School announcements made interesting

Sometimes (most of the time?) school announcements are quite boring. I know this because I was the host of the boring announcements for many years. We are trying something different this year. Instead of reports about what we are having for lunch and a 400th reminder about not running in the halls, we’ve turned over our announcements to the students. Using iPads, the free Pinnacle video editing app, and YouTube, they will now share what is interesting to them with the rest of the students, staff, and parents. A million thanks to my LMC Director, Crystal Brunelle, for leading this charge. She’s awesome and every school should have such a talented book-loving techie!

Technology disruptions in education

The idea of disruptive innovations in education ought to be a loud wake-up call to school leaders. Christensen, Horn, and Johnson (2001) predict that by the year 2019, half of all high school courses will be delivered in an online format. This prediction is based on the idea that technological improvements and economic advantages will make this the preferred method of learning for students. This type of education is more learner-centered as the pace and schedule of instruction and learning is more flexible than sitting in a classroom at specific times and for a prescribed duration of time. Not only is the schedule more accommodating, students (and their families) will have more choice about the content they learn, who (person or service) teaches the content, how the content is taught, and also be allowed different pathways for learning and displaying what they have learned.

McLeod (2009) states that the system of public education may no longer be the default educational choice for students and their parents. School districts and private school systems will no longer have the market cornered on education. Mandated attendance at a geographically local school (public or private) can change within just one state legislative session, especially if there are other education options that are proven to be just as effective as the traditional neighborhood school model. Parents will likely have more choices about how to educate their children. That service could be provided from a location just around the corner, or broadcast from a different continent or be a blend of sources from a variety of educators around the whole world. The education for a student will have more to do with what they need to know and want to know, and less to do with the neighborhood in which they live.

These disruptions have started and will continue to grow with the “nonconsumers” in our current system (Christensen et al., 2011). These are students who are homeschooled, those who attend small rural schools with few course options, or even those kids who may be physically present in a classroom but are not mentally engaged. The current educational system is not working for them at all, so nearly any alternative is an improvement from their current experience. Disruptive technologies in the forms of computer-based and internet-based learning are already becoming their alternative to traditional schooling.

So what does this mean for school leaders? The first thing that comes to my mind is whether or not there will even be enough students physically present in our schools to justify the current staffing patterns we have. The world is changing, expectations and needs of our students are changing, so we better start changing our schools and our selves to meet these needs.

What will school leaders need to do? First we need to really understand how to use technology in a learner-centered manner. The instructional practice of one-size-fits-most teaching can’t be used anymore. We need to equip our teaching staff to use technology as an effective teaching tool, and not just as a supplement to traditional methods of instruction. Teachers need to use tech to meet the individual needs, interests, and learning styles of our students.

School leaders also need to have a deep and practical knowledge of how students can use technology as a learning tool. Learning should not be a passive activity, and technology affords many opportunities for students to take control of what they learn and how they demonstrate what they know. Technology enables students to be creative, produce unique content, and communicate with a wide and varied audience. What students are able to demonstrate with technology could virtually be limitless. School leaders need to procure these tools and get them into the hands of students.

Another important factor to consider in this world of increasing educational opportunities is how to best display and share what our educational organizations are able to provide for students. School leaders need to be great communicators and marketers when more options are available to students and families. Leaders need to understand their own strengths as an education provider, and then connect with those students whose needs they can meet. In a world full of options, leaders also need to consider the customer service they provide once they have started working with a student. Learning goals should be used to provide what students need, and educators should then carefully assess if those goals are being met.

School leaders also need to strengthen and utilize their collaborative skills to meet the needs of their stakeholders. Even if geographic location remains an important factor for students and their parents in choosing a school, school leaders will still need to be able to find resources for their students and staff. The expertise of the world is likely just a few clicks and swipes away, so leaders need to find ways to get this expertise to their students.

So how do we make all of this happen? Is it even possible to change our system from within our organizations? This is a daunting question for me, and even Christensen (2011) expresses this dilemma by stating, “Asking public schools to negotiate these disruptions from within their mainstream organizations is tantamount to giving them a demonstrably impossible task” (pg. 61). Systems and organizations are not designed to reinvent and disrupt themselves.

My prediction is that the first dominos of disruption will fall (have already fallen?) through political and legislative action. Mandatory attendance laws will change, parents will have more choices for school attendance, and more flexibility will be allowed for how public school funding resources are used. Whether or not the results of all of these changes happen by the year 2019, we should be preparing right now for the best interests of our students.

References

Christensen, C., Horn, M, Johnson, C. (2011). Disrupting class: How disruptive innovations will change the way the world learns. McGraw-Hill.

McLeod, S. (Presenter). (2009). Effective leadership in an era of disruptive innovation [Online presentation]. Retrieved from http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2009/06/29/effective-leadership-in-an-era-of-disruptive-innovation-by-scott-mcleod/

Blogs for you to check out

The screencast below is an assignment I had to do for a course I’m taking right now, but will also share here if you had an interest in adding some more top-notch blogs to your reader.

Resources:
http://www.ryanbretag.com/blog/?page_id=1933
http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/
http://cognitiveinterfundtransfer.blogspot.com/
http://hackeducation.com/
http://blog.teachercast.net/
I didn’t mention this site in the video, but be sure to check out the resources from the fine minds of the Astley Foundation.

