You are a superintendent or principal who wants to promote students leveraging technology to improve the quality and amplify the impact of their work. As a superintendent, you want principals to model using technology to improve their work. As a principal, you want assistant principals, department chairs, grade level chairs, and other teacher-leaders effectively modeling how to leverage technology as well. How can superintendents and principals achieve this?
Step 1: Model and celebrate the behavior.
· Meet with principals using videoconferencing technology, such as Blackboard Collaborate, to demonstrate using technology as a productivity tool.
· During a workshop with leaders you supervise, model learning with outside experts by connecting with other educators via Skype.
· Visit a classroom to watch students and teachers for using technology successfully. By spending time observing lessons that leverage technology, you communicate that those lessons are important.
· Take digital photos and videos of students effectively using technology and share them at faculty meetings, principal meetings, and School Board meetings to celebrate and inspire.
· Send kudos to teachers for successfully leveraging technology via Twitter. E-mail the tweet to the teacher if she doesn't use Twitter herself.
· Share shout-outs regarding great lessons via blog posts.
· Seek out examples of student and teacher blogs in your school or district and take just two minutes to publish a comment on their blog.
Don't have the time or expertise for all these actions? No problem, start with a few.
Often superintendents and principals who want to promote the effective use of technology stop after step one. They mistakenly think that by modeling and celebrating the behavior, that other leaders in their organization will adopt the same strategy. Our strategic thinking about growing leaders who model the effective use of technology needs to extend beyond our own modeling.
Step 2: Communicate your core expectations to leaders relating to modeling the behavior.
If you want your principals, assistant principals, department chairs, grade level chairs and other teacher-leaders modeling technology usage, tell them that. Don't stop at modeling and celebrating the behavior yourself. After you have taken steps in walking the walk yourself, share your expectations regarding modeling.
In York County, Virginia, Chief Academic Officer Stephanie Guy and I worked with Instructional team members to articulate core expectations relating to several instructional areas. We shared these expectations at our Leadership Academy in August. The document included expectations relating to modeling technology usage.
All administrators will model the use of video-conferencing and video conferencing roles with staff at least once and will encourage teacher use of videoconferencing to enhance instruction.
All administrators will model the use of Social Media/Web 2.0 Tools for professional learning with staff.
In November, Stephanie Guy and I described our core expectations to Ginger Blackmon, a principal in Alaska who serves as an instructional leadership coach through the Microsoft Partners in Learning program. Ginger asked a disruptive question: "Are you dictating the core expectations or are your leaders articulating them as shared expectations that they hold as a group for themselves?" This question led us to step 3. To take a more collaborative approach, skip step 2 or integrate steps 2 and 3.
Step 3: Ask leaders to articulate shared expectations relating to modeling the behavior.
Chief Academic Officer Stephanie Guy then asked principals to reflect on the core expectations relating to modeling and other instructional topics prior to a principals meeting. Is each expectation reasonable, appropriate, and attainable?
Prior to a principals meeting, Ashley Ellis, Coordinator of Professional Development, e-mailed a survey to our nineteen principals and six central office participants asking them to rate each core expectation via Survey Monkey, an online survey tool. During the meeting, the group results were displayed. When consensus was not obvious, the group discussed the expectation, making adjustments as necessary. For example, the group decided to delete the list of examples of Social Media/Web 2.0 Tools. Also, the group revised one of the other core expectations relating to technology which initially stated, "All secondary administrators will promote the appropriate usage of Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) to support student learning." Given our plans to expand our BYOT initiative to the elementary level, elementary principals stated that the word secondary should be deleted from this expectation so that it applies to them as well. After discussion and revision of each expectation, Stephanie Guy asking each principal to indicate their level of support for the shared expectation by holding up from one to five fingers, with the quantity of fingers raised indicating the level of support for the expectation. When this "fist of five" activity indicated broad support, an expectation became part of the shared expectations.
Step 4: Facilitate learning relating to the expectations.
If they are going to model using technology, leaders need time to play with it in a low risk setting. Recognizing the importance of play time, Kipp Rogers, our Director of Secondary Instruction, created Principals Digital Playground with the support of other members of his department. It eventually was renamed Digital Playground once other leaders began to attend as well. The Digital Playground is an optional event, held monthly, at which leaders focus on a specific topic, such as learning via Twitter, creating and editing movies using iMovie, or using Edmodo.
Promote a culture of reflective practice. We loosely structure some of our reflective conversations regarding using protocols adapted from free resources available from the National School Reform Faculty. Even when we are not officially using a protocol, our conversations benefit from skills learned by using the protocols, such as asking questions that effectively clarify a dilemma and articulating probing questions that prompt new insight.
Taking these four steps can increase the extent to which leaders in your organization effectively model how to leverage technology. Please join the conversation. What advice do you have relating to taking these steps? What other steps can be taken to encourage others to effectively model how to leverage technology?