In many places, the end of the school year is upon us. Students are eagerly waiting for that final bell to ring, and teachers are busy making those final preparations to finish things out. And while our thoughts may turn to summer vacation, this time of year is ripe for reflection, especially for the school-technology leader.
Recently, I spent some time talking with the administrators in my district about technology, our vision for where we want to go and how they play a key role in the development of technology practices that can have a huge impact on student learning. We asked them several questions which I think are some of the most important. These questions are adapted from the Principals Technology Leadership Assessment from Castle. These by no means are the only questions to consider, but by answering these you can get a feel for the direction that technology integration will take/does take in a school or district.
So as we close out the school year, think about these questions for this and the next school year:
1. To what extent do you compare and align your school technology plan with other plans such as your school improvement plan? Are there clear goals for the use or integration of technology that are integrated into your school improvement plan? Perhaps there is a component to address digital safety or cyberbullying but should their be more? What should be addressed? Is technology even addressed at all? What successes did you have this year that you want to build upon. And what challenges did you face that you need to work on for next year?
2. To what extent do you promote participation of your school’s stakeholders in the technology planning process of your school or district? Who is involved in your planning process? Is it just the technology leadership? Are teachers involved? What about students? Did you listen to the perspective of parents or the community? Planning for technology is an ongoing process that needs evaluation and reflection. And it is important to involve all stakeholders in that process.
3. To what extent did you disseminate or model best practices in learning and teaching with technology to faculty and staff? Even in my position as director, I take every opportunity I can to get out in front of teachers (and sometimes students). I am a teacher and enjoy teaching. But I also know how important it is for me to model the best use of technology. That is also a value we are instilling in our administrators as well. We started an administrator boot camp that worked with school principals to help them better understand their role in the technology leading process but to help them feel more comfortable with technology so that they can model its use with their faculty.
4. To what extent do you include the effective use of technology as a criterion for assessing the performance of faculty? This one, I believe, is the hardest to answer and hardest to assess. What does “effective use of technology” look like? Many administrators simply don’t know. So what are they doing to make sure they have a clear understanding of effective use and how is it being assessed? In North Carolina, that is a large part of our teacher evaluation system. Even if it isn’t a part of yours, can you find a way to supplement what you are doing to make sure it is part of the conversation?
5. To what extent do you participate in professional development activities meant to improve and expand your use of technology? Along with No. 4, this is another important question to ponder. I know I can do a better job of offering targeted PD specific to my administrators in my district. And I am going to do better. But what opportunities are administrators seeking outside of traditional PD? Are they engaged in Twitter or other social networks? Do they know about #cpchat? Do they read leadership blogs? Are they going to conferences or Edcamps to expand their horizons or see what conversations teachers are having?
Even in the busyness that is the end of the year, take time to reflect on these questions. Examine past successes and changes for the future.
Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom) is the director of instructional technology for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. He also is an independent educational consultant. Check out his blog, Web 2.0 Connected Classroom.