Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More about People than Machines

August is “Connected Educator” month; and, as part of that, Dr. Scott McLeod has organized Leadership Day 2012. On this day he is challenging educational leaders to “blog about whatever you like related to effective school technology leadership: successes, challenges, reflections, needs, wants, resources, ideas, etc.” Fittingly enough, today many of my faculty are spending the day in a workshop that is part of our move to becoming a 1:1 iPad school. Others did it in the spring; others will do it tomorrow. It’s the start of a year-long preparation program.
The easy way out here would be to re-post a piece from August 5, 2011: “Questions for Tech Leaders.” Re-reading it, I think the issues remain quite important and merit deep consideration. Much of the piece also stresses what not to do, with only a few suggestions for positive action. So here I’d like to offer a few suggestions. Some will be a bit repetitive from the earlier post, but some will be new.
·         Most importantly, practice what you preach. If you want your teachers to blog or to have student blog, you should blog. Let people know what new tech-related things you are trying.
·         Similarly, take some public chances with this. For example, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about deciding whether or not to begin Tweeting. I’ve sent some out tweets, and soon I’ll write a reflection on this move.
·         Whatever moves you make regarding technology, tie them to larger ideals, to mission, to that eternal notion that education can improve lives.
·         Linked to that idea, articulate clearly and frequently why you are advocating moves with technology. I talk often about student empowerment through technology, a notion that covers many paths.
·         Remember that strong teachers are hard-working people who care deeply about their craft. (If you have some who aren’t, why?) When advocating things, treat people respectfully and empathetically. Think hard about what all this technology-infused instruction signals to them. And call it professional development or growth, not “training.” To me, that suggests they are like puppies that may get popped with a rolled-up newspaper if they make a mistake.
·         Provide time for the work to occur—for people to learn about the technology, to discuss implications with colleagues, to experiment with students, to reflect upon the experiences. It slows down the transformation, but you’ll be better prepared for the big moment and better off in the long run.
·         Make oodles and oodles of materials available for people. You never know what is going to light that spark for any certain individual.
·         Encourage and celebrate, even what you may consider baby steps.
·         Don’t dilute the process. Schools are such busy places, and people want them to do more and more. For this to work, it has to be the priority. Some other things can wait.
·         From the very beginning, involve as many people as you can in the process. Our 1:1 task force has grown and grown as more people have become excited. This builds momentum, and it helps spread the work.
Those are my tips. I’ll close with this observation from reviewing the list: Aren’t these pretty solid guidelines for leadership in general? Once again, it's more about people than machines.

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