Thursday, 24 July 2014

Technology Isn't Just an Add On

I have been given the responsibility of leading our school's team in crafting our vision for use of technology, it's implementation and integration into our program.  I am excited what opportunities and challenges this will bring.

As part of this process we delivered a technology use survey to staff at the end of the last school year.  This has set the starting point for our mission, however, in the end the survey provided nothing we already did not know.  Staff requested, more access to technology and more professional learning.  When we asked questions around the SAMR model, the lion's share of our staff our using technology for Substitution and Augmentation.  When we inquired regarding how staff were addressing the 21st Century learning skills (I prefer to call these life skills and hopefully we can ditch the 21st Century soon) through the use of technology it was clear that, for the most part we are using technology to gather information and watch videos. Needless to say there is some work to be done.  The great positive out of this is that the staff are hungry for professional learning and there is a desire to better use technology in our practice. We have a great staff at our school.

I have been assisting a teacher in writing a report based out of our survey.  She is doing a great job attempting to pull the strings together and make meaning out of the numbers. As were were commenting back-and-forth on the document, it struck me.  The focus is on technology first and skills second.  This needs to be the other way around.  If we focus on the skills we can substitute whatever technology we want into our program.  This will also help alleviate teacher concerns over the rapidly changing direction of technology use in our board and in the outside world.

Over the last few years our school board as gone BYOD, implemented Office365, Skydrive, Corporate Sharepoint, MyClass, moved from Angel to D2L to just name a few of the changes that have occurred within our school board.  This does not include the tremendous amount of change that has happened outside of the walls of our schools. Coupling this amount of change together, at times teachers get the idea that we are always running after the next trend.  This feeling reminds me of the following video:

If we, as a school focus on the skills rather than the technology we can avoid the feeling of running and trying to manage a multitude of different technology resources at a time.  Teachers can then access whatever technology they want, or even better have students access whatever appropriate technology they want to ensure they are learning and using 21st Century learning skills.  This would eliminate the stress that staff feel over having to be the masters of technology.  Rather they can be master connectors or activators between the subject content, 21st Century Skills, technology and students.  This is what needs to be done, the skills need to be the framework, the structure the purpose for how we use technology.

Further to this, I had a second thought on our use of technology.  We are, at times, are still seeing technology as a stand alone, as an extra, as an afterthought.  Rather our use of technology needs to be seamlessly integrated into our daily practice in order for its use to be effective.  This is where we need to direct and invest our time in professional learning with our staff.  This is the same message I have been giving to fellow administrators.  We need to adopt and integrate technology into our daily practice instead of seeing it as an instructional tool only.  As digital leaders, we need to model the use of Web 2.0 tools for our staff to communicate, collaborate, to think critically and creatively around issues of education reform and lastly use it to create a vision that is going to deliver the best educational opportunities for our students.  This is part of our work as digital leaders; our work as educators.

Once we have moved skills to the forefront and integrated the use of technology into our daily practice, staff can see how technology can be used to help engage students and accelerate learning in their classrooms.

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