Asking The Right Questions

Technology is disrupting public education, and it’s a good disruption!  The promise of technology is to dramatically change the way teachers teach in order to meet the way students learn.  In some classrooms that promise is blooming, in some that promise is still growing, yet in many the seed of that promise hasn’t even germinated.  How is technology being used in your district?  Is it simply taking the paper factor out, or is it being leveraged to encourage communication, collaboration and innovation?  What is driving your technology decisions?  Is curriculum a factor in those decisions?  What about professional development?  


As we gear up for another school year many districts are planning for the future through strategic plans and discussions about technology should be included.  Planning for the use of technology in the classroom can be overwhelming at best and we all know that implementing technology without a plan creates chaos.  Knowing what is available now and what is being developed can help in that planning, but keep in mind that technology is an ever-changing landscape and that can sometimes be a roadblock when deciding what technology to purchase.  


There are four planning questions that need to be addressed as you decide what technologies fit your district needs: 1. What will students learn? 2. Which strategies will provide evidence of student learning?  3. Which strategies will help students acquire and integrate learning?  4. Which strategies will help students practice, review, and apply learning?  (“Using Technology With Classroom Instruction that Works,” McRel).   


One example of technology integration is the “20 percent time,” aka “Genius Hour.” This is a concept where everyone in the classroom, including the teacher, is given 20 minutes to pursue ‘pet’ projects and learning outcomes they choose.  Often students go above and beyond their learning outcomes simply because they are given a conduit for their passions and interests.


Being an advocate for technology is a critical role for district leaders  and board members, and being a change agent is one of the 21 Responsibilities of the School Leader (“School Leadership that Works: from Research to Results,” McRel). What does it mean to be a change agent? You consciously challenge the status quo, you lead change initiatives with uncertain outcomes, systematically consider new and better ways of doing things, and consistently attempt to operate at the edge versus the center of the district’s competence.  


The culture of a district and community is a key factor in dealing with the disruption that implementing technology can create. Districts using technology successfully in the classroom foster a culture of excellence, grounded in trust, compassion and respect. As a district leader you hold the keys to successfully integrate technology, provide for a culture of innovation and be an agent of change. Ask the question: What could we be doing that we are not to prepare our students for their future?