Get on board leaders! The technology boat is sailing, and every school leader must get on board today. Paddles are out there. It is time to join in!
School leaders must become technologically-savvy in order for schools to move into the future. No longer is it permissible to say, “That is for the technology department”, or “Talk to so-and-so down the hall”. Leaders must possess the skills and be willing to take risks along side their staff if we want schools to catapult into the future. We know times are changing. We know the students sitting in our classrooms are different than what we were when we were taught in school. We know students need a different set of skills to be successful when they leave high school in this era. Leaders must not only lead the charge in these changes in our schools, but also be able to model effective technology integration for their staff to embrace these changes.
A must-read for EVERY school leader today is Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times by Eric Sheninger. His call to action and step-by-step know-how on leading a school through these changes speaks to this importance in our schools. He states:
“Leaders today must establish a vision and implement a strategic process that creates a teaching and learning culture that provides students with essential skills sets…Consistent innovation, effective integration of technology, meaningful professional development, connecting beyond the walls of a brick-and-mortar building, and an open mind are all mandatory duties of a leader in the digital age.” (Preface, xviii)
Leaders today cannot wait for the integration of technology in their schools to “magically” take place. It begins with a mindset of modeling its use, making it a part of daily life. In my experience, there will never be enough training or time. Leaders must take it upon themselves to develop their skills, promote and model its use, and share triumphs and struggles with their teachers. Because I feel technology integration is imperative within the vision I have for schools in the future, I have taught myself, with the guidance and support of my PLN and technology-savvy colleagues, the tools and resources I utilize on a daily basis. I am always a learner. By having this learner mindset, I am continually growing my integration of devices, tools, and resources so that I can become a better leader. I model my learner mindset with my staff, and therefore I am integrating technology with them every day. Do I know all of the answers? No. Do I know how to do everything on a computer? No. But, I am willing to try, willing to ask, and willing to learn, and my staff sees it all. It is powerful to lead by example.
Leaders today cannot wait for the integration of technology in their schools to “magically” take place.
Through modeling the use of technology during my day, I have also been available to answer questions teachers have about particular tools, devices, and resources. In most districts, the tech department is small, and often overwhelmed with technical support details. There might be one or two tech integration coaches in a district, but that is not enough to support the growing need for support in the classrooms. As an instructional leader, I can support my staff, answering questions, demonstrating tools and resources, and sharing ideas on integration of technology through my classroom observations. It is not just another part of my job; I love helping my staff!
The most difficult aspect of becoming a technology-savvy leader is knowing where to begin. First and foremost, leaders must BELIEVE in their own learner mindset and vision for the future of schools, which includes the seamless integration of technological tools, devices, and resources. Without belief in the importance of being THE leader to model learning and use, most of the actions to follow-through will be lost within a short period of time.
Once a leader believes in this vision, here are my MUST-DOs for school leaders to begin modeling and promoting the integration of technology in their schools:
1. Join Twitter
If you haven’t done this already, it is a MUST. But joining is only a small part of the puzzle. A leader must build his/her PLN (Professional Learning Network) in order to utilize the learning that can take place in this social media platform. Follow educators around the globe, read their tweets, retweet the ones you find interesting, or even reply to those other educators, sparking a conversation about the topic. Furthermore, join a Twitter chat. It is one of the most powerful learning experiences and well worth the time devoted to sharing ideas with other educators. I have grown professionally in this past year by making learning through my PLN on Twitter a daily activity.
2. Create a website
If we require teachers to create and maintain a classroom website, then we must do this as well, not just for the sake of having one, but for the purpose we ask our teachers to create one – communicate with our stakeholders. Many families rely on the information found in school websites. A principal should have one as well, sharing important activities and events, the school calendar, and showcasing great learning happening throughout the school. I have created two websites – one for my staff with resources and another for parents to share important school information.
3. Interact with parents using social media
I use Twitter to share events, activities, school delays and closings, and great learning happening. I have two accounts – one for my professional development and learning, and one for school communications and interactions. I also use Remind, a one-way text-messaging system, to communicate with families so they have up-to-the-minute information. Some schools also maintain an active Facebook page for the same reasons.
4. Create a blog
I must model reflective practice. I do this through my blog. My thinking is transparent through my blog; my philosophy shines through. Through my blog, I reflect on education and educational practices, modeling this reflective practice. I can then encourage my staff to create their own blog, reflect on their practice, share student successes in their classroom, and showcase the wonderful learning take place in their rooms. Even more than that, once teachers start their own blog, there is more a chance then their students will blog in the classrooms, furthering their learning with an authentic audience.
5. Enhance staff meetings using technology tools
Many leaders already use presentation tools during staff meetings, however, each leader can extend the conversation beyond the meeting by creating their own backchannel using Today’s Meet or hashtag on Twitter for teachers to ask questions, answer each other’s questions or share great resources during the meeting. Leaders can also create a sharing platform such as Padlet for staff to post resources and ideas. Time is precious, but conversations can continue beyond the meeting. By setting up these tools, teachers can discuss topics and share ideas any time.
6. Support staff development of technology integration.
We all know it is critical for our teachers to develop their technology skills as well, as this will directly impact our students’ development of those same skills. Leaders modeling and using technology is just a part of the plan. Teachers need to be encouraged and supported to develop the same learner mindset in order to fully develop their skills of technology integration within the classroom. Leaders need to find job-embedded opportunities and creative ways for teachers to learn new tools and resources, as well as encourage teachers to try new activities using technology to engage students in their classrooms.
These actions do not take place overnight. In fact, it has taken me two years to develop these actions, and I am still continuing to learn and hold myself accountable to becoming a better instructional leader in technology integration.
Technology integration should not be an extra “thing to do”. It needs to be a way of life, a way of doing business. It is an expectation of teachers. It must be an expectation for all leaders as well. Through leading the efforts, modeling its use, and supporting staff using it, our students ultimately benefit, gaining the skills they need to be successful in the future.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, toolmantim.