I just watched this Ted Talk from Scott McLeod which does a great job highlighting some of the empowering ways that students are using technology. It seems that too often our schools, the media, and community members focus on only the negative ways that technology can be used. Although we can’t ignore those things, we really need to begin to also embrace all of the positive ways students are using technology!
“blog about whatever you like related to effective school technology leadership: successes, challenges, reflections, needs, wants, resources, ideas, etc.”
As I was contemplating my topic, my initial instinct was to write a post critical of most leaders in relation to how they deal with technology issues. In my work with schools, I’ve observed that inadequate leadership around technology issues is the top barrier to successful technology integration. However, I decided to spin this post a bit differently because there are also administrators who are doing a good job in this arena. The remainder of this posts highlights those things that I’ve observed these lead administrators doing, and things I think an effective leaders should do.
An effective school leader…
1) Actively serves on a committee to formulate a school vision, and CLEARLY understands and can articulate how technology is part of that vision.
2) Models the use of technology to:
communicate with parents, teachers, students and the community.
find information to become a better informed leader.
share information with other educators in the district.
create a personal learning network outside of the school walls.
3) Provides resources that allow teachers to increase their skills. Those resources could include:
time for teachers to observe other classes.
meaningful in-house professional development.
differentiated professional development by content as well as skill level.
learning opportunities outside the school for select teachers.
4) Gives feedback to teachers about their use of technology. This isn’t solely formal evaluations, but frequent walk-through feedback and informal conversations with teachers.
5) Doesn’t pass off all technology related decisions to someone else in the school who happens to have the word “technology” in their title!
The effective leader around technology issues does not need to be an all knowing technology guru. However, they do need to be an active participant when dealing with the powerful tools we define as technology. This no longer can be an extra add-on to the job, but rather an essential component of successful leadership!
3. : performing or able to perform a regular function
These words came to my mind after my recent work with a school. As I was getting set-up for my presentation in a large presentation room, I was excited to see that there were multiple projectors and screens throughout the room. Unfortunately, I soon found out that although the projectors were functional, they wouldn’t work for me. Only a school computer loaded with a certain software would work with all of the projectors. Because multiple presenters would be presenting throughout the day, this wasn’t a good option. Although the projectors were working, they were essential useless to my colleagues and me.
After that disappointment, I began to hook-up my computer to test the one projector we could use as well as the sound. Unfortunately, I was once again disappointed with the usability of the equipment. In a very large room designed for presentations of over 100 participants, both the audio and LCD cord were approximately five feet long. I couldn’t help but think that I would be awkwardly standing in the corner while presenting.
These examples are fairly obvious examples of the differences between being functional and being usable. I worry that too often in education, we have lots of technology that is functional, but for one reason or another, is not usable for teachers. A look at the poor history of technology integration in schools is certainly evidence of this. So how do we address this issue? School leaders and teachers have got to stop deferring all technology decisions to the technology staff. This isn’t a criticism of technology staffs; many are amazing and do understand the importance of making technology more than just functional. However, very few of them spend the majority of their day in a classroom setting teaching students. Other educators can participate in discussions about the purchase, placement, and ways to enhance the use of technology without an intricate knowledge of software or hardware. By bringing these additional voices into technology decisions, there may be an additional focus on usability as well as functionality. School leaders must stop treating technology decisions as unique from other decisions they make. A technology decision is an education decision, and it shouldn’t be pushed on just one group of technology experts to make such important decisions.
This week I’ll be packing my bags and heading to Atlanta, Georgia. I’m excited to announce that I’ve accepted a position at Georgia State University (GSU) in downtown Atlanta. At GSU I’ll be working in the Educational Policy Studies Department as an Assistant Professor. I look forward to making new connections in Georgia, while also maintaining the many great partnerships I’ve been able to make throughout my career in education. I will also stay connected with colleagues from CASTLE as an Associate Director. Hopefully, this will be a fantastic opportunity for me!
