Leadership Day 2009

Over at Dangerously Irrelevant, Scott McLeod posted a request for Leadership Day 2009 blog posts.  Here’s the 2.5 cents I have to offer school leaders and administrators on technology use.

  1. There is no magic bullet – Stop looking.  You will not find one thing that is going to light a fire under each and every student and teacher in your building.  Not every teacher is going to need the same things to bring their students into the 21st Century.  Which brings me to…
  2. The 21st Century is here – Stop waiting for it.  The idea of teaching 21st Century skills should seem ludicrous to all of us by now.  We’re in 2009, which means we’ve got about 90 more years of the 21st Century.  Although there are many schools which will still be attempting to use the same methods 90 years from now, no one should think what we’re doing today is going to be the most effective for reaching students at the end of this century.  Cut out the jargon and let’s get to the root of what is really good for students these days.
  3. Hyper-connectivity – More than any other time in history, we are hyper-connected and facing information overload.  However, the wealth of information coming in through Twitter, blogs, Facebook, television media, etc is not all that new.  People have felt overwhelmed with information for a long time, the amount we deal with continues to grow.  The sad thing is: many people are unaware of it still.  Information is readily available to a large percentage of our students through cell phones and wireless enabled computers and devices.  We need to design curricula that require students to mine those resources and come up with creative interpretations of that information.  Being able to parrot back information about the American Revolution, rock types, or one particular teacher’s favorite author is becoming useless.  The majority of that basic information is a few clicks away at Wikipedia already.
  4. Stop being scared – Those of us who have made the transition into digital lives have had to deal with the learning curve at some point.  Those who have not made the transition are often overcome by a singular fear.  That is:  The fear of breaking something.  “What if something goes wrong?”  You figure out how to fix it.  If you can’t figure out how to fix it, ask a student.  If they can’t figure out how to fix it, jump at the chance for the learning opportunity.  This goes for the fear of attempting new things like blogging or using wikis.  Yes the students will use them inappropriately at some point, just like they’ve used pencils inappropriately for years and years.  With a culture and climate in schools that accepts failure as part of the growth process and doesn’t demonize it, these things can be overcome.
  5. Take some risks – These risks can be very calculated ones but as the saying goes: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.  In fact, I’m not sure this is entirely true in this day and age, because doing what we’ve always done is actually turning some students off to learning.  In that case, we’re actually getting less than what we’ve always gotten.
  6. Save yourself some time – Learn how to use an RSS reader and del.icio.us.  Rather than checking 10 or 12 sites a day to see if there is new information check your RSS feed once a day.  On the other end of the spectrum, rather than not checking those 10 or 12 sites because you don’t have time, set up an RSS feed reader and begin looking into multiple sites at one time to see what is out there.  There are hundreds of blogs out there with valuable information about using technology to enhance learning.  Many of them currently have posts tagged #leadershipday09 today, check them out. Look at their past postings and add a few to your Google Reader or other RSS feed reader.  As far as del.icio.us goes, find some other folks who you know are looking for similar sites as you.  When you find something online, tag it, and see who else has tagged it. Then mine and pilfer their del.icio.us links.  You’re busy, let someone else do some of your work and bring the great sites to you 🙂
  7. Don’t force technology as an add-on – Technology needs to be embedded in the curriculum.  If a teacher is asked to add a technology tool to their repertoire, allow them to use it to replace something they were previously doing.  If you have trouble adding tech tools into your daily routine, remember that teachers are also having to model it’s use for students.  This takes time and effort.  Give teachers the opportunity to get comfortable using the new technology before adding something else.  It also helps to spread around the “experts” in the building.  Have one teacher start off using a new tool and then work to train other interested teachers.  Keep the conversation open and frequent rather than limited to a single half-hour meeting when new tools arrive.
  8. Remember…”You get what you pay for” is no longer true – The skills we need to be developing in our students revolve around collaboration, creation, and connection.  Interactive whiteboards can be wonderful for collaboration when they are used for such purposes.  Spending $1500 per classroom on “tech toys” is not a necessity.  Neither is spending a tremendous amount on software.  There are hundreds of web-based and free alternatives to pricey software.  Make it your mission to test out free versions prior to paying for anything so that you know you are putting your money to the best possible use.  The less you’re paying for equipment and software, the more you’ll have to pay for staff development on incorporating these tools into the classroom effectively.

An important first step is that hopefully you’ve found these posts.  Use them as your launching point into the new school year.  Question the authors and then learn as much as you can before beginning the year.  Your teachers, students, and community will thank you!

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7 Responses

  1. Great post Todd. I appreciate the matter-of-fact way that you address the realities that all educational leaders need to face. I think that #7 is especially important – introducing technology into your classroom must be about supplanting, not just supplementing. Teachers will never see technology as necessary until it is no longer viewed as “if I get to it” activity!

  2. […] Leadership Day 2009 « The Technorate Teacher There is no magic bullet The 21st Century is here Hyper-connectivity Stop being scared Take some risks Save yourself some time Don’t force technology as an add-on Remember…”You get what you pay for” is no longer true (tags: leadership education) […]

  3. Your point about “The skills we need to be developing in our students revolve around collaboration, creation, and connection.” is a excellent way of explaining what students need to be able to do in the 21st century. If only all of these many standards that we have (NETS, P21, etc.) could be as clear cut as your words. Great Post!

  4. Comments # 3 & 4 really resonate with me. Too often administrators act out of fear and are afraid to take risks. So many (teachers too) are afraid to try new things especially with technology. It is time to “jump in” and make courageous choices that provide better learning opportunities for students.

  5. Couldn’t agree more with two of your points:
    “The 21st Century is here – Stop waiting for it. The idea of teaching 21st Century skills should seem ludicrous to all of us by now. We’re in 2009, which means we’ve got about 90 more years of the 21st Century. ”
    Too many, in my opinion, use the ’21st Century Skills’ lingo as some sort of magic bullet change agent (see your first point) to get others fired up in schools. We can’t predict the jobs students will have in the future, so how can we expect to explicitly prepare them for these opportunities either? There has to be a delicate balance of core content and thinking skills taught in our schools.

    Your seventh point is one I’ve been interested in for a while and seems to be catching quite a bit of momentum recently, “Don’t force technology as an add-on – Technology needs to be embedded in the curriculum. If a teacher is asked to add a technology tool to their repertoire, allow them to use it to replace something they were previously doing.” Fewer add-ons are a good thing. Replacing the “old” with the “new” just makes sense.

  6. Point 8 is so important. I seen Smart Boards and Promethean boards just taking up space because of a lack of PD. Shameful.

  7. […] year, my Leadership Day post highlighted 8 pieces of advice I had for school leaders and administrators.  Many of those focused on the relationship between leadership and technology.  This year, I want […]

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