“How do we get reluctant administrators on board with utilizing technologies to communicate, connect, and collaborate?”
This is one of the most prevalent questions I encounter when chatting with educators on Twitter, through informal conversations, and in presentations I’ve shared. It came through loud and clear in the Connected Principals ISTE session that teachers want their administrators to value the opportunities to use technologies to enhance learning opportunities for students and to encourage collaboration and connected learning.
I decided to roll with Scott McLeod’s prompt suggestion of: Using the National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators (NETS-A) as a starting point, what are the absolutely critical skills or abilities that administrators need to be effective technology leaders?
How do reluctant administrators begin? By owning up to the fact that their participation and leadership in this area is essential. It’s crucial. This is one of my favorite graphics that Scott created:
In my opinion, it can happen…. I’ve seen many rogue teachers propel their classes forward in a manner not necessarily supported or understood by the administration. But it’s not easy. And it’s not systemic. And it won’t be as meaningful for all kids as it needs to be.
The NETS-A was developed with a critical understanding that the bar has been raised for school leaders. A school leader who wishes to “create and sustain a culture that supports digital age learning must become comfortable collaborating as co-learners with colleagues and students around the world” (aka “I don’t do technology” is no longer acceptable.) Also, this framework seeks to help school leaders propel their organizations forward as members of “dynamic learning communities.” Vision is vital.
The NETS-A are organized around 5 major themes: Visionary Leadership, Digital Age Learning Culture, Excellence in Professional Practice, Systemic Improvement, and Digital Citizenship.
If you are an administrator, read the descriptions of the components of each category and ask yourself, “Am I there yet?” If so, how will you influence and develop others in order to contribute to the shared vision? If not, how will you begin to develop professionally in order to get there? So you can get your teachers and kids there?
Visionary Leadership: Educational administrators inspire and lead development and implementation of a shared vision for comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformation throughout the organization.
Key ideas: all stakeholders; purposeful change; maximize digital resources; exceed learning goals; support effective instructional practices; develop and implement technology-infused strategic plans; advocate for this vision at the local, state, and national levels
Digital Age Learning Culture: Educational Administrators create, promote, and sustain a dynamic, digital-age learning culture that provides a rigorous, relevant, and engaging education for all students.
Key ideas: ensure instructional innovation; model and promote effective use of technology for learning; provide learner-centered environments to meet the individual needs of students; ensure effective practice in the study of technology and infusion across curriculum; promote and participate in learning communities that allow for global, digital-age collaboration
Excellence in Professional Practice: Educational Administrators promote an environment of professional learning and innovation that empowers educators to enhance student learning through the infusion of contemporary technologies and digital resources.
Key ideas: allocate time, resource and access to ensure ongoing professional growth in technology fluency and integration; facilitate and participate in learning communities to nurture administrators, teachers, and staff; promote and model effective communication and collaboration using digital tools; stay current on the latest educational research and emerging trends in educational technology to improve student learning
Systemic Improvement: Educational Administrators provide digital-age leadership and management to continuously improve the organization through the effective use of information and technology resources.
Key ideas: lead purposeful change to maximize achievement of learning goals through appropriate use of technology and media-rich resources; collaborate to collect, analyze, and share data to improve staff performance and student learning; recruit highly competent personnel who use technology creatively and proficiently; leverage strategic partnership to support systemic improvement; manage and maintain a robust infrastructure for technology
Digital Citizenship: Educational Administrators model and facilitate understanding of social, ethical and legal issues and responsibilities related to an evolving digital culture.
Key ideas: ensure equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources to meet the needs of all learners; model and establish policies for safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information/technology; promote and model responsible social media interactions; model and facilitate a shared cultural understanding and involvement in global issues through the use of communication and collaboration tools. (ISTE, NETS-A, 2009)
When I read over these components, none appear glaringly over-demanding. I cannot image an instance where an administrator wouldn’t consider these competencies important enough to at least begin to acknowledge, given the needs of our children who walk through our schools’ doors each day. Is it going to happen in a year? No. Will competencies and the expected skill set of a principal change continuously throughout her career? Yes. Are the daily demands of a principal exceedingly unreasonable and intolerable some days? Absolutely.
But I think where it begins is with connections. It begins by developing a supportive network of peers that can enhance your comfort and familiarity with the components of these domains. I think where it begins is with no excuses. Try something new. Read about the latest. Communicate in a different way than you did before. You’ll find that you like it. Empower your teachers and students to help you develop in this area professionally, and share what you learn with others.
In last year’s post for Leadership Day, I reflected upon my experiences utilizing various technologies in my role as an administrator. I conjectured about how it came to be that I became so comfortable with the tools and connecting, collaborating, and communicating via social media. I re-read the list of ways in which I used technology to communicate with my school community and further my own professional growth, and this made me realize that my knowledge base has blossomed in so many different directions since Leadership Day 2010. I owe much of this to to the ever-expanding network of professionals I have the privilege to engage with each day and my own self-driven desire to continue to learn more about the benefits of connected learning. Thank you to everyone who continues to contribute. A post recently written by Jon Becker really made me think. Yes, many of us are good at sharing, collaborating, creating. But what do we have to show for it? How can we demonstrate our growth in ways that demonstrate the impact on student learning? I am going to set a goal of sharing more of those stories this year. Of working to ensure what happens in our classrooms isn’t necessarily about the latest tool or gadget, but rather has a focus on learning.
It’s Leadership Day 2011! I hope you’ll add to the conversation!
7 Replies to “The bar has been raised.”
you really nail it- struck me if we don’t live the vision we construct for kids (ours is “learners will embrace learning, excel, own their future”) why would we expect anything different from them in return? Your post lays that out clearly in terms of an expectation that we can’t expect something of others- teachers or kids- that we aren’t willing and eager to pursue for ourselves. We can’t become an example of a NETS-A leader if we don’t connect as you point out in the post. A med student at UVA commented to our leadership team- teachers and admins together- this past week that the “real learning begins when we get to the team-based work.”
We can’t learn what we need to learn, model what we need to model, and lead what we need to lead in isolation of others. We can’t raise that bar without stepping up to the plate and raising it for us, too – and we can’t advance our work if we don’t change our own stories, giving reason to others to change the stories they tell about us.
great post- thanks for sharing!
Hi, Pam! Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I agree as leaders we need to strive to reach levels of proficiency in these areas. I just don’t know how so many can refute that these qualities are essential for leading in our schools today. I learn so much from the stories you share! Looking forward to our continued connection!
Love your blog and your great tweets. One minor issue I have with a lot of educators is the use of the bar metaphor. The idea that there is a single bar for anything in education implies a single standard and one-size-fits-all education. A better way to look at it in sports terms if you must is to let everyone have there own bar. The level of one’s bar will depend on where the person is currently at. When someone accomplishes something in learning, they can raise there own bar to the next height. With one bar, some students can clear it in their sleep while others never will. It makes no sense to me. We need mass customization in education, not mass standardization.
Good luck with the hurricane and keep up the good work. Douglas W. Green.Com
Doug, thanks for your comments. I agree in terms of students, we want to avoid the “bar metaphor” and strive for customized learning for kids. But do you think the same applies for teachers and adults who are charged with leading the way for kids? Shouldn’t there be a minimum expectation for what administrators should know and be able to do in regards to leadership in this area? Yes, everyone has a different starting point, and we should work to propel one another forward. So, I guess my point is that everyone’s bar has been raised- or should be- no matter where it was initially, and there is a certain level of competencies we should expect from our administrators. Thanks again for your comments!