Monday, August 24, 2009

Back To School-Leadership

Several months ago I participated in Leadership Day 2009. In that post I talked a little bit about leadership and support from school leaders. In the spirit of the First Days of School series I am reviving that post and adding some more ideas and resources for administrators and school leaders to help change the culture of technology in their schools. In my last post I discussed how to introduce social media into your school or district. In order to do this is it important to have strong leadership and the desire for change. But how, as a school leader do you do this, where do you begin?

There is so much pressure on school leadership in this day and age. School budgets are growing tighter and tighter. More, now than ever, schools and districts are facing the real possibility of laying off teachers and not having enough in funds to to even keep the doors open to some schools. The vast majority of districts across this country have had to make hard decisions regarding budgets; many of them deciding to make drastic, but necessary cuts in order to save jobs and still give students the best possible education.

There is pressure from state and federal mandates on testing. I see it all the time in the schools that I visit; administrators staring in to computer screens, pouring over spreadsheets, trying to figure out where their students are and where they need to be in terms of testing. Many spend late nights in their offices in April and May thinking of ways to give their students the edge they need to pass the test.

With all of these external pressures there is little time for school leadership to encourage teachers to take risks in their classroom and be creative in terms of technology. However, I believe there are 5 simple things that school leadership can do to help teachers as they transition their classrooms to Web 2.0 learning.

1) Why do we even need to be having this conversation? Why do we need to change? Watch Did You Know 3.0 to understand what will happen if we do nothing. (Also check out this post on the best TED Talks for School Leaders.)

2) What do good school leaders do? Watch this short presentation on Leadership Principals in Technology. Which do you exhibit? Which do you need to work on to support technology in your school or district?

3) Become familiar with the NETS for Administrators- At NECC (National Education Computing Conference) this year, the National Education Technology Standards (NETS) for Administrators were unveiled. (This was their first major revision since first being introduced in 2002.) According to the NETS website: "The NETS for Administrators enable us to define 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." The NETS provide guidance to school leadership on everything from learning culture to professional practice to digital citizenship. Many of the Standards only require the encouragement, vision and assurance from the administration to ensure that technology is being used to re-shape learning in their buildings.

4) Grow your PLN- Just like teachers, administrators and school leadership need a Professional Learning Network (PLN). Your PLN is there for you to share ideas with, listen to your problems but most of all help you grow ideas you have. Your PLN consists of people who are just like you, that you can turn to when you need that point of view you can't get from anywhere else. One of the best and easiest ways to create a PLN is to join Twitter. There are 100's of school administrators there right now waiting to network. Check out the Principalspage on Twitter4Teachers to start. (Oh, and if you need more information on how to get the most out of Twitter or how it works, visit my Twitter Links on Delicious.)There are other groups too like Classroom 2.0 on Ning and groups on LinkedIn. The point here is that you are not alone. Learning does not take place in isolation. Reach out and learn and share with others.

5) Provide Time and Encouragement-This is the one that inevitably will be the hardest to do. School leaders have to provide teachers the time and opportunity to learn about new tools and techniques for their classroom. I have already documented all of the pressures on school leaders but in order for our students to be successful we have to understand that the face of education is changing. The way the students learn is changing. Most teachers are not going to be able to make the drastic changes needed overnight. They are going to need time to learn. It is vital that school leaders provide the time needed. More over, and I believe, more important, school leaders must provide an environment in their school for teachers to take risks and encourage teachers to make the change in their teaching. Teachers are not going to make a change or take a risk if there isn't support from their school leadership.

Reflection is an amazing thing. I have been very hard on teachers in the past. However, they can not go it alone. They must have school/district leadership that understands why we need to change the way we educate students. These five things should be just the beginning for school leaders. Administrators and school leaders need to be agents of change. It should not be the teachers who have to fight for change in their classroom. The should be able to walk hand-in-hand with their administrators to make strides in changing our classrooms from the 18th century to the 21st.


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