Last week I connected with WRDSB Principal James Bond to have a conversation about his learnings over the last year with the major tablet initiative in his school. We had a great discussion, and James agreed to me writing this blog post based on our conversation.
I kicked off the conversation with a few questions to frame our discussion.
1. How do you see the role of the principal in terms of leadership in the area of technology enabled learning?
2. What were the key ingredients to building capacity among the staff?
3. How did you approach changing what was the norm in your school?
Shift takes a lot of effort, and you have to be prepared to work hard to move towards the desired result. Another important aspect is respect – respect that teachers, just like students, are a continuum of learning. The school leader can support teachers learning at their own level and setting obtainable growth targets. It is helpful to help people see the benefit in change. They have to want to invest the time and energy required. Support staff in conquering their techno fears – let it go, don’t focus on it. In today’s world, the students may very well know more about the ‘web world’, but that is OK. Teachers need to learn how to leverage technology to improve student learning, not know absolutely everything about it.
Role of the School Leader
The role of the school leader is multi facetted in bringing technology enabled learning alive in the building. Some ideas that made a significant difference with the staff were:
- learn with your staff, role modelling is important
- create a culture of learning and sharing among staff (note: over time, staff build the capacity to support each other)
- share successes teacher to teacher, take pride in “look what I did” – seeing makes a difference.
- staff meeting activity: share one thing you learned from another staff member
- set up a staff tour – have each teacher show one way they used technology to support and improve learning
- work with the staff to make it as easy as possible for teachers to try things
- Examples: mount smart boards – less messing with cords and set up, purchase document cameras for each room to avoid moving/setup
- support the acquisition of technology through all suitable avenues
- consider the impact of radical change vs. gradual change with continued success
- create the right culture: There will always be new tools and new technology. Is it always about student learning.
Technology enabled learning must be built on instructional excellence. Consider the change, pedagogy and technology elements. Staff may be a bit uncomfortable, but should not be totally overwhelmed with technology. In the end, technology well used is almost invisible in the learning process. A great place to start with technology enabled learning is connecting use to our Board identified high yield instructional strategies and the school success plan. Make a point of sharing successes. Teachers talking to teachers is an important part of the process.
Ideas Going Forward
Thinking of the system perspective, we need to find better ways to celebrate technology enabled learning and raise awareness. Seeing makes a difference. It is important to keep creating opportunities to share. Perhaps leveraging area meetings and leveraging opportunities through family of schools meetings is one avenue.