Our presentation including links and notes.
Our student voice refection video on technology use in math education (my apologies for the audio.)
I was thinking about the role of Administrators in the world where education research, strategies and technologies change at a rapid pace. I assume many Administrators feel they need to try and get ahead of the curve on edtech. But they also feel they need to be experts on problem based learning, project based learning, differentiated instruction, assessment as learning, and the list stretches to infinity. Well actually they don’t. Not even close.
I was thinking about as a teacher, what I find most valuable from them. I want you know to know of education technology and “new” teaching practices. But I don’t want you to try and be an expert on any of them, or pretend to be. The teachers need to be experts – or at least be trying to take the first step. They are the ones that when it comes time to try something new in the classroom have to deal with the repercussions, whatever they may be. They are the ones gaining the practical experience from implementing new technology and teaching strategies – they’re the boots on the ground. I think Admins that try to be an expert on say, teaching with an iPad are doomed to fail – since, in most cases, they’ve never taught with iPad. Pretending your an expert is a bad idea. – the same goes for a teacher in the classroom.
But I do want them to at least know what a Chromebook is, and in general what it can do (and can’t.) I want you to know the difference in P(roject)BL and P(roblem)BL, but not necessarily even how to get started with either. So the first thing I want is an Administrator of all trades and a master of none. I want them to be able to have a conversation with me and at least understand the issue I might be having implementing something new. But in no real way do I really expect the offer of a solution. What I do want is my second desire, for Admin to, in as much as is possible, to really know what is going on in the building (and as mega bonus points – some other schools in the board.) So when I say I’m trying to figure out how to use phones as student response systems (SRS), the only suggestion I want, is who else in the building has tried to do this. Connect me with the person who has already gone (or is going) through the same thing. They’re the person I want to talk with. They teach French and I teach Math, so maybe we don’t connect so often – but we’ll have common ground to discuss the SRS. Getting connected to that person is invaluable. The Interwebs and Twitterverse are great, but some face to face time is important.
I’m not suggesting that it is easy for an Administrator to really know what teachers are doing in their classrooms. But it is mainly your teachers that are trying new things that you need to pay attention to. Touch base with them. Have a talk that in no way feels evaluative, but have them tell you what they’re trying. Know your staff. Know who might be willing to try something new but isn’t. Maybe they’re looking at a challenge and not sure how to face it. If a teacher mentions that they’re thinking of trying to create a class website, put them in touch with a teacher who is doing the same right now, or who is an expert. If a teacher says that they aren’t sure how to increase student collaboration, send them to the science teacher doing inquiry based research assignments, or the math teacher using problem based learning.
An Administrator needs to develop that trust with their staff to have those conversations. If you’re staff isn’t willing to have those conversations with you, then maybe there is some room to build more trust. Once they start talking, keep those short conversations going. Keep track of what they say. Use a spreadsheet if necessary. Build a file on your staff of what they say they have tried – be as specific as possible. That way you are ready to go when the situation presents itself. Once you have demonstrated to teacher A that you trust them enough to send teacher B for advice, they’ll keep you in the loop.
Know your staff better than you know your “stuff.”