Instructional Leadership, Learning, Teaching and Instruction, Technology, Uncategorized

The Role of the Instructional Leader in Technology Integration

Part 3- Gaining an Understanding

Technology use should live within instruction and learning. Since instruction and learning are a responsibility of school administrators so too is the integration of technology. Today’s leaders must strive to initiate, promote, and support the effective use of technology in the educational environments by creating and supporting opportunities for teachers to learn with, about, and from technology. In this way they can create and support opportunities for learning with, about, and from technology for students.

Julia Kara-Soteriou (2009) suggests that instructional leaders can jump into this learning by taking the initiative for their own learning in three key ways.

  1. Gain an Understanding
  2. Embrace and Model Technology
  3. Actively Demonstrate Leadership

I believe that those three components can provide leaders with the “on ramp” to creating an environment that is technology rich and more importantly learning rich.

In Gaining an Understanding leaders are required to “step into the technology pool” with a willingness to explore. Exploration can range from opening the channels of communication with colleagues about technology; to actively pursuing professional development opportunities; to joining a web-based Professional Learning Network (PLN). Opportunities to use technology for learning are everywhere and leaders need to grab those opportunities with the mindset of educators and learners. This proactive learning should be driven by the needs and interests of the leader, their staff and their students. Though gaining an understanding leaders are able to actively engage in conversations and share their own experiences. This can inspire others to begin their own journeys of understanding.

Within a plethora of possibilities for exploration lies the opportunity for leaders to choose their own adventure, have fun and learn. From adventures in trying new hardware (iPads, computers, Smart Phones, Smart Boards, Document Cameras, digital photography etc.) to adventures in trying software (YouTube, Twitter, Blogging, Outlook Calendars, Excel, Internal Portal Systems, Google Documents, Flickr etc.) the opportunities to harness and share these experiences in learning are plentiful. What is necessary in this exploration is for instructional leaders to gain an understanding of how the digital tool or technology works AND an understanding of how those tools can support, enhance and transform learning for teachers and students. Instructional leadership in technology grows from personal experiences and play.

Instructional leaders should be pioneers in learning. They are people who are willing to step out into the unknown, experiment and actively pursue learning. They also possess the skills that inspire others to follow them in learning. Through a willingness to take risks and share their own learning, leaders create a space where other feel safe to do the same. An instructional leader with an understanding of technology can make a significant difference in inspiring technology integration in schools.

Kara-Soteriou, J. (2009). Promoting technology integration through the leadership of school administrators. New England Reading Association Journal. 91-95.

Instructional Leadership, Professional Development

Model the Way- Ways Leaders can Support Learning in Education

I recently heard about a challenged issued by Scott McLeod to all Edu-Bloggers inviting them to write posts on Leadership in Education.  This challenge inspired me to reflect on my own personal beliefs, values and ideas about leadership, technology, and education.  I wondered about what effective K-12 technology leaders do? What actions and behaviors make them effective leaders in the education and in technology?
What are some of the tools I use to facilitate my leadership, understanding and ability to support teachers? Below is my list of things I believe leaders can do to help support the learning in their schools, divisions, and community.  This learning is bigger than technology, bigger than curriculum, bigger than professional development.  It is about becoming a lifelong learner and empowering others (staff and students) to follow your lead. 

Develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN)- Learning is a collaborative process and as such administrator’s cannot be an island. They need to foster and maintain relationships with others that support the sharing of ideas, solving of problems and consideration of multiple points of view. Leaders need to think about creating these networks of learning within their schools both for their teachers and for themselves. As well, leaders need to think and connect with others outside of their buildings within their division (district), and globally.  I have found that making connections and building relationships with others face to face and virtually has been the greatest single factor in my personal growth over the past year.  One of the best ways I have found to connect virtually has been through  Twitter. Twitter has allowed me to create a Personal Learning Network with educators from around the world who are willing to support, question, and expand my thinking.

Be a Life Long Learner– Read the ideas of others, engage in conversations about education, ask questions, seek answers, wonder. Administrators  need to be constantly modeling what it means to be a life long learner and find ways to harvest the ideas of others and share them with your staff. One tech tool that I have found that supports my learning has been Mobile RSS App on my iPad and iPhone.  This app allows me to access my Google Reader anywhere, at anytime. 

Model the Way–  Serve to inspire those around you by modeling and using technology yourself. If you think self reflection is important, and believe that blogs are a great tool to facilitate this then do one yourself and share it with teachers, parents, students, your PLN.  It is very important that leaders don’t just talk about change but model what change looks like everyday. 

Problem Solve– Remove barriers or help your teachers find ways around them.  Any technology you use can have glitches associated with it that make it hard for teachers and students to manage.  As leaders, we should always look for ways to help teachers as they learn and if necessary support them in finding ways around problems.  Leaders need to be about finding solutions not about wallowing in problems.  Twitter can help and support you and your staff in becoming problem solvers. Always be willing to ask for help.

Build on the Strengths of Students and Staff– Do not work from a deficit model.   Honor the learners and what they bring to the building everyday by supporting them in ways of using technology to enhance what they already do well. Provide opportunities for teachers and students to share their passions and learning with others. Chances are that their passions will spark learning and risk taking in others.

Start Today – Change and authentic technology integration does not happen over night but it needs to start today.  It is no longer acceptable to ignore the learning opportunities technology enhances in our schools.  Leaders need to expect and support the authentic integration of technology into the curriculum.  Some examples of possible ways to get the ball rolling and support teacher discussions might be:

  • creating a school Diigo account or a Livebinder  that all staff can contribute to and share links
  • facilitating techy lunch hours where educators can come together to learn something new, explore possibilities and brainstorm ideas
  • start a book club

Know the destination– Leaders need to have a good understanding of the aims and goals of curricula,  as well as the broad areas of learning and cross curricular competencies so that they can support teachers in uncovering ways that  technology can enhance, support and differentiate student learning.   Without an understanding of the learning destination it is easy for the technology to become the main focus.  Technology is not an end to itself rather it serves as a tool to enhance student learning of enduring understandings and curriculum. This doesn’t mean that leaders need to have all the knowledge or answers about curriculum but they do need to have a working understanding.  Leaders need to be able to ask questions, and encourage discussion and without knowledge of learning destinations this is an inauthentic task.  The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education Understanding Outcomes Document is a great place to start. In addition to the curriculum the ISTE NETS are a great roadmap to support teaching and growing professionally development in our ever increasingly digital world.

Get Dirty– Get in there and work WITH your staff and students.  Teaching and co-teaching in the classroom will allow leaders to move from theory and ideas into practice.   Having first hand knowledge of the successes and hardships in the classroom will support become a more knowledgeable leader as well as a better advocate for staff and students.

Be a Connector – Connect people to passion, learners to learning, curriculum to tools, educators to educators, teachers to time, classes to classes. 

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thinking.