Leadership Day from Scott McLeod holds a special place in my blogging heart. It was Leadership Day 2009 when I posted to this, or any, blog for the first time. I was working on becoming a connected leader. I had opened a twitter account, @fliegs, a few month earlier, and I was reading education blogs (my blog bundle). Starting my own blog was the next step.
Over the next few years I blogged about the goings on at school, my opinion an all sorts of education topics, and summaries of education books. I wrote for Leadership Day 2010, but missed it last year.
So, here I am in August 2012 and the question is: What should a principal do to increase the amount of technology integration in school?
A principal needs to nurture the integration of technology. Nurturing means to provide the right environment for technology integration to grow. Teachers need to feel comfortable taking risks, the students need access to decent (or, dare I say, the best) equipment, the network needs to be robust, and the internet needs to be fast and stable. In other words, we need to prepare the soil.
Once things start to grow, we need to tend to them carefully. Of course tomatoes need different care than potatoes; lettuce is handled very differently than peas since you might need to use led grow lights; squash and onions need totally different amounts of fertilizer (says my wife). Now, if I were far more ambitious (and did not have a board meeting earlier tonight), I would take this analogy way too far by describing what kind of adult learner compares to each of the aforementioned vegetables. Instead, I will point out that some teachers need only play around with technology to learn it well. Others want some direct instruction then off they go. Still others need step-by-step handholding until they are comfortable. Principals need to differentiate the professional training just like a gardener differentiates the care of the plants.
It is at this point that my garden analogy totally falls apart. Principals need to choose the right moment to shift from nurturing to expecting. While the peas on the faculty have already been integrating tech, often for years, the beets finished some PD and got started. On the other hand carrots take a long time to germinate and then grow (not sure how carrots play into this, told you the analogy fell apart). Anyway, two-thirds or more of the teachers are integrating technology. One way to get some of the remaining third growing, I mean using tech, is for the principal to set the expectation. Sometimes we have to quit nurturing and start expecting. Try telling a row of corn that you expect it to grow without fertilizer this year – this analogy is busted.
Another technique that principals often use to encourage technology integration is to model its use. I and many other principals integrate technology into our practice daily. We demonstrate classroom integration ideas into faculty meetings. I have been trying to convince my wife that the best way to get peaches to grow in Vermont is for her to show the peach trees how to grow here. I’m not yet sure that modeling is going to work in this case (in addition, I’m not yet sure that my wife has ever listened to a single word of my gardening advice).
In all good gardens, harvesting the fruits of our labors is the best part. Watching the cucumbers working on a dynamic lesson using all sorts of innovative technology designed by their teachers is as good as serving a salad of only locally grown students. Or something like that.
P.S. No vegetables were harmed in the writing of this blog.
P.P.S. Future blog post: how to avoid getting blight