How can leaders, cautious about stepping into a digital environment, lead teachers to use that digital environment to prepare students to be college and career ready? The use of digital tools, for research, learning, creating, presenting, playing, and sharing is an expectation for learning in and outside of classrooms. Blended and flipped learning, the use of gaming, drafting of writing, keeping records of learning as it develops, grading, learning, presenting, and sharing through the use of software and tools are essential in today’s learning environment. There are teachers who are adept in this environment and those who are reticent.
If the use of technology is not part of a strategic plan, and exists as a suggestion or a nudge, the result will be students who have inconsistent experiences. Unless a planned rollout of the use of technology throughout the teaching and learning process is in place, only some students will be properly prepared in this arena for college and career. Our aim is for ALL students to be prepared.
Break the Barriers
Leaders’ beliefs about technology and lack of understanding about the dynamic and sometimes invisible nature of the use of technology are two barriers to progress. If a systematic plan for increasing technology applications does not exist in a school or system, question why. When new standards are required, schools traditionally have planned out professional development, purchases of new texts and/or supplies, and observed as teachers have adopted and used these new methods and tools. Why is it not a common practice when it comes to the use of technology?
There are places till where the methods used have been the same for decades: the teacher is owner and imparter of knowledge, books are resources, the internet is capacity building but students remain receivers of knowledge. So no matter the subject or area of expertise, a principal could be familiar enough with the methods of planning student learning objectives, developing lessons that fit a particular time frame, monitoring the level of student engagement (in this sense, paying attention), and developing and measuring (assessment) of student knowledge. This digital medium, although around for some time now, presents a new and different challenge.
Leaders Expand Understanding
The use of technology in teaching, learning, and sharing is not a requirement that can be passed on to the teachers without an understanding of the ease and complexities involved. Without the leaders’ knowledge, understanding, and use of these technologies, walking beside teachers as leaders much can go awry. This is not an area that can be managed; it must be led.
Leaders of technology utilization will be found organizing blogs, keeping up with the articles that are sharing new ideas, generating and accessing dynamic, blended courses, developing digital citizenship, and communicating through social media. They know when the use of technology fits in a lesson and when it doesn’t. They are, themselves, constantly learning. What it takes to either develop an online lesson or a flipped lesson is as important for the leader to understand as it is that she or he understand what it is like to learn that lesson online. It is a case of walking in another’s shoes.
Leaders need to know how to follow a blog and website, live in a twitter environment, develop an online lesson or unit, take an online course, create, refine, and share information in a variety of ways. Placing one’s toe in the water is not that difficult.
Having a twitter account in order to follow conversations that are taking place does not demand that you participate in the discussions. Rather, it offers a window into a place where recommended resources and interesting conversations are taking place. Just two of the plethora of twitter conversations that take place and are worth watching are #Satchat and #TTOG. #Satchat is held at 7:30am EST every Saturday morning and is a conversation for current and emerging school leaders. No requirement to participate, one can simply read the tweets as they go back and forth and learn what others in the field are thinking and doing. #TTOG is held Monday evenings at 7pm EST and educators engaged in the journey of questioning the value of grading as it currently exists and who are trying to move away from traditional grading have conversations that are open to all. More leaders and higher ed folks would benefit from even just listening to what in the past existed as conversations in faculty rooms or within role alike groups.
Books, Blogs, and Websites
Larry Ferlazzo, a high school teacher in California, is a prolific writer of many books and blogs on a variety of topics of importance to educators. He shares valuable information in so many different outlets it is best to recommend you Google him in order for us not to miss one.
Three books worth having at your fingertips are:
- Teaching the iStudent and 5 Skills for the Global Learner by Mark Barnes
- The Tech-Savvy Administrator: How do I use technology to be a better school leader? by Steven W. Anderson
- Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times by Eric C. Sheninger
All these folks are on the web in may ways...a search can find ways in which these thinkers can contribute to the development of a better understanding of those aspects of technology and leadership that will be the best fit for you.
Principal as Curriculum Leader
The principal as curriculum leader can use these opportunities to model. Faculty meetings can be flipped, information can be shared through twitter by creating your own hashtag, any of the social media outlets can be used for communication. Most importantly, learning the ins and outs of developing learning opportunities through technology, including having the experience the making and taking of a course online, is a key contributor to giving the teachers who are being asked to create these experiences the confidence and support they need to move forward. Any strategic plan for implementing and continuing the development of the use of technology in the learning environment should require, as in most things, a walk in another’s shoes.
The opinions expressed in Leadership 360 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.