Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thoughts On School Leaders And Technology Integration...

Earlier this week I had the honor of delivering a Keynote Address for the NYSCATE Summer Leadership Summit in Albany, New York. Others involved in the conference were Tom Whitby and Eric Sheninger, both of which gave awesome talks, and the National Teacher of the Year, Sarah Brown Wessling from Iowa. I got to meet lots of great people and have some pretty awesome conversations.

My keynote centered around technology integration and school leaders. I wanted to share a few of the key points to keep in mind as administrators, specialists, superitendents and other school leaders make decisions regarding technology. While my keynote was not recored I was asked to post my presentation, which you will find below with a few of my notes on each point.

Change: As we all know change is going to happen. And we need to be prepared for that change. At least understand that it is inevitable. Look at all the tools that many of us use and teach about everyday for use in the classroom. When I was teaching the pinnacle of technology use was having students create Power Points, with animation or using Excel to create graphs. Now, over the past 3-5 years (and even in just the last year) look at all the amazing tools we now have that have to create truly authentic learning experiences for our kids. Or the devices. iPods, iPads, eReaders, Smartphones. All of these are slowly but surely making their way into the classroom. The change is happening, whether we like it or not so we have to be sure that we, at the very least, understand there is a change, but moreover, understand what that change means for our classrooms and for our kids.

Support: One of the things that really bugs me is when I see districts make major investments in technology yet in the very next breath talk about cutting positions like mine. So wait. You are gonna buy thousands and thousands of dollars worth of technology, put it in the hands of teachers and kids and then get rid of the people responsible for teaching them the right way to use it? That is what almost happened to me this year. My job was on the chopping block right after I bought $100,000 worth of technology for my school. I had to fight for my job. School leaders have to understand how crucial it is to have the support system in place. People are much more important that things. Have the right people in the right places and give them the power to support teachers and students so that technology can get integrated the right way.

Sell, Don't Tell: I have heard the stories before. A superintendent hears from some pitch man how awesome Tool X is and why they need it in their school. The Supt. bites, spends thousands to buy it then holds a meeting to tell everyone this is what we will be using with little to no explanation as to why. If you are going to put IWB's in to every classroom in your school, fine. But instead of just doing it, you have to sell it. If there is place where everyone is on board with every decision made regarding technology I wanna know so I can apply to work there. It just doesn't happen. School leaders have to understand what they are getting into before they get into it so they can sell it to their staffs and to the school community. And really, who likes to be told what to do. Buy in will be so much more if technology integration is sold, not told.

Professional Development: I have written and talked about this a lot. The long and short of it is, if school leaders are going to invest in technology they have too offer and support the professional development that goes along with that investment. That means people (which I discussed above) but more importantly the time. School leaders have to provide the means for teachers to get the PD that they need. And people like me (technology trainers) need to not only tell teachers how to use tools but layout the how and why to use specific tools in the classroom as they relate to content. So it comes down to quality professional development. PD the right way.

Everyone Is Involved: This is an area of passion for me. In some places there is this attitude that schools are not for students. They are more teacher-centered. Schools are places of learning for kids. Yet 99 times out of 100 they are left out of the decision making process. Why is that? Kids have just as much, if not more, invested in the process than the adults do. It is their education so shouldn't they have a say in how it is delivered? And what about parents and the community? When we bring new technologies into our schools how often are they brought in to discuss the decisions? Bring kids in. Bring parents in. Open the doors and bring the community in. Introducing a new tool to your staff or a group of teachers? Bring in the parents so you can demo it for them and talk to them about how this tool supports learning. Again it all goes back to sell, don't tell and buy in. We can avoid many of the problems we have with parents not understanding why we are using these tools if we just bring them in on the process.

Money: Plain and simple, there isn't ever enough of it to go around. Do your homework. Before making an investment in technology understand what you are buying. What is your investment worth. This goes back to change. Technology is constantly changing. So should we buy the latest and greatest the moment it hits the market? Or do we hold back and see if something else comes along? But if we wait do we miss a great opportunity for learning? It is no doubt a challenge but school leaders have to understand and surround themselves with people who understand all this stuff and be willing to make tough decisions with technology budgets.

Life Long Learning: Lastly, not only should our students be life long learners. Our entire community should be as well. Teachers, administrators, parents and the community. We have to cultivate an atmosphere where life long learning is promoted to all.

Those are just a few of my thoughts. What do you think? What should school leaders and administrators keep in mind when dealing with technology integration? Leave some comments below.
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