Make it a Requirement, not a Choice

Dr. Scott McLeod is celebrating the 6th anniversary of his blog, Dangerously Irrelevant by calling all bloggers to participate in Leadership Day 2012.  Its purpose?  To blog about effective technology leadership and provide administrators with some insight into what we’d like to see happen in the world of educational technology.

I’ve thought a lot the past couple of days about the most important thing for administrators to know about educational technology.  I desperately want my new principal to embrace digital learning with the obsessive fervor I have for it.  I want her to understand that apps are great – but there are so many other uses and ways to incorporate iDevices.  I want her to see how incredibly engaging technology, when used the right way, can be for a class of fifth graders with the highest discipline rate in the school.  But I think the thing I most want to see from my administrator is a requirement that everyone begin incorporating some aspect of technology into the classroom.

I’ve spent two years trying to drag the faculty of a combined elementary middle school, kicking and screaming, into the digital learning field. Teachers, I think by nature, can be some of the most stubborn people on the planet.  Our (yes, me too) resistance to change can be our greatest downfall.   I fear we hurt our students by not being more willing to change our outlook and our practices to fit what today’s students need.  I call on my principal to make this change a requirement, not a choice.

1. Make it a requirement that all teachers document in their lesson plans the various technologies that will be incorporated in each lesson or unit.  Even if the administrator never looks at the plan – having a space where the teacher must show technology use will stress the importance of using it.  If the spot is blank during the planning stage, then there will be time for the teacher to remedy the situation and create a lesson using technology effectively.

2.  Require teachers to sign up to demonstrate a lesson incorporating digital learning.  Administrators are required to a do a certain number of observations of each teacher.  Make one of these observations a technology observation.  Within the first semester, teachers must sign up for an observation showing how they incorporate technology efficiently in a lesson.  I think it’s important to require this in the first semester so that teachers get a taste for it and will continue to use digital learning strategies for the remainder of the year.  I also think it’s important to allow teachers the freedom to sign up for the observation.  This first ensures the lesson they are being observed for uses technology, and second it gives teachers a little bit of ownership in the observation process.  Additionally, I’ve always said that the best way to learn these new technologies is simply to use them.  Forcing teachers to incorporate them will hopefully show  the extreme benefits of educational technology and take some of the inherent fear away from trying something new.

3.  Provide professional development – and attend it yourself.  Do this in a number of different ways, the same as you would in class.  Have teachers you’ve observed teaching outstanding technology rich lessons teach model lessons at faculty meetings.  Have teacher “Appy Hours” where round table discussions and idea sharing can happen freely.  Provide instruction in specific technology tools using said technology tools.  For example, teach educators to use podcasts by having them watch or create a podcast.  Make grade levels responsible for building a digital Personal Learning Community (PLC).  Require each grade level to find and share one quality blog or post a month and instruct teachers in how to build their own PLC.  Most importantly, provide teachers with a forum to celebrate successes, discuss lessons that need some help, or ask questions.

I hope that in my role as technology coach at our school, I can convince my new principal to adopt some of these practices.  I hope that these ideas give you a place to jump start your own digital revolution.  I would love for others to share how administrators are making educational technology a priority.   I know I can always use a fresh idea when presenting to my faculty.