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
- Anderson, R. & Dexter, S. (December 1, 2000). School Technology Leadership: Incidence and Impact. Center for research on information technology and organizations. I.T. in education, paper 98. Retrieved December 26, 2008 from