Monthly Archives: August 2012

on educational technology leadership

Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to most effectively manage my school’s technology program, the full mix of what we teach, how we help others teach, and how we keep it all working. I’ve got a history that’s filled with systems-level experience, but my teacherly background goes back even further, to days when I thought I’d be an English teacher. (So I got sidetracked…) Over the years, coming back around to the teaching side of things, I had come to think that the way to forge ahead with educational technology was to leave the systems stuff behind and focusing primarily on the academic side of it.

A couple of weeks ago, as we were looking at moving some servers around, I uncovered an obscure problem where our Open Directory database wouldn’t back up correctly. Searching through official support spaces turned up nothing, but two blogs led me to the answer. I’m not going to write an overly technical post on what happened, but this incident was important because I’ve been less and less hands-on with the systems side of technology (though some unplanned and unexpected network disasters have certainly helped keep my hands dirty), and this was something that I regretted a bit – I’ve been conscious of the fact that my tech skills, while still there, were a little underused lately.

I’ve been wrestling with how to best play an active role in both the academic and systems side of things while not losing out on opportunities to do some long-term planning and having discussions about “the vision thing.” It helps that I work with great people, both in my department and throughout the school, but often times there’s a bit of a juggling act going on.

Juggling On The Altiplano

Juggling On The Altiplano by Andy Hares, on Flickr

Systems upkeep, network maintenance, leading professional development sessions, teaching classes, collaborating on curricula, research and development, and, in general, helping people use various technologies effectively and without fear are all part of the job. And so is staying connected to networks that can inform and inspire and staying professionally developed yourself — attending and organizing conferences and putting in conference presentation proposals. It’s a lot of work. This is a bit self-serving, but I think that being an educational technologist means that you have to be in touch with every aspect of school life, as many different areas as a head of school, principal, or curriculum coordinator interacts with. We know about how to get different subject areas to think differently about assessments, how good room design directly impacts teaching and learning, and how new literacies are needed — by both students and teachers alike — for a truly modern curriculum. None of this is possible without stuff that, frankly, just works. All of it — the teaching and the technology — works together. There’s no other way.

I’m tired already, and we haven’t even begun with orientation. But I’m also excited about all the different ways I get to collaborate with so many other people this year. It’s energizing to think of all the potential that’s there. I’m inspired by friends who have made the jump from technology director to school leader, and that provides a good frame of reference. Working with technology in school isn’t technology leadership — it’s school leadership. And that’s hard work… time to get to it.

 

My failed #GTANY application. (Or, the importance of being a little more public.)

Last week, I spent a little too much time on my family vacation worrying about and procastinating finishing the video portion of my Google Teacher Academy #GTANY application. I finished the video on the last day applications were being accepted and clicked the submit button.

Yesterday, as I realized that notification day for the academy was today, I checked on my video’s viewship. Two hits? That’s it? They must really give a small group of people access to the videos, I thought. It was then that I realized that I had left the video private. Not unlisted, but private. As in, no one could see it. So much for that.

If I had just been a little more open to criticism and not tried so hard to hide my video, this wouldn’t have happened. I feel like a big dummy for making such a rookie mistake.

Here’s the video that I meant to share with the folks at Google. Maybe next time.

on the importance of connections in education

Close connection - Verbundenheit

Close connection – Verbundenheit by alles-schlumpf, on Flickr

 

I recently wrote a post on the abundance of options that most adults have when it comes to their continuing educations, and while I don’t think that K-12 students have anywhere near that many opportunities to define what their education looks like, Christian Talbot nails what’s important in education, and what we might not see enough of: connections.

(And he also introduced me to the idea of the meddler in the middle.)

After reading his post, I realized that this is the problem I’ve been having with many online learning environments. Not all of them, mind you, but definitely the ones that I’m paying way too much for. As a student, I don’t have a real connection with many of my teacher, and it manifests itself in a lack of interest at best, and a lack of understanding at worst. If anything, it’s a good lesson about how not to create a learning environment, online or in-person. 

In addition to connecting with students, this is also a reminder to connect as a professional. The value of connections is what makes being part of a PLN so enriching and rewarding. We should want to be a part of something bigger than we are, and to know about things via other perspectives and points of view… the same things that we want for our students. We shouldn’t be so different from them.

The rush to innovate should be tempered with the reminder to connect. Let’s make sure that everything is working — pedagogically, technologically, and otherwise — before we bring in something new. Let’s make sure that we’re reaching our students, giving them a voice and a choice about what their education looks like. This is a reminder to iterate, to tinker, to refine until things work the way we think they should, to reach out for help and perspective when we need it.

Christian is the new head of school at Malvern Prep — they’re lucky to have someone who sees the value of the intangibles, the things that will make teaching and learning better, more motivating, and more interesting for everyone involved.