This quarter in my Masters in Digital Education program, I’ve truly begun to question decision making behind the scenes and how those decisions are both shared and acted upon by district staff. Continuing to look to ISTE Standards around Professional Development and Program Evaluation, I further wanted to explore how administrators advocated for technology needs in their building and create opportunities for all staff to actively participate in Tech PD.
A recent study conducted by SAM Labs surveyed 250 teachers in the United States and concluded that 78% felt they lacked adequate training needed to meet the demands of technology in their classrooms effectively (Bolkan, 2017). Of those surveyed, 82% felt classroom technology helps prepare students for future careers. However, only 37% surveyed claimed to learn how to use technology during their free time. This means that 63% of the teachers surveyed rely on Professional Development opportunities and coaching to explore how to effectively implement new technology in their classroom.
A study shared by The School Leaders Network, found that principal retention is a national concern. Their 2014 survey found that 1 out of 4 administrators leave their schools each year (Cohen & Pearson, 2018). In addition, 50% of new principals quit during their third year. With these trends, it’s easy to see how teachers are left waiting for strong leadership, or someone to advocate for what their building needs.
Not wanting to get too much into why this is an issue, I would like to add that our nation’s largest district, in New York City, has taken action to better support administrators. Starting in 2014, they created a program that makes leaders out of veteran principals who take a year leave from their building to serve as a coach for other new administrators in their district. Each coach provides 8 hours of support per new administrator each month. This strategy not only offers support to the new administrators but allows the veterans to experience what is happening in other buildings as well. In their first year of the program, they were able to raise retention of third year administrators to 75% returning for the fourth year ((Cohen & Pearson, 2018).
Again, this scenario of coaching administrators, is not necessarily happening nationwide. Therefore it is important to understand that many districts still have high turnover, or frequent shifting of administrators from one building to the next. This creates barriers for teachers feeling supported with new curriculum, tech integration, and the sense that someone is advocating on their behalf.
What can administrators do to better support their staff’s needs?
Given the data from NYC, administrators who feel supported are more likely to remain on the job. Districts need to provide professional development opportunities for administrators in order for them to become or remain effective leaders. Administrators need to understand how to empower their staff to take risks and explore new ways of thinking and teaching. Eric Patnoudes, a former teacher and instructional technologist, states that districts must have a unified vision for technology use that is explicitly shared with administrators and educators. In his post Professional Development Isn’t Just for Teachers, he raises three questions for administrators:
- Are teachers required to integrate technology during classroom observations/evaluations?
- When we say “paperless classroom”, what is the actual goal?
- How should a district define student engagement, and can it be observed?
Now assuming districts are offering Tech PD to administrators, how can they further support their staff? Edtech Magazine shared 6 Strategies to Help Principals Become Technology Leaders. Although this article was published more than a decade ago, the data above indicates we need administrators to offer more Tech support to staff.
Six great tips towards a shared vision of tech integration:
- Establish the Team – principal identifies teachers who are pro-tech and creates a tech leadership team to serve the school
- Assess Facility’s Needs – Create a needs assessment for the school to guide the direction of the tech leadership team for Professional Development (working on this through a needs assessment right now with Instructional Assistants in my building.)
- Model Tech Use and Practices – Principals can use PD sessions to model technology use (the article recommends admin model effective tech use on a daily basis)
- Recognise Effective I.T. Use – Reminder that technology use should enhance student learning and is simply a tool. Tech integration needs to connect to the student learning outcomes and be seen as a way for students to express their understanding in a way that would not be possible without the tool.
- Encouraging Excellence – Admin should encourage tech use and promote best practices through having teachers share lesson ideas or create a video of what they’re doing. Some schools offer other incentives for best practices as well.
- Provide Support and Training – Admin need to ensure staff feel fully supported with tech changes being placed on them. Training needs to be on-going and provide multiple opportunities for staff to feel technology is effectively working for them, not just adding to their work day.
Administrators have such an important role in the climate of the school. For staff to take chances and be motivated to try new technology, they need to feel supported by admin. In turn, admin need to feel supported by their district. The stakeholders, whose tax dollars often fund technology, need to be part of the vision of the future. Most importantly decisions need to be made in the best interest of the the student learners, how will technology enhance/support their learning in a new way.
When districts support administrators with opportunities to learn from each other, they can in turn model technology use for their staff and share the district’s vision for tech integration. If needs are not being met, it requires administrators to speak up and advocate for change, to seek out alternatives that may better suit their student population. Too often technology is introduced through an email or one day PD session. As PD becomes more personalized, staff need to feel their administrators are approachable and available for further training and support. We know technology is not leaving the classroom any time soon. It’s time for districts to be transparent with their vision of technology and encourage more collaboration around effective integration and support.
Bolkan, J. (2017, October 26). Most Teachers Say Classroom Tech Helps Students, but Teachers Need More Training. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/10/26/most-teachers-say-classroom-tech-helps-students-but-teachers-need-more-training.aspx
Camera, L. (2017, December 20). Educators: We Need More From Education Technology … Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://www.usnews.com/news/education-news/articles/2017-12-20/educators-we-need-more-from-education-technology
Cohen, E. D., & Pearson, M. (2018, February 19). Heeding the voice of school experience. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://www.districtadministration.com/article/heeding-voice-school-experience
Morrison B. (2006, October 31). 6 Strategies to Help Principals Become Technology Leaders. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2006/10/6-strategies-help-principals-become-technology-leaders
Patnoudes, E. (2016, July 07). Professional Development Isn’t Just for Teachers. Retrieved January 14, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2016/07/professional-development-isn-t-just-teachers
Starr, L. (2009, September 23). The Administrator’s Role in Technology Integration. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech087.shtml