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 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.
I’m glad to see you fuse technology and school leadership by the end of this piece. That’s a good place to be. Leadership comes from all corners and, in the best schools, technology is at the heart of forward movement. Wishing you the best year yet, Basil.