technologies. This makes a uthentic assessment needs even more important: Assessments must keep pace with effective instructional technology use. All this while educators at every level, but teachers especially, actively pursue professional development that enables a lifelong exploration of ways to enhance the teaching and learning of science and mathematics and support science and mathematics education reform. Such findings suggest that the medium of instruction makes a difference in the accuracy and value of assessment in the classroom. Russell (2000) claims that technologies used during learning activities should also be used during testing. Further, he contends that student assessment methods should match the medium in which students typically work and that advocates for state and local assessment programs should ensure students have access to the same technology in the assessment process as they have in the learning process. Rose and Meyer (2002) believe that selecting appropriate testing accommodations for students on an individualized basis is a very complex endeavor involving the following factors that can confound assessment results:

Individual student learning differences.

Media characteristics of the testing technology.Type and amount of student supports. Poor alignment between curriculum and the test used to measure achievement. In their study, Russell and Haney (1997) concluded that, "As more and more students in schools and colleges do their work with spreadsheets and word processors, the traditional paper-and- pencil modes of assessment may fail to measure what they have learned." The study suggests that more and more paper-based assessments of today are becoming a thing of the past. Media characteristics of the technology used to administer the test also can present factors confounding test results when students are more apt in one medium (i.e., paper-and-pencil tests) than another medium (i.e., computerized tests that require keyboarding skills). This is a concern that will continue to grow as more assessments become technology based. Companies that develop these tests increasingly design their tests to be taken on computers. However, Rubin (Fulton, Feldman, Wasser, Spitzer, Rubin, & McNamara et al., 1996) believes that a more important outcome than raising test scores is the potential of technology to create communities of learners that do the following: Open the classroom to more communication opportunities. Encourage more teacher-student and student-student discussion. Share the authority as more resources are brought into the classroom. Create opportunities for tasks that are complex and authentic and connected to projects which may be multidisciplinary and long term. Give students more opportunities for multiple ways of discovering, creating, and communicating information in various formats and voices. (p. xviii) In their studies, Haertel and Means (2003) provided guidance on the evaluation of technology and thereby provided ways to determine the effectiveness of educational technology. They noted as follows: Multiple and complementary research strategies are needed to measure the impact of technology. Three promising general strategies for research design are contextualized evaluations, multilevel longitudinal research, and random-assigned experiments. Clustered studies that link to prior research and other interrelated studies offer a means for influences that affect student outcomes in "a myriad of relevant contexts." Common measures of contextual variables need to be used so that uniform results can be aggregated. Methods must be matched to purpose and not insistence on one methodology for all studies. Because of multiple intervention and practices present in every classroom, research on naturally occurring practices that are primarily descriptive need to be valued if they have longitudinal, carefully delineating and measuring variables, and use analytic techniques that help understand uses and frequencies. (pp. 257–268) What Do the Best Quantitative and Qualitative Research Tell Us About Educational Technology's Effectiveness and the Conditions and Factors Necessary for Maximum Effectiveness? There is sufficiently available technology support and maintenance, as well as appropriate software.


Educators and key stakeholders will develop a technology vision (See Why develop a technology vision?) to support learning goals that are focused on improved student learning and teacher effectiveness. (See How will you use technology to support your vision of learning?) Educational leaders and teachers will design and implement the necessary professional development plans to ensure that teachers have the knowledge and skills to successfully implement technology in mathematics and science. (See NCREL's planning resource for technology professional developers: Supporting Technology in Education With Professional Development.) Teachers and students will be able to use computers and other electronic technologies in ways that increase student learning, motivation, personal productivity, and creativity. Educational leaders and stakeholders will develop sufficient knowledge of change process research to anticipate and address change problems and issues in schools.


Any effort to create and encourage the effective use of education technology in instruction and assessments must consider specific issues of consistency, continuity, and support. Some of them, sorted by area of stakeholders' responsibility, are as follows.

