When is it too much? AND When do we say “DO IT or GO!”?

Technology Integration with Science Content
Image by Old Shoe Woman via Flickr

This entry will be cross posted to the Leadertalk Blog

My colleagues and I got in an animated conversation the other day about the actual demonstrable skills teachers and administrators must have to be successful members of our school community.  Beyond the basics understandings that teachers must have of the new uses of the read/write web, what exactly do we expect our educational professionals to be able to use to enhance teaching and build better learners?

I’ve been pounding my fist of late in these meetings, demanding a well developed professional development plan that is clear, concise and has reasonable accountability build into it- with a sharp eye on the short term and a vision for what will be in year 2 and year 3 of the plan.  I personally feel it seems like a reasonable and common sense request, and as I have said over and over, I could probably sit down and write a draft myself, but that would not help us address what really needs to drive our school’s technology training strategy.  Then…out of the blue… it came out of one of the participants mouth. Their words (paraphrased and combined) were:

When are the school administration going to start holding teachers accountable and make them use technology and follow the technology plan?  We have NETS for Teachers in our performance evaluation program. We are working hard to ensure that training is in place for our teachers, but it will all be a huge waste of time if teachers are not held accountable.

Interesting thoughts indeed!  I didn’t say it but I wanted to hold someone else accountable.  Nonetheless, the conversation continued and what followed was a significant discussion about the frustrations of the technology specialists.  These folks are working long hours to prepare lessons for their peers in addition to preparing lessons for the students.  As we are all aware, adults are a lot more demanding than children and thus the time investment has been significant.  A typical PD session that is voluntary results in just a few “interested” teachers showing up, and the technology use being enhanced in classrooms where there is already integration already going on.  It is certainly not a loss, but it is not the gain we’re hoping for either.

So the question held in the air around us and we all were responsible for the answer.  Ultimately, we are talking about professional responsiblity and instructional excellence.  Ultimately, I feel it comes to making the standards and embedded skills in the standards managable and understandable for all members of the instructional community in a school.  One of the resources we are using to build from is a resource called “23 Things”. This group of educators has put together a great list of resources and concepts that they feel best addresses the current needs of a practicing teacher in a classroom. We took that list, analyzed it, and then added to it and adapted it in ways that will best meet our needs at our school.  What I think the 23 things and our additions and modifications does in this Professional Development Mashup is make the whole mess of what would seem to be disjointed applications, resources and skills into chunks of possibilities.  I would share it here, but it is not quite done. When it is, I will do so. But, the creation and formation of this structure does not answer the key question posed.  Are the administrators going to hold the teachers accountable?  If they are, do they have the will- the guts – the understanding of the technology to say “You must meet these standards or go find another school or another job?”

It is a tough call.  In 2000 the Center for Research on Information Technology and Organizations published a report called School Technology Leadership: Incidence and Impact.  In the report it states:

For technology to become an integral part of a school, it not only is necessary to help teachers use the technology but administrators must be involved in it, too. The importance of training for developing teachers in technology has long been recognized in the educational community. These findings indicate that administrative leadership and decision-making are equal, if not more important than spending on infrastructure to maintaining a successful technology program.

…Charismatic people may contribute to technology integration as well, but it is even more essential for a school to distribute leadership and become a “technology learning organization,” where administrators, teachers, students, and parents together work on how best to adapt new technologies to improve learning. (p. 17)

(Thank you Drape’s Takes for drawing my attention to this quote!)

After it is all said and done, I have to continue to believe that until we hold the ADMINISTRATORS accountable for understanding technology and exploiting the power of the web, we cannot and will not be able to hold our instructional staff accountable.  As was stated almost 9 years ago, it is the leaders who must build a “technology learning organization”.

What do you think?

Posted by Andrew Torris

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9 Responses to When is it too much? AND When do we say “DO IT or GO!”?

  1. kimbra power says:

    As someone who uses technology everyday in many new and old ways, with my students, my children, and for personal use…I agree with much of what you have said.
    As someone who would like to work in a ‘more green’ environment, I often head to technology in the hope of helping the planet, well, at least the trees and continually find that there are so many ways to substitute tech for paper that I am often astounded at why so many people still opt for paper.
    Every time I receive Parent Talk through my RSS feeder it gives me pleasure and pain at the same time. Pleasure because it is a great way to receive the news of my school and pain because I know I am still in a minority and that no matter how many times I have asked NOT to receive Parent Talk as a hard copy (we end up with three!) I am always told the same answer, but in a variety of ways.
    NO!
    I would like to see administrators and teachers held accountable for not only their lack of technology ‘know-how’ but also their blatant waste of so many other consumable resources.

  2. Ed Shepherd says:

    “To build a new system you don’t compete with the old one, you build a new system that makes the old one obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller

    If we expect our staffs to utilize technology, we must begin by making it impossible for them not to. We can start doing this by eliminating as many paper processes as possible and turning them into electronic ones. This, I believe, is a simple beginning. But there is obviously more that needs to be done and there is no excuse why it should not be happening. As leaders of learning, we have a moral duty to learn and lead our schools in the effective use of technology. It is time to lead our schools out of the Industrial Age and into the Information and Collaboration Age immediately.

  3. Mike Romard says:

    Well said. I was relieved to hear (as one of your tech teachers) that I’m not responsible for developing our staff’s tech skills until the administrators develop a clear plan to support me in making it happen. Yes! Just as the US is getting a tech-savvy president, having you in the upper echelon’s of our school is a great step forward. Now, let’s make it happen.

    We’ve had this decision before though – do we get everyone on the bus or do we only work with those who want to improve themselves? A colleague is beside me and he felt some teachers don’t want to develop their tech skills. Yes, you read that right. So another question is – should technology be a required area of professional development? Required – what does that mean? Eight hours for the year? A few hours a month?

    My advice to administrators:
    (1) Most teachers want to learn technology – on their own time. Allow your technology integrators the time to find/create opportunities.
    (2) Provide full day tech-only professional development days – stop sharing the tech days with other programs – CFG, CPR, novel studies
    (3) Understand that your Music teacher is not helping the staff learn the piano, the PE teachers are not spotting staff during their workouts or the art teachers providing workshops on how to clean a brush – yet your tech teacher sports the same number of teaching minutes, but still punches out presentations in the wee hours approaching midnight – just their incredible desire to develop the staff. So support those guys – create bubbles around them so they can improve the efficiency of the school and learning (teacher and student) inside of it.

  4. This was a really nice post. It puts me in mind of Edupunk, where if no one will hold themselves accountable just go out and do it. It also put me in mind of a certain admin I suffer under, and that is a kind where admin thinks they know what teachers need and try to prescribe it to them. A good example is how they not only bought BlackBoard (no objection to having another tool on hand) but then proceeded to pull the plug on IT supported Moodle without properly setting up Bb so the edupunks here had to find an alternative Moodle host in order to keep doing what they were doing before. I think the point I’m trying to make is there are some admins where tech competence is weak or out of date yet they think they are encouraging tech when they make a plan which of course they expect everyone to follow. In those cases you’ll not achieve the conditions hoped for in this post and comments following, unless you hold yourSELF accountable and just do it. And find an online community like the one I’m bumping up again here so you can pat each other on the back now and then 🙂

  5. Andrew says:

    Thanks for the comment Ed. I will use this quote in the future as well.
    Andy

  6. I love your post, it fits in so well with the headmaster’s meeting we had this week. It articulates the universal frustrations all ICT teachers have with IT PD. This blog post is now part of our action items. Thanks for writing this, it makes my job a little bit easier.

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