Recently, I spent some time talking with the administrators in a school system nearby about technology, their vision for where they want to go and how the administrators play a key role in the development of technology practices that can have a huge impact on student learning. I asked them several questions, and I have included in this article some that I believe are most important. Some of these questions are adapted from the Principals Technology Leadership Assessment from Castle and others are questions of my own. Some of these questions are for the leader, while others are for a leadership team. These by no means are the only questions to consider, but by answering these you can gain an understanding for the direction that technology integration will take/does take in a school or system. Even if you can’t answer all or some of these questions, use them as opportunities for reflection on your goals you have for yourself and team and the direction you need to go.
Regarding a Vision for Technology
What are we doing to make learning better for kids? (Our most important question.) Ultimately our goal is to educate kids; to help kids discover their passions and provide for them the necessary tools and resources to live and work in a world that is rapidly developing and changing. We have to ensure as a team we are doing what is necessary to create environments for student learning (with the infusion of technology) and support teachers, administrators and schools as they create those environments as well. And how can I as a technology leader empower my team? What tools and resources can I provide for them to meet their needs?
To what extent do you as the administrator compare and align your school technology plan with other plans such as your school improvement plan? Are there clear goals for the use or integration of technology that are integrated into your school improvement plan? Perhaps there is a component to address digital safety or cyber bullying, but should there be more? What should be addressed? Is technology even addressed at all?
Where are we, as a team, going? The overall vision and direction of the school system is out of our hands. That is decided by the Superintendent and Board of Education. What I can do is match the vision and direction of the Instructional Technology/Instructional Assessment program to better match the overall vision and direction of the system. How are we going to reach our goals, and what do we need to get there? How can I (personally) ensure we get there? And if we aren’t on the right path, what can I do to make sure we correct ourselves?
Regarding the Use of Technology
To what extent do you work to ensure the equity of technology access and use in your school? Some classrooms are lucky. Every kid and teacher has access to whatever they need. Others are lucky to have a working Internet connection. We have to work with what we are provided, so how are we harnessing what we have to the best of our ability? Are we making smart purchases that will enhance learning, or are we spending because this device is flashy or neat? Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, what are we doing with what we do have and how can we innovate with it?
To what extent do you support faculty and staff in connecting and using school system and building level technology systems for management and operations? Data is important. Understanding it and using it can be powerful. How, as the technology leader, do you provide access to systems that allow teachers to critically analyze data?
Regarding the Role of the Technology Leader
What are we doing to carry out our mission? In my school system our technology mission is: “Prepare our community to meet the challenges of the 21st Century Learner, act as a conduit of continual change, serve our students to help them succeed and support the technological needs through planning and integration.” So how am I and my team preparing our community, acting as that conduit of continual change, serving our students, and planning and integrating? What can I do to improve and what can I do to help my team improve to carry out our mission?
To what extent do you participate in professional development activities meant to improve and expand your use of technology? This is another important question to ponder. I know I can do a better job of offering targeted professional development specific to my administrators in my system. But what opportunities are administrators seeking outside of traditional professional development? Are they engaged in Twitter or other social networks? Do they know about #cpchat? Do they read leadership blogs? Are they going to conferences or Edcamps to expand their horizons or see what conversations teachers are having?
To what extent do you provide support to teachers or staff members who are attempting to share information about technology practices, issues and concerns? Are staff meetings wasted sharing information that could be shared via email, QR Code or blog? Or are staff meetings spent sharing best practices, examining what is working with technology integration or how we all could benefit from what a particular teacher is doing? It’s this idea of the Flipped Meeting that could be of benefit here. Are the administrators providing time for teachers to visit other classrooms to see best practices or share model lessons?
The reflective leader is one who is constantly wondering how they can improve and, more importantly, how they can help others improve.
What connections can we make today? One of the best lessons I learned as a classroom teacher was the more connections I made with my kids and my parents, the better my classroom was. When kids learn that you care about them and genuinely care about their learning, they will do anything for you. Parents are the same. Many parents bring negative attitudes to school because of their own bad experiences. So the more connections we can make, the easier our jobs become. The same is true with Instructional Technology. When all we do is offer a menu of choices of professional development, we aren’t meeting teachers where they are or providing for them the learning opportunities they need. Nor can we make connections with them. Rather what we do as a team is meet with teachers individually or in their Professional Learning Communities to be a part of the planning process and provide them the answers they need. One benefit — we make awesome connections too. We are breaking down walls and helping schools and teachers understand technology integration. But we can’t stop there. What other connections can we make? How can we strengthen our existing connections to do more?
Be reflective. The reflective leader is one who is constantly wondering how they can improve and, more importantly, how they can help others improve. Technology and the role of the technology leader is shifting and changing, sometimes on a daily basis. We have to spend time looking deep inside, being honest with ourselves, to ensure we are walking the right path and guiding others along it.