My vision for school technology leadership

Just finished up an assignment and thought I might as well post it here too. This is the first of many pieces I’m sure I will write in my efforts to become the 3rd Dr. Rees in my immediate family. 🙂

My vision for effective school technology leadership is: (a) having a clear idea of what students need to know and be able to do to lead productive lives; (b) understanding how students best learn and what instructional practices, resources, and environments can meet those learning needs; and (c) understanding, developing, and utilizing my own leadership skills to make all of it happen.

    What students need to know

This vision starts with defining and understanding the knowledge students should have and the skills they will need in order to lead productive lives. I’ve heard some educators talk about preparing their students for real life, which seems to be the point in life when students leave school. I don’t subscribe to this idea, as I believe their lives are occurring right now, and it is our responsibility to help them learn skills and gain knowledge to help them enhance their own lives on a daily basis.

We live in a dynamic world and it is likely that change will be a constant for generations to come. These changes have affected how we think about the purpose of education systems and what we want our students to learn. In the early 20th century, schools provided a basic education for some children preparing to find work in a largely industrial and agrarian society. Today, schools need to help all of our students develop skills that will enable them to find success in this technological and connected world.

The National Educational Technology Standards for Students (2009) and student outcomes from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2011) highlight these essential competencies and abilities. Students will need to develop and demonstrate creativity and innovation. Our world is more connected than ever before, and students should develop effective communication and collaboration skills to work well with other people from a variety of backgrounds. Responsibility and citizenship also become more important to all of us as we develop relationships that reach far beyond our local communities. Continuous learning will be a necessity to our students as they find, analyze, and utilize information and technology tools to meet challenges they face in their lives.

    Students learn differently

Our students learn in dramatically different ways than just a generation ago and current instructional practices often don’t line up with those learning methods. For most of the students in our schools today, needed information has always been just a click or swipe away. Connecting with friends, near or far, has always been a nearly instantaneous action. Net Generation students are proficient at using technology to develop ideas and share them with a wide audience. These students also have a sense of their place in the changing world, and have a reasonable understanding of the vast amount of diversity among the world’s citizens.

    Changing instructional practices

Our school environments and instructional practices need to adapt to meet the changing nature and needs of our students. The NETS for Teachers (2008) guide this type of instruction as we ask that teachers focus on individual student learning needs, rather than one-size-fits-all teaching practices. Instruction should help students develop and utilize their creativity and innovation. Physical spaces and technology platforms should also be present in our schools to help originality and creativity flourish. Learning tasks should be meaningful and relevant to students who want to be challenged and make a positive impact in their own lives and those of others. Teaching in this manner is likely not possible without modeling this type of learning as a professional educator. Teachers and students need to connect and collaborate with peers, and technology can provide efficient and effective tools for doing so. Modeling and teaching digital citizenship is a key role teachers need to play for their students. Finally, teachers also need to display leadership in these areas to ensure that their students have access to quality instruction and appropriate environments to help develop these vital skills.

    The importance of leadership

Teachers do need to provide leadership for school technology, but the leaders of educational organization have vast responsibilities for making sure our students learn the skills outlined above, as well as supporting the appropriate teaching practices and resources to ensure their development. The NETS for Administrators (2009) outline many practices and competencies that are fundamental to transforming education and leading organizations that bring 21st century skills to reality for our students. Developing and sharing a vision of student learning supported by technology is one that means a lot to me. School leaders set the tone and direction for their organization and stakeholders. Their responsibility is to create this vision and then make it meaningful and attainable for their students, staff members, and community so that the necessary resources can make the vision become a reality.

Turning a vision into reality is very challenging, so a school leader needs to model continuous learning by self-assessing their knowledge, skills, and innovative abilities. The leader then needs to take this assessment information to find the required information and resources to develop their capacities. Not only do school leaders need to practice this professional growth, they also need to make sure their staff members have the same opportunities as part of a collaborative learning community.

Collaboration is an important practice for professional learning, but it is also a key skill that leaders need to perform to garner needed resources (information, technological tools, personnel, time, etc.) to help make that vision come to life. Like we expect students to be effective collaborators as they learn, school leaders need to develop those collaborative skills among the teaching staff and parents as they examine the performance of their students to gauge the success of their schools. Communication with all stakeholders is essential, and using digital technologies to facilitate communication is an effective way to share information and align efforts to meet the goals of the organization.

Stating, exploring, and explaining my vision for school technology leadership has been an interesting 1000 word journey. I’m curious to see what might change with my thoughts as this course winds down in December and also as I come to the end of this program in a few years. I know I will continue to add to my own knowledge and practical skills, but I wonder if my vision might stray from the idea of having a good sense of what students should know and then making sure resources are in place to ensure students meet these goals.

References
International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). National education technology standards for teachers. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/nets-t-standards.pdf?sfvrsn=2

International Society for Technology in Education. (2009). National education technology standards for administrators. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/nets-a-standards.pdf?sfvrsn=2

International Society for Technology in Education. (2009). National education technology standards for students. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/nets-s-standards.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2011). Framework for 21st Century Learning. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/1.__p21_framework_2-pager.pdf

Start with your strengths and focus on your bright spots

I love the message of this clip. Too often we focus on what is not working right when we go about implementing change. Change is frequently hard enough, so when we primarily focus on our weak spots, it can lead to inaction and anxiety. Keep building on your strengths so that your weaknesses become irrelevant. Make sure you take time to analyze your successful practices and people so that you can replicate those actions in other areas of yourself or your organization. (Todd Whitaker shares the same sentiment about focusing on your good people in his book Shifting the Monkey.)

Dan Heath and his brother Chip Heath wrote the book Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard.