A while ago I participated in a Leadership Day event. Here are some ideas and resources for administrators and school leaders to help change the culture of technology in their schools. In order to introduce social media into your school or district, it important to have strong leadership and the desire for change. But how, as a school leader do you do this, where do you begin?
There is so much pressure on leaders in this day and age. School budgets are growing tighter and tighter. More, now than ever, schools and districts are facing the real possibility of laying off teachers and not having enough in funds to even keep the doors open to some schools. The vast majority of districts across this country have had to make hard decisions regarding budgets; many of them deciding to make drastic, but necessary cuts in order to save jobs and still give students the best possible education.
There is pressure from state and federal mandates on testing. I see it all the time in the schools that I visit; administrators staring in to computer screens, pouring over spreadsheets, trying to figure out where their students are and where they need to be in terms of testing. Many spend late nights in their offices in April and May thinking of ways to give their students the edge they need to pass the test.
With all of these external pressures, there is little time for school leaders to encourage teachers to take risks in their classroom and be creative in terms of technology.
However, I believe there are 5 simple things that school leaders can do to help teachers as they transition their classrooms to new ways of learning.
1) Why do we need to have this conversation? Why do we need to change? Watch Did You Know 3.0 to understand what will happen if we do nothing. (Also check out this post on the best TED Talks for School Leaders.)
2) What do good school leaders do? Watch this short presentation on Leadership Principals in Technology. Which do you exhibit? Which do you need to work on to support technology in your school or district?
3) Become familiar with the NETS for Administrators
You can read the National Education Technology Standards (NETS) for Administrators. (2009 was their first major revision since first being introduced in 2002.) According to the NETS website: "The NETS for Administrators enable us to define what administrators need to know and be able to do in order to discharge their responsibility as leaders in the effective use of technology in our schools." The NETS provide guidance to school leadership on everything from learning culture to professional practice to digital citizenship. Many of the Standards only require the encouragement, vision and assurance from the administration to ensure that technology is being used to re-shape learning in their buildings.
4) Grow your PLN
Just like teachers, administrators and school leaders need a Professional Learning Network (PLN). Your PLN is there for you to share thoughts and help you grow ideas you have. Your PLN consists of people who are just like you whom you can turn to when you need a point of view you can't get from anywhere else. One of the best and easiest ways to create a PLN is to join Twitter.
There are 100's of school administrators there right now waiting to network. Check out the Principalspage on Twitter4Teachers to start. (Oh, and if you need more information on how to get the most out of Twitter or how it works, visit my Twitter Links on Delicious.) There are other groups too like Classroom 2.0 on Ning and groups on LinkedIn. The point here is that you are not alone. Learning does not take place in isolation. Reach out and learn and share with others.
5) Provide Time and Encouragement
This is the one that may be the hardest to do. School leaders have to provide teachers the time and opportunity to learn about new tools and techniques for their classroom. In order for our students to be successful, we have to understand that the face of education is changing. The way students learn is changing, and many teachers are not going to be able to make the drastic changes needed overnight. They need time to learn. It is vital that school leaders provide the time needed.
Most mportant, school leaders must provide an environment in their school for teachers to take risks and encourage teachers to make the change in their teaching. Teachers are not going to make a change or take a risk if there isn't support from their school leadership.
Reflection is an amazing thing. I have been critical of teachers in the past. However, they cannot go it alone. They must have school/district leaders who understand why we need to change the way we educate students. These five things should be just the beginning for school leaders.
Administrators and school leaders should be agents of change. It should not be the teachers who have to fight for change in their classroom. They should be able to walk hand-in-hand with administrators to make strides in changing our classrooms from the 18th century to the 21st.
Steven W. Anderson is Director of Instructional Technology for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in Winston-Salem, NC. He blogs on Techlearning and DLE.