Sunday, October 26, 2008

A note on technology leadership

A nugget I haven't mentioned before from ITEC 2008 came from a session for technology coordinators, where the presenter, Rich Molettiere, who echoed a statement I have believed in for years. He mentioned that if he had a new piece of technology (let's say Program X), the best way to bring about X's use in the district is to find your go-getters and work with them individually.

The thinking here is that a professional development session for all teachers will result in some getting lost, some getting mad at the program, some getting mad at having to do the initiative, and those who are truly going to benefit from it will be bored by the watered-down session tailored for everyone else.

As a technology coordinator, this was my mantra. Avoid the "shotgun-style" training. When we got Elmos for the first time, I picked four teachers to use as guinea pigs and had them try out the devices. It helped me learn the way to teach them (and others), and it let them know there were benefits to being a go-getter (first crack at the new technology and individual attention from the tech coordinator). I did the same for Smartboards, blogging, InspireData, and every other new item to come. Some, like Elmos, caught on like wildfire, where teachers were literally peering into their neighbor's room to see what the hubbub was, and next thing, I had an email request from another who wanted in on the act. Some, like InspireData, did not spread beyond the go-getters. But regardless, this was the way I facilitated change.

Looking to move your district into the 21st century? You need 2 things. You need a leader who is willing to sacrifice their own time to go out individually and meet with teachers, who takes pride in seeing everyone else succeed. And you need to bury the egalitarian shotgun-style approach. Todd Whitaker made it one of his 15 things that great principals do differently: "Base all your decisions on your best people. What will your best teachers think?" The same should be done with technology.

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