Scott McLeod challenged education bloggers to post today about effective school technology leadership.
In many schools in our nation, computers are not available for students. I have worked in four K-12 schools. The first had no computer lab and no access to computers even for faculty. Of course, that was 1997-1998, so I hope things have changed. The second and third had labs which were difficult to get into, often requiring sign-ups or a month or more in advance in order to secure time for my students to use the lab; therefore, I never took my own students because I couldn’t get in. My current school has an excellent computer lab which is staffed by two educational technologists. Space for two classes at a time generally exists, and the lab isn’t hard to get into. I can sign up the same day in some cases, and I have never had difficulty if I sign up a week in advance. Guess which environment has been most conducive to my students’ learning of technology as well as that of my own? The first thing administrators need to do at the school, district, and state level is to support initiatives to bring computers to the classroom. Ideally, I’d like to have a lab in my own classroom, but barring that, my current situation of an accessible lab is critical. One-to-one laptop initiatives are interesting, but bottom-line, it’s more important to me to have access to a lab when I need it. Administrators who do not do what they can to bring computers to school are basically saying that educating our children for the 21st century is not important.
A second thing teachers need from administrators is support for their efforts at technological education. I think one reason administrators sometimes do not support these efforts is fear and misunderstanding. It is imperative that administrators receive professional development in technology. As Scott McLeod noted,
Administrators’ lack of knowledge is not entirely their fault. Most of them didn’t grow up with these technologies. Many are not using digital tools on a regular basis. Few have received training from their employers or their university preparation programs on how to use, think about, or be a leader regarding digital technologies.
My administration, and especially the Board of Trustees (specifically our board president) have been incredibly supportive of my efforts at using technology in my classroom. Without their support, I would not have been able to successfully use wikis or blogs in my classroom. Since I have plans to utilize Web 2.0 technology to an even greater extent next year, their continued support will be critical for enhancing the learning activities of our students. If I try to visualize doing some of the work I’ve done over the last two years in the setting of one of my former schools, I have to admit I don’t think I would have been able to even try using blogs or wikis.
As administrators begin to feel more comfortable with technology, I’d like to see more administrators blogging. I know this is fraught with problems as well, as this involves giving people more access to those administrators, which could result in blogging administrators becoming whipping boys for all the problems with education in their schools and districts. I think, however, there is more to be gained than lost by being more transparent in education. “The ‘net rewards the transparent,” and over time, as more blogs like this one pop up, it will punish those who do not reach out themselves.
I would also like to see efforts at creating Web 2.0 learning experiences made easier for teachers. Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay said at EduBloggerCon that in order to have their Flat Classroom Project approved by each of their schools, they had to use different rubrics. As their students were doing the same tasks, it would have been easier to evaluate their work using the same rubric.
Finally, I would like to emphasize that it is critical that administrators support best practices in using technology. I think many administrators don’t see the need for certain uses of technology not only because they haven’t used them and don’t use them now, but because they felt they got on all right, thank you very much, without them, so why should others need them? I’m sure the same has been said in the past of running water, electricity, a dependable mail service, automobiles, and any number of services and technologies we rely on today. I don’t know yet if we will necessarily rely on Web 2.0 technology, but the 21st century is already dependent on certain technologies, and not teaching our students how to use them is to cripple them as they move on to college and the work force.