School Board Members

School board members and their relevant policies should be explicit about the value of technology use in every appropriate venue. However, support for technology use must be expressed through actions, investment, and access, wherever feasible, not just with words. School board members can promote student and teacher excellence through technology use by not creating isolated technology improvement efforts that have no connection to real-world uses and promote learning. School board members should continually inform and communicate to the community why use of technology in schools is essential if students are to be prepared for future work and to fully participate in a technology-based information society. School board members need to secure the necessary technology resources and ensure that technology integration is treated as an ongoing endeavor and not isolated from systemwide improvement efforts. School board members should actively demand and support the creation of accountability systems that track the use and impact of technology use. School board members must learn not to treat technology as a one-time cost. Ongoing maintenance, support, and replacement of software and hardware are large costs that must be added to the budget as line items and should be evaluated by where and how they add value (not cost) to the school district. This practice should be institutionalized so that new board members cannot easily slow such investment and support. School board members must support investment in the necessary human infrastructure—such as effective technology-use professional development, active assessment alignment, and grade-level continuity—to ensure effective technology use and hardware infrastructure. School board members need to stay up to date about the functional capabilities needed to engage students in 21st century learning experiences that are necessary to have their school district provide relevant education appropriate for their students’ future. School board members must make every effort to stay informed about technology research on its best use and impacts on learning.


Leaders who are trying to make technology more effective in improving learning are fortunate that a great deal of thought has been given to defining standards. James Bosco, chairperson of the Technology Standards for School Administrators (TSSA) Committee, noted in the introduction to Technology Standards for School Administrators:

These Standards enable us to move from just acknowledging the importance of administrators to defining the specifics of what administrators need to know and be able to do in order to discharge their responsibility as leaders in the effective use of technology in our schools. (Technology Standards for School Administrators Collaborative, 2001, p. 1)

The TSSA document, a product of the TSSA Collaborative, is a useful guide that articulates the following main technology standards for administrators:

Leadership and Vision: Educational leaders inspire a shared vision for comprehensive integration of technology and foster an environment and culture conducive to the realization of that vision. (p. 6) Learning and Teaching: Educational leaders ensure that curricular design, instructional strategies, and learning environments integrate appropriate technologies to maximize learning and teaching. (p. 6) Productivity and Professional Practice: Educational leaders apply technology to enhance their professional practice and to increase their own productivity and that of others. (p. 6) Support, Management and Operations: Educational leaders ensure the integration of technology to support productive systems for learning and administration. (p. 7) Assessment and Evaluation: Educational leaders use technology to plan and implement comprehensive systems of effective assessment and evaluation. Analysis of data is especially important because of the requirements found in the NCLB Act. (p. 7) Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues: Educational leaders understand the social, legal, and ethical issues related to technology and model responsible decision-making related to these issues. (p. 7) In addition, school administrators need to make certain that all segments of the community have representation on planning committees, giving special attention to the inclusion of traditionally underrepresented members of the community. Readers are encouraged to view NCREL's Pathways Critical Issue titled Technology Leadership: Enhancing Positive Educational Change. The article deals with leadership strategies for use of technology to improve learning successfully.


Representatives of appropriate organizations also have created technology standards for teachers. The following are teacher standards modified from the National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers. They are especially relevant for teachers considering the following technology action options:

Teachers understand and support the importance of students learning to use educational technology as an important component of their preparation for further education, work, and life in general. Teachers demonstrate their support of technology use by developing their own skills, knowledge, and strategies necessary to model effective uses of technology. Teachers learn and use effective ways to integrate technology into their curriculum and use technology in ways that enhance instructional opportunities and successes for all students. Teachers learn uses of technology that provide assessment feedback to parents, students, and the teacher about how well the student is learning, and then use that data to improve learning productivity. Teachers understand and instill into their students the social ethical, legal and human issues surrounding the uses of technology


Student standards have been developed by the International Society for Technology (ISTE), which recommends students' use of technology should reflect the following skills and operations:

Basic operations and concepts Students demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology systems. Students are proficient in the use of technology.

Social, ethical, and human issues Students understand the ethical, cultural, and societal issues related to technology. Students practice responsible use of technology systems, information, and software. Students develop positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity.

Technology productivity tools

Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity. Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, prepare publications, and produce other creative works.

Technology communications tools

Students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences. Students use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences. Technology research tools Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources. Students use technology tools to process data and report results. Students evaluate and select new information resources and technological innovations based on the appropriateness for specific tasks. Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions. Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.


