Thursday, March 19, 2020

We mourn the sudden loss of our school families

As my daughter who is a third grade teacher in her second year of teaching closed up her classroom last night, not knowing for sure when she and her students will be back, she posted this picture.

Her private words: "After being at school for ten hours today.... Where I could only reach some of my kiddos.... So.... Sad."

While we know we are doing the right thing by closing and staying close to home to quit spreading these dangerous germs around, we mourn the sudden loss of our classroom families, and we worry.

We will struggle to provide what we can for our students while we are apart, but we know the real solution is to come back together as soon as this is over, so we can again grow and learn together.

Friday, January 10, 2020

A Letter to Future School Administrators

I have been completely out of touch with blogging the past couple of years. I've been more involved in some of the educational aspects of our school district than I was in the past, and in my opinion, it's been productive for both me and my district. With technology being so entrenched in education, employment, communication, research, publishing, creating, and day to day living, it only makes sense that a Tech Director's time be divided between working on/planning for/deploying tech AND figuring out how best to use that tech for learning and to work. That being said, there are things I hope future administrators will think about.

First, my nightmare scenario is a technology roll out of some new technology with a headline focusing on the hardware or the software. In my opinion that's educational malpractice. The reporting should emphasize the learning initiative and the way the new purchases will affect students. How many times have you seen a headline declaring that a district has spent several hundred thousand dollars on Chromebooks/iPads/Computers or on some software suite only to have no plan for how it is going to change education for the better long term? How many times have those initiatives completely failed, because no one looked past the shiny new toy feel of the purchase and planned for the success of the initiative?

Second, vendors are there for one reason: To sell you things. If they go behind the back of your tech department or try to keep the tech department out of the meetings, beware. All of them will promise you the moon, but their products always need to be vetted and compared to other products before you make a decision as to what to buy. Your tech department can help you with that. It's what they do.

Third, it's easy to follow the trends for the newest shiny toy every couple of years. It allows you to publicize the new stuff, but it keeps your staff and students from having to really learn how to use a tool well for learning and for your students to reap the benefits. Be careful with the term "engaged" and how you use it. Remember that the excitement over the new things does not equate with better learning.

Fourth, with rare exceptions (which is a whole other problem/story), the tech department is not your enemy. They are there to work with you to improve education in the district. There are far better paying jobs out there for tech people. Those who stay (and who are any good) are there because they truly think they can contribute to a better education for kids. Welcome their help. Seek it out.

And finally, I am convinced that only you have the ultimate power to make technology a powerful learning tool in your district. Tech Directors can provide the stuff and train the staff and play cheerleader for the learning tools. Individual teachers can shine on their own. However, to transform a district requires a dedicated administrator. You can learn how to use technology. You can use technology to do your job better. You can model technology use in PD. You can highlight your people and your students with social media. You can make robust technology use a part of your walk through and staff evaluation criteria. You can give your tech department time to educate staff members. And, you can reward the teachers who use technology effectively thus pushing others to follow suit. The bottom line is it's important that you take a look at the ISTE Standards for Education Leaders and take a leadership role along side your Technology Director.

What these things all have in common is teamwork. My advice is that you make the tech department an important part of your team and work together. If you do, your students will benefit. After 23 years of doing this, this is one of the few things I am absolutely certain of. Trite as it sounds, we're better together.