Wednesday, February 27, 2008

NCCE Reflections | Day One: Admin/IT Leadership Summit

I spent today in a workshop for administrative and IT types talking about how we can support 21st century learning. While the workshop didn't fully live up to my expectations, I did get some good take aways.

Communication: both groups (admin and IT) expressed a desire for greater communication; there is a real need for each to know what the other is thinking, feeling, planning, so efforts can be fully developed and coordinated.

There was also some discussion about being included in the upper administration thinking process. Some districts have IT and instructional tech leaders at the cabinet level--at least in the room if not in a voting capacity--and more of this would be beneficial in my district. We have started having these perspectives attend the principals' meeting to good effect, and I think having instructional technology represented at the highest levels of decision making would also be an important move.

Vision: Something new for me was learning about ISTE's Essential Conditions; these are a crucial take away for me because they feel like a structure for discussing change within the district. The top condition is shared vision, which happens to be my #1 tech integration priority. The work of the district instructional technology committee will be critical here for crafting and articulating this vision in a manner that can then be used to inform district-level decision making regarding the allocation of various resources (time, money, people). Working this shared vision into the larger district plan will also be very important.

Leadership: Because so many of the decisions that need making are ultimately resource allocation issues, having strong leaders who share the vision and are willing to work toward it are vital. School boards and superintendents need to value the importance of moving the district forward on issues of tech integration and student-centered learning.

And while district-level leadership is important, real change all comes down to building principals who ultimately have the on-the-ground influence and responsibility to make things happen. If principals don't buy in to the district vision, making it part of the the ongoing, day-to-day expectations in the building, what is expected by the district and what happens in the building won't be in alignment. Our building leaders are critical for keeping the priorities in focus so they don't get lost in the daily hustle of teaching.

Something that didn't come up during the workshop but I feel is invaluable is the role of teacher leaders. Integrating technology and making student-centered learning a priority is risky business for the teacher who is used to the tried and true, traditional modes. How do we, as administrative and IT types, support those who are willing to take some professional risks and move outside their comfort zones? How do we work with these teachers to develop them as building and district leaders willing to pave the way for their more reluctant peers?



sjbrooks-young said...

Hi Matt,

It was interesting to read your summary of the IT/Administrator Summit. I'm really glad to see that you found several good take aways.

What were you hoping for that wasn't covered? I read your comments about teacher leaders and the fact that we didn't bring them into the mix. I agree whole-heartedly with what you said. Unfortunately, with the limited time we had, it wasn't possible to cover every issue, so we decided to focus on the folks who were targeted for the day and their roles in promoting tech leadership.

Was there something else you felt was missing? Perhaps we could extend the conversation online!

Matt said...

Susan, thank you for stopping by. The piece that felt absent, that I realized I was expecting, was _how_ to work together with IT.

Communication was identified as a significant issue for both groups; what are some specific strategies for communicating when the two groups see the issues differently and occasionally are working at cross purposes?

I certainly understand the time issue (teacher leaders didn't occur to me until that night as I wrote the post). The conversations we had were good ones and I don't think it would have been possible to launch into leadership strategies without having had those conversations.

I suppose that is the next step.

sjbrooks-young said...

Hi Matt,

I think you're right about identifying specific strategies for launching communication, now that we've talked about some of the leadership issues. Of course much of that depends upon the culture of the individual school districts.

For example, in some districts it would be possible to make sure that IT support folks regularly attend administrative meetings (or staff meetings when they're site based). It would also be helpful for them to attend PD sessions with teachers and administrators so they know what's being presented and are prepared to understand what teachers need to do and how they can provide support. Unfortunately, there are districts where much groundwork would need to be laid before they could do this.

Hopefully, the new administrator special interest group will help in this arena between now and the next conference. We also plan to do some follow-up online communication with the folks who attended the summit.