The following are recommendations of what skills, knowledge, and dispositions parents are expected to develop in terms of technology use : Parents should understand the importance, benefits, and issues associated with informational uses of technology in schools. Parents share with their children the importance and concerns they have about the uses of technology. Parents are involved in school activities, including helping students become more successful users of technology. Parents advocate for better educational opportunities for their children, including better access and use of technology. Parents model and provide guidance to quality uses of technology outside of school, including adhering to copyright laws and understanding the benefits and challenges of the vast and diverse materials available on the Internet.


Some researchers believe that there are so many barriers to successful implementation of effective technology use in U.S. schools, and they are so prevalent, that it is very difficult to isolate and measure just how much effective technology use is actually in place in the schools. Some generic reasons for the failure of educational change-and-reform efforts are important to note, reasons which may certainly apply to efforts to create effective technology use. Fullan and Stiegelbauer (1991) indicate the following reasons:

The purpose is not made clear. The participants are not involved in the planning process. The appeal is based on personal reasons. The habit patterns of the work group are ignored. Communication regarding change is poor. There is fear of failure. Excessive work pressure is involved. The cost is too high, or the reward for making the change is seen as inadequate. The present situation seems satisfactory. There is a lack of respect and trust in the change initiator. Likewise, there are many factors that affect technology implementation, especially in urban schools (Means, Penuel, & Padilla, 2001, p. 197), including the following:

Lack of technology infrastructure. Lack of technical support. Teacher discomfort with technology. Lack of high-quality digital content. Lack of instructional vision for technology use. The constraints of academic schedules and departmental structures. Lack of student technology skills. Low expectation of students. Accountability pressures. Gabriela Castillo, a first-grade bilingual teacher at Johnson Elementary School in Community Unit School District 200 in Wheaton, Illinois, stated issues such as lack of access to a computer laboratory, limited software functions, and insufficient interaction among classroom teachers and computer teachers often act as barriers to successful use of technology with students.

Managing Technology-Use Initiatives

Many of the barriers to implementation, as Means, Penuel, and Padilla (2001) noted, are self-explanatory, while some require clarification. Take, for example, the different uses of technology by departments in secondary schools. In those locations where principals and department heads are able to provide concrete, specific examples of how technology can support learning, there can be more quality use than in those locations where such guidance is not provided (Means, Penuel, & Padilla, 2001). Block scheduling with its longer time periods also encouraged in-depth projects where technology could be used with the most effectiveness. One of the most challenging barriers is that of low expectations for student decision making. These lower expectations result in teachers assigning primarily drill-and-practice uses of technology rather than the student-centered and complex tasks that offer the greatest value-added opportunities for the use of technology (Means, Penuel, & Padilla, 2001, pp. 197–208).

Meanwhile, affecting all of this planning and effort is, of course, all the communication and leadership pitfalls to implementation that are factors in other change efforts are also true when stakeholders attempt to provide educational technology-use leadership. Failure to have a shared vision, clear goals, and objectives with defined measurable outcomes can kill a change effort right from the beginning. A poorly designed implementation plan that fails to define tasks, responsibilities, and ongoing benchmarks also will result in the change effort failing. Clearly, failure to assess progress and challenges and to make needed changes as the program progresses is an implementation pitfall with dire consequences. Also, administrators who do not communicate with stakeholders about defining success and challenges increase the risk of failure dramatically.

A careful plan may avoid several pitfalls. But those careful plans may be surprised, short-circuited, or defeated by people, institutions, rules, policies, or inertia: These are barriers to implementation of such scale that they cannot be treated as mere pitfalls. If barriers to implementation are not dealt with, the chances of success for even the best-planned implementation is seriously compromised.

These are all extremely important implementation pitfalls to avoid and barriers to overcome, but there are some problems unique to technology leadership that require special attention. One of the most significant is the need for professional development for both administrators and teachers. Because many educators did not receive adequate preparation for use of technology in their preservice experience, most have to learn effective and efficient use even as they try to instruct and model use of the available technology.