I’m not sure if there is a more appropriate name for this post which I’m writing at 11,652 meters somewhere over southeastern Canada. I’ve recently been contacted by multiple schools that are moving to 1:1 with Chromebooks and others who are considering the move. As I’ve noted before, I generally hesitate recommending a device to schools. I want schools to select the device that best aligns with the needs of their initiative, and I do not believe there is one generic best device for all schools. With that said, I’ve really become quite impressed with the possibilities of using a cloud based device such as the Chromebook. One obvious change with a cloud based device is that educators will need to use cloud based software. I believe this change can lead to real changes in the ways that educators use technology and push them out of their comfort zones. The most exciting part of those changes for me is that most cloud based software is much more collaborative in nature. Rather than using a computer as a fancy pen and paper or encyclopedia set, educators will need to rethink how they can use the technology to impact student learning. Collaboration is a major piece of most tools they will be using on a cloud based device.
I have recently been exploring much more with my Chromebook with a recent presentation and trip to Europe. Here are some examples of how I’ve used cloud based software.
Prepared a presentation on Google Presentation for a group of 1:1 educators implementing a Chromebook initiative.
Used Google Hangout to deliver the presentation, and recorded that presentation with Google Hangouts on Air. This ensured that I wouldn’t have connectivity problems when delivering the presentation. The presentation was uploaded to YouTube.
Used Google Drive to provide feedback (comments) to students in my class while working offline on an airplane.
Answered questions in a Google Hangout with a group of approximately 150 administrators.
Traveled for nearly an entire month with only my Chromebook. I was able to do all of my work without any problems.
Wrote this blog post on Google Drive at 11,652 meters!
I am very excited for the potential with these cloud based devices, and certainly believe they are worth serious consideration for 1:1 schools!
My last post focused on how important leadership is in a 1:1 initiative. The following video is my virtual conversation about leadership to a group of leaders who are implementing a large 1:1 deployment in their district.
The more I work with 1:1 schools, the more I am convinced of the absolute importance of leadership with the transition to a 1:1 environment. Without solid leadership, great teachers are forced to connect with others outside of the school walls to improve their skills. That isn’t a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be the only way they can improve as educators. Other less ambitious educators are left muddling around trying to use these “new” devices to do old things. So what can leaders do to make the transition more successful?
Clearly establish and communicate the reason that the school has become 1:1.
If there isn’t a clear and convincing vision, many educators will become frustrated with the first roadblock (Bad connectivity, broken device, etc.) they encounter.
Parents, teachers, and students should all understand why this large investment was made!
Provide resources to all teachers.
Professional development should not be one size fits all. Both the high flyers and those who struggle with technology need personalized PD.
Consider that different teachers and departments may have unique needs in regards to their software and hardware.
Provide feedback about the ways that technology is being used.
As the saying goes, “what matters gets measured”. Provide teachers with feedback about the ways they are using technology.
Allow teachers to observe other teachers using technology in powerful ways.
Establish a common language about how technology can enhance learning.
This point aligns closely with vision, but I think it is very important. Personally, I like using this framework to discuss the ways technology is being used.
Establish core competencies for teachers around the use of technology. Leaders can then operate with the assumption that all teachers know how to use and can discuss empowering uses with those technology skills.
Create policies that empower rather than hinder the use of technology.
Be extremely thoughtful about the policies you enact! Too often policies are put in place as a reactionary measure to one incident.
Consider the pros and cons before making policies, procedures, and rules regarding the use of technology.
Give teachers and students a voice!
If you want true support, your best allies will be your students and teachers. Let them provide meaningful direction to your 1:1 program.
You can’t successfully lead a 1:1 initiative without support from others. Use the experts in your building!
As you read this list, you may recognize that many of these things aren’t unique to a 1:1 initiative. Many of these recommendations are simply good leadership! However, they are overlooked way too often.
Over the past four years I’ve had the opportunity to work with teams of administrators and teachers from around the country. I’ve heard about many of the challenges they face integrating technology as well as many of their successes. One of the simplest lessons I’ve learned in that work is in the value of time to collaborate on a focused topic. Unfortunately, if teams do have time to collaborate, that time is often used to address the burning issue of the day or week. Although those issues are certainly important and may keep the ship from sinking, they don’t always move things forward.
How can your school create time that focuses specifically on ways to use technology to enhance the educational experience for your students? I’ve heard some great recommendations from colleagues around the globe. The most common theme that has come out of those sessions is a dedicated time slot with a focused theme. Schools often do a poor job recognizing all of the experts that work within the school walls. Having conversations locally also certainly increases the likelihood that the presenter will understand the context of the school! A couple of the more creative meetings I’ve heard described are:
Muggers meeting-A voluntary meeting with coffee and donuts provided where teachers share a technology tool that is working well for them.
Appy hour-A voluntary meet up of teachers to discuss apps that they use.
I’m teaching a course this semester that includes components related to data driven decision-making and learning management systems. The students enrolled in the class are part of our school technology leadership Ph.D. cohort. The students are school administrators, teachers, and university staff. I’ve been trying to recruit LMS providers to speak to my class this Saturday and have been somewhat amazed by the responses. After cold calling multiple vendors, I certainly get a sense of the differences in customer service at the various companies. Some are extremely helpful and seem happy to chat and there were others who simply failed to respond to a call.
This experience has me thinking about the type of customer service that schools provide to teachers, parents, and students. In particular, I wonder what type of customer service your technology department provides. I’ve worked and chatted with many teachers and students who avoid their technology department at all costs. They fear the belittling attitudes or being put down for not knowing something “simple”. These technology departments actually hinder teachers’ experimentation with technology. However, there are other technology directors and departments that create a totally positive environment. As a teacher, I was brave enough to experiment with technology and that often led to problems with technology that I wasn’t able to solve by myself. I was fortunate to have a tech director who was always very responsive to my tech problems. He seemed to appreciate the fact that I was exploring new territory, and he actually encouraged me. His attitude certainly led to continued tech integration in my classroom. I wonder how different my approach to technology may have been had he responded differently. How is the customer service in your technology department? How is the customer service at your school?
On Monday I hosted a webinar for the University of Kentucky’s Next Generation Leadership Academy. Tracy Watanabe led the one hour session which was titled Using Technology to Transform Learning. You can view the entire session here. I had the opportunity to meet and work with Tracy and her colleague Jon Castelhano a few years ago prior to their implementation of a 1:1 program. Since that time, I’ve monitored their transition from afar and have been very impressed with the changes that have taken place. The webinar was a great way for me to learn about many of the things they have put in place to maximize the results of their 1:1 program. Below I’ve described some of the major things that stood out from Tracy’s presentation. However, I’d still encourage you to take the time to listen and learn from the webinar yourself.
Leadership: Tracy was part of a very strong leadership team who were very committed to transforming the learning experience for their school. However, this doesn’t necessarily set their school apart from other schools. What did make them different is that they also created a formal network for developing other leaders. They created a team of collaborative coaches (teachers) based on a Peer-Ed model. The training for the coaches was very systematic. By creating this much larger leadership team, it appears that true changes could reach a “critical mass” much easier.
Pedagogy: Rather than focusing just on the technology, Tracy’s school really focused on effective instruction. It appeared that even their PD was very integrated. Tracy talked about how they would first talk about pedagogy and then think about ways technology could enhance or enrich teacher’s methods. Although this may seem apparent to many of us, few schools seem to be doing this well. Does all PD in your school consider ways technology can enhance a teaching strategy?
Modeling: Tracy has truly been a model learner for others in her school. She has created a blog that goes beyond just technology. She also has used technology to enhance learning groups with tools such as diigo where she has created multiple groups. Groups then share valuable resources with other group members.
It is certainly worth your time to watch this webinar. You can also view resources from the webinar at this link. There are take-aways that can help impact 1:1 schools at various levels of implementation. Happy viewing!