Category Archives: educational technology

“EdTech” is a Leadership Position

Spending a lot of time at technology conferences, one thing is evident; there are a ton of sessions on “stuff”.  As I write this post, people are scurrying around to find ways to connect “Pokemon Go” to the classroom.

Sessions like “100 tech tools in 60 minutes”, often dominate these conferences.  So many choices, yet so little time to implement.  We quickly move from one thing to the next, waiting for the next big thing.

Yet many of the participants in these same conferences have positions that are purposely meant to extend past the classroom.  “Tech leads” or “Director of Innovation”, etc., are common titles.

So when you look at those positions…they are much more than the “stuff”. They are about how to help other people move forward.

For every blog post or book you read on technology, you should (at minimum) read an equivalent amount on leadership.  “Cool tools” stay as “cool tools” if we do not think deeply about “why” we use them, and how others will see meaning in them.

So some quick thoughts on how to help others move forward with educational technology:

  1. Don’t just show people tools…discuss the thinking and learn to make a direct connection to deeper learning.
  2. Ask questions more than you give answers. Great leadership starts from where people are at, not where they want them to go.
  3. If you go to a conference, take time to reflect on any tools that you learn and think about where they fit into the bigger picture of your school’s mission or vision.  If you spend 60 minutes in a session learning about a tool, take 60 minutes in that day to think about how to get others to implement.
  4. Streamline…do less, better.  Don’t turn a teacher’s full plate into a full platter.

This quote is relevant.

Quotefancy-15635-3840x2160

If you embrace the above, you will understand this is about a lot more than the “stuff”.

 

Endless Opportunities to Teach and Learn

“You don’t need technology to learn.”

I have heard this statement a ton from educators, and although there is truth to it, we have to realize that technology brings in opportunities for learning that we never had as kids.

For example…living in a small town in Canada, if I wanted to learn to play the violin as a kid, it was imperative that we would have a violin teacher living in the area. If I was adamant about it, we could have driven 75-90 minutes to the nearest city, and found a teacher.  Adding not only the time it would have taken to get back and forth, but the money to not only have these lessons, but for gas and time off work for my parents, this would have been an opportunity afforded to only a few with the necessary resources to make it happen. To be honest, this wouldn’t have been something I would have even thought of as a child, because the opportunity wouldn’t have been there.

But now if I wanted to play the violin, I could just go on YouTube, or do a Google Hangout with someone who was a violin teacher, or someone who just loved playing and sharing how to play the violin.  Or even better, these same kids can start teaching others around the world. One of my favourite quotes on education is from Joseph Joubert, who says, “to teach, is to learn twice.”  The ability to teach others, will only further my own knowledge and skill-set.

These opportunities did not exist when I was a child.

When an educator says, “I don’t use technology because it’s not really my thing”, my response?

“It’s not about you.”

We can no longer ignore the opportunities that exist for our learners today.  Our job is to create an education system that is better than the one we grew up in, as will be the duty of the next generation of educators.  We must embrace what is right in front of us.

joubert

 

Here is a short video on some of these “Global Possibilities for Learning” from the “LearnTeachLead” site:

George Couros – Global Possibilities for Learning from LearnTeachLead on Vimeo.

Finding a Way

I love this little video on how the “desk” has changed over the years:

the evolution of the desk by the harvard innovation lab from designboom on Vimeo.

I was reminded of this when talking to a superintendent in the United States about why so many school districts south of the border are going one-to-one with technology, yet it seems rare in districts in Canada. What many will say is that they do not have the “funds” to make this happen, but is it truly a priority? If the plan is to provide a device for every student AND continue to do what you have always done, then obviously the money won’t be there. Yet, if this becomes priority, we will have to rethink some of the traditional “budget items” that we have had in schools (textbooks, agendas, etc.). As you can see from the video above, all of these things can exist on one device.

If leaders want to truly make this happen, they will find a way.  What I always note to groups that I am working with is that someone, somewhere, is doing the exact thing that many say they can’t do.  When it is priority, people find and figure out a way.

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Is this a problem with technology or leadership?

Image shared with me via Tina P. Monteleone

Image shared with me via Tina P. Monteleone

There was a conversation on Twitter between two educators sharing their frustration regarding the process of getting a website approved, and they alluded to an old post of mine titled, “4 Guiding Questions for Your IT Department“.  In short, the questions are the following:

  1. What is best for kids? 
  2. How does this improve learning? 
  3. If we were to do _________, what is the balance of risk vs. reward? 
  4. Is this serving the few or the majority? 

These questions, although meant to help guide IT departments in education, are not meant to be exclusive to that part of school systems. In fact, these questions are meant to be a bridge of common questions between IT, teachers, and administrators. If you can’t answer these questions from the viewpoint of an educator or leader, then why would any new technologies be adopted?

The other thing about these questions is that they are not about “absolutes” but about conversation starters between different groups that have different roles in the system. We spend so much time doing our own thing, that we often get lost on our singular purpose of “what is best for kids”.  If we start the conversation there, it tends to refocus people on finding a common goal.

But here is the thing…If you are struggling with technology, whether it is infrastructure, access, filters, or a plethora of other problems that can happen, this is often not a technology problem; it’s a leadership problem.  I remember one educator making the remark that if we are learning about things like assessment, wellness, curriculum, or whatever, many educators are provided time to do that, but when we learn about technology, that should be on your own time after school.  That shows how high it is on the priority list, similar to the notion of “when you are done your work, you can play games on the computer”.  It is an afterthought for many, at best.

When leaders (from any position) see the need for technology, they ensure that it is not only accessible, but simple to use.  The more barriers that educators have to go through with technology, the less likely they are to use it.  We can say things like “you need to have a growth mindset” and place blame on others, but do we create schools where technology is so easy to use that it most likely will be? Again, that is about leadership, not technology.

When things become priority, they happen.  If we really want to develop our students as the leaders of tomorrow, then the tools of today should not be so hard to access.