On Sunday, July 12, 2009, bloggers from around the world will be addressing leaders in school buildings, central administration and policy makers regarding effective school technology leadership. You can find links to many of these posts by using the #leadershipday09 search tag on Twitter. Scott McLeod will also be organizing and summarizing these posts at his blog, Dangerously Irrelevant. I know I will be carefully reading and referencing these wonderful ideas for days and weeks to come, but I wanted to add my own voice to this call as well.
I will start by saying that I am very fortunate to have an administration who embraces innovation in instructional technology. As proof of her vision as a leader, she also sees technological and instructional leadership to be tightly woven together. This is an essential key to creating a school culture that will embrace the greater collaborative opportunities that are afforded with the tools available today, not just the tools themselves. In order for students to maximize their own learning and the potential of a community to move forward in global education, schools must realize the potential for teaching and learning as a cohesive unit. A friend of mine would always follow up one of my statements like that with the question, “But what does that look like, Kelly?” In attempt to pay homage to her as a school principal, here are five steps to get you started.
- Create an instructional model, not a technological model. These two elements must be one in the same. Technological tools with no pedagological focus are useless. Just because a final product is generated through a laser printer or video camera doesn’t mean that transformative teaching is taking place. As you integrate new teaching and learning opportunities into your school, you must provide teachers with on-going support and encouragement. By keeping the focus on instructional practice, teachers will see this shift as supplanting previous strategies, rather than creating additional work.
- Take a walk. Find a local school who is effectively using technology in classrooms at each grade level and in most content areas. Call them. Set up an appointment for a walk through. Take a group of your teacher representatives from each grade level and a camera/video recorder. Build connections at this school. I have no doubts that they will offer needed advice and support as you are transitioning. Pick their brains. Glean ideas. See effective uses of technology at work.
- Model leadership through learning. It is my strong belief that teachers will not effectively integrate technology for the learning of their students until they use it for their own learning. It is very difficult to create meaningful learning experiences for students when we, as teachers, haven’t had them ourselves. Schedule a training for a particular tool, such as a wiki, Google Docs or Twitter, and integrate that one tool into daily use within the school. Hold all your calls during that training. Administrative participation and enthusiasm about the learning tool will set the tone for the staff. Set up an environment where staff can explore the tool and its uses for learning, sharing and collaboration on a professional level. As the staff as a whole starts to feel more comfortable with the tools being introduced one at a time, the application and enthusiasm will spill over to student experiences.
- Bring Back Show-n-Tell. Once teachers and students are embracing the instructional applications for these web-based and digital collaborative tools, organize a monthly show-n-tell time. Ask each grade level or content area to be in charge of a 30-60 minute sharing session one month in the calendar year. They should share what technology resources they are using, how they are using them and the successes they have encountered. By empowering teachers to be experts in what they are doing, they will also gain ideas from peers for application in their own classrooms. By creating a culture of sharing and collaboration, teachers will be more likely to solicit the input and advice of peers.
- Rise to the Challenge. Challenge your teachers to alter one of their instructional units in each of the grading periods to integrate more technology. Once you have started introducing tools to the staff, encourage them to find ways to use the tools in their classrooms with their students. Equally recognize and support those teachers who are using these mediums outside the classroom to enhance their personal and professional learning. At the same time, take the plunge yourself. Take your school calendar off the giant whiteboard in the teachers’ lounge and put it on a Google Calendar where all staff members can see it and edit it. Put all of your staff materials on a wiki where they can be easily accessed and used for the staff (like field trip forms, handbooks, etc.). Take on one project at a time and begin your journey to connectivity!
Ok, I lied. I have one more step, but I think it is critical enough that it merits it’s own additional number.
- Reach Out. As you begin the process of transforming the learning and teaching in your school, reach out into your community. Keep parents informed as to what you are doing and, more importantly, why. Provide education for them as to how their children’s learning is evolving and what this means for them at home. Make sure parents are aware of the digital footprint the children are creating and their responsibilities at home to ensure the safety of their kids. Let them be active participants in their children’s learning and you will have no choice but to create excited, empowered, global learners.
Good luck on your journey. Be informed. Be enthusiastic. Be student and learning centered. Hopefully you will even blog about it!