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.
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