Such insights suggest that instructional technology use, if it is to be successful, needs to be implemented systemically rather than in isolation. For example, failure to integrate technology use into the required curriculum may result in technology being perceived as an instructional add-on. Teachers may be frustrated when they realize that to use technology effectively, they will need not only to learn technology use and integration but that they may need to modify their instructional and assessment practices as well. Meanwhile, administrators need to share the change process, beginning with why the change is necessary, what the benefits expected are likely to be, and what the consequences are of not making any changes, with respect to the emphasis on providing a full education to all students. In addition, administrators need to encourage and support technology professional development opportunities exactly because some teachers are less comfortable with technology than with other aspects of their teaching. However, some teachers may need additional constructive feedback that will enable them to take risks using technology in ever more ways.

Creation and management of technology infrastructure and support is probably the implementation problem that can be most fatal. Teachers and students should not be expected to be technology infrastructure and support experts. The equipment they are using needs to be dependable and easily accessible. Teachers need to experience technology as something that they can build lesson plans around and not worry that their planning efforts and schedules are frequently impossible because of equipment failure or unavailability. A few negative experiences will lead teachers to believe that technology use is more problematic than helpful and will likely reduce their technology use substantially.


Routinely, articles and books are published that continue to make the argument that schools use too much technology. Some critics attack technology use in schools for physiological, psychological, moral, and physical reasons, and those critics and their opinions may never change. However, most critics attack technology use because they believe it provides minimal value-added benefit to educational efforts. Fool's gold: A critical look at computers in childhood (Cordes & Miller, 2000), Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom (Cuban, 2001), and The Flickering Mind (Oppenheimer, 2003) are three critiques that have received considerable attention as serious criticisms of technology use in schools.

The main criticism in all three of these books, and other critical articles as well, is that computers are not as cost effective as other interventions. They note the obsolescence factor of computers and the ongoing costs of upgrading both hardware and software. Some critics indicate a belief that many hardware and software companies purposely design products to become quickly obsolete and thus require updates that educators must buy. It is their belief that educational technology is too much in its infancy and not yet reliable enough for use by most students.

Some critics such as Kirkpatrick and Cuban (1998) indicate that technology equipment requires extensive support structures that require districts to take money away from basic expenditures for other and better uses in the classroom. They believe this money should be invested in the arts, science laboratories, shops, and anything else that involves more hands-on ways of learning. Technology literacy, some believe, is highly overblown in its importance and that people who need to use technology will learn by using task applications that involve "real" work.

The criticism is especially strong for computer use by younger students. Some critics believe that with the exceptions of assistive technologies for students with special needs, students below the third grade should not use much, if any, technology. Other critics are concerned that technology reduces socialization opportunities. Some parents are concerned about the effect that children are gaining so much of their world knowledge from a virtual, rather than the real, world. Other critics are concerned that the sexual and violent content accessible on the Internet challenges or prevents character education necessary for development of moral citizens (Rifkin, 2000).

Some critics think that technology use is a wasteful and negative use of scarce resources and give examples of visiting schools where uses of computers are actually making education worse. They note that in many cases, teachers use computers to entertain students with irrelevant and unconnected activities because it makes their teaching lives easier and not because it benefits students as they learn important content.

Subsequently, several people have written very enlightening responses to such critics. Two articles that are especially informative are "Myths and Realities about Technology in K–12" by G. M. Kleiman (2000) and " Strip Mining for Gold: Research and Policy in Educational Technology—A Response to Fool's Gold" by D. H. Clements and J. Samara (2003). Kleiman (2000) indicated that there are realities to some of the criticisms but that many of the points of objection are due to poor implementation of technology. He noted:

The central theme underlying all these myths is that while modern technology has great potential to enhance teaching and learning, turning that potential into reality on a large scale is a complex, multifaceted task. The key determinant of our success will not be the number of computers purchased or cables installed, but rather how we define educational visions, prepare and support teachers, design curriculum, address issues of equity, and respond to the rapidly changing world. As is always the case in efforts to improve K–12 education, simple, short-term solutions turn out to be illusions; long-term, carefully planned commitments are required. (p. 20)

No doubt, technology will always have critics. Some believe that technology reduces hands-on experience and student engagement in active participation. Others believe technology reduces important human contact. In the final analysis, one can conclude that identified uses of technology can have different critiques depending on one's personal values and perspectives of what is good and bad in education. The single most important factor for reducing criticism of technology use in instruction is to have teachers who are competent and knowledgeable about appropriate and effective use of technology to improve student learning.


Following are a few exceptional resources focused on effective uses of technology in schools:

Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE). Through involvement in the GLOBE program, students join other students around the world to measure water temperature at a nearby stream or to track changes in the weather from day to day. One Sky, Many Voices. This program, based out of the University of Michigan , provides students with interactive activities across many communities and provides them with opportunities to use technologies in interesting and exciting ways. Pathfinder Science. The motto of this Web site is creating student scientists, not just science students. Pathfinder Science is a virtual community that provides projects, background information and a structure for students to follow in gathering, analyzing, and sharing data using the Internet.

Additional Links

Central Operations of Resources for Educators (CORE)

This Web sitedescribes more than 200 aeronautics and space programs chronicling NASA's state-of-the-art research and technology efforts. These videocassette, slide, and CD-ROM programs can serve as a springboard for discussing life science, physical science, space science, energy, Earth science, mathematics, technology, and career education.

The Earth Exploration Tool book

This Web site has a collection of computer-based Earth science activities. Each activity, or chapter, introduces one or more data sets and an analysis tool that enables users to explore some aspect of the Earth system. This Web site offers 12 new exemplary curriculum features and resources each month. It identifies effective curriculum resources, creates high-quality professional development materials, and disseminates useful information and products to improve K–12 mathematics and science teaching and learning.


This Web site offers numerous resources such as The Tools for Teaching, an important stop for all science teachers.

Federal Resources for Educational Excellence

More than 30 federal agencies formed a working group in 1997 to make hundreds of federally supported teaching and learning resources easier to find. All can be accessed from this site.

Geometry Java Applet Gallery

This Web site provides applets to triangle calculators and advanced principles in an interactive manner and demonstrates excellent uses of technology to improve learning.

Intel Innovation in Education

This Web site features project-based activities that model interesting and relevant learning and effective uses of technology.

ISTE National Educational Technology Standards (NETS)

In partnership with a number of organizations and educators across the country, ISTE has developed National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for students.

Knowledge Network Explorer

This Web site offers many resources, including Blue Web'n that classifies Internet resources rated on a five-star scale.

Some resources here focus on technology and its use in education, while others focus on related issues such as professional development and policy, which have an educational technology component.


This report briefly touched on the intricacies of spectrum management, with a view to promoting better understanding and efficient administration of this seemingly “airborne” medium that defines important aspects of human existence and touches on day-to-day living. Telecommunications has evolved over the years, and has relevance to all aspects of development – from national security to individual empowerment; from regional or global governance structures to the local fish farmer.

While innovation may have pushed for the liberation of spectrum space, regulatory mechanisms may be slow in accelerating growth in the sector in developing regions. This is especially the case with the deployment of WiMAX and other potential services that could extend access to rural areas, and could possibly accelerate regional integration. Regulatory mechanisms must be instituted well ahead of innovation. The potential of WiMAX to reach largely unreachable places in Africa in the 2.5 GHz band should be encouraged, with licences awarded to service providers. Pro-people licensing regimes should be developed, such as unified licences with a specific focus on rural telephony, and mechanisms such as the FCC’s designated entities should be put in place to allow smaller players to compete.

Access for all should be a driving force behind most telecommunication improvements, including the efficient management of spectrum. Regulators, equipment manufacturers, operators, regional economic commissions and governance structures all have a role to play, including those in Ethiopia.

The result is a new type of university that is unrecognisable in the terms of its predecessor institutions. The transformation, of course, is not complete, and never will be in this environment of continuous change in higher education.

We believe that Deakin University is in a better position than it would have been without such radical restructuring. In our view, essential ingredients for success in such an endeavour are:

strong leadership, including appropriate rhetoric about the mission of the university;

a programme of change management that allows all parts of the institution to understand and accept their new roles; and

serious commitment to professional development to address the changing nature of academic and administrative work.