School level technology issues

When looking at the school-level administrative technology decision and policy issues, there are so many positives and negatives that are and have been dwindling in the schools.  

school

Image taken from Pixabay

In my teaching career, I have seen the school level set the stage for the dramatic personae such as our students, fellow staff members, parents and community members. A few years back when I was teaching  at Thom, our admin team was wanting to initiate some way to integrate tech in education in a meaningful and pedagogical way.

They created a subcommittee of teachers who were interested to find ways to integrate ed technology in the classroom.  Together we invested in the idea of BYOT (Bring Your Own Device). This initiative was becoming a popular phenomenon in the school building.

theatre

Image taken from Pixabay

Later, a few teachers and myself with the help of former tech ed consultants created a Thom Technology Catalyst Team. Together we set the scene and we held bi-weekly meetings and discussed ways to support BYOT in the school building. We initiated posting signs on the classrooms doors that stated: THIS IS A BYOT CLASSROOM, which meant students were welcome to bring their props such as cell phones or devices on the condition that they signed the new digital citizenship policy from Regina Public Schools and had permission from home.

It was all brand new then!  Some teachers were excited to be experimenting with tech ed and tried using technology within inquiry projects. Then came the conflicts where some teachers were frowning upon us questioning why on earth we would allow students to bring disruptions in the classroom? Then there were conflicts from the parents when parents were either very supportive or against teachers using devices / cell phones in the classroom.

After a couple of months and years of trial and error with BYOT, there was momentum in the school building with students using DC meaningfully. We also held lunch and learns (money was given from our admin) to support teachers who were wanting to try using ed tech in the classroom in an educational way.

A couple of years later with budget cuts, ed tech consultants job being cut and educators being transferred out of the building, the technology catalyst team became quite small.  Furthermore, the focus from admin seemed to shift away from edtech and more about data and student retention.

As an educational leader something that has really bothered me is how DC and ed tech initiatives in my division have been pushed to the side. This is of course creating side effects for our learners as they are not properly learning on how to be digital citizens. Teachers have also moved from BYOT to cell phone jail methods.

As I mentioned earlier,  digital citizenship is not happening in my school and from what I can see initiatives to support DC is not happening from my school division.  Due to educational budget cuts from our Saskatchewan Government, digital citizenship initiatives became less critical for teaching in the classroom and our Edtech consultant’s title at the board office was fazed out. The “need” to to teach more about DC has become less important in the schools these past few years and the digital divide in the schools have been creating more conflicts.

In some schools, cell phones are banned to deal with issues of bullying and inappropriate use which to be honest is band aid solution…it is not the solution.  Cell phones and electronic devices are not going away anytime soon.  Unfortunately these conflicts have not been dealt with properly and they are not disappearing. They are usually dealt with in a short term manner hence why these conflicts are always recurring in the school building with the issues on bullying and what it truly means to be a digital citizen. There are also conflicts with time and resources that are needed for teachers with regards to DC. There is of course conflicts with teacher, parent, community push for or against technology in the school / classroom.

What I would like to see DC integrated properly back into the schools with the support of PD and perhaps the school boards could re-initiate the educational technology consultant and create a sub committee to support its teachers and students. This would of course result in successful and meaningful learning for our students when it comes to ed tech.

What side effects have you seen in your school building when it came to school level administrative technology decision and policy issue?

Thanks.

Krista

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Image 1: What do you want kids to do with technology? (Unit 4)

tech in schools

Taken from Couros, G. (2015). The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity

I choose image # 1 as my springboard for my comments about Edtech leadership issues at the school division level. There are many issues at our School Division level when it comes to properly using technology. I think we were on the right track in 2015, though due to budget cuts, I believe the necessity of it diminished in our school division. Focus on Edtech (form school division level) has fallen to the bottom of the list. I do not see these initiatives (from Regina Catholic and Sun West) happening like this in our school building and in our division. Though as Stephen mentioned in unit’s  video, tech innovations do not just come from board office or administrators. It can come from everyone within the school and I agree leadership can be distributed. Taking these risks with technology is important for the reason that technology allows for engagement as well as new learning will take place and allows learners and educators to think differently and maximize student success.

In EdTech we want to make awareness, to start conversations to find answers for our students questions, to change minds, to take action and to drive change, we need educators that are willing to take risks. It should not just fall on the administrator to lead this change.  Educators, tech leaders in the school that want to be the change to enhance student learning,  can also engage our students to become 21st century learners. Professional development that supports these initiatives needs to come about to support our learners and teachers from division level similar to whats going on with Regina Catholic and Sun West. This can be done with online learning or PD that the School division should consider supporting for educators who are passionate about Edtech.

For this week’s blog post we are to discuss some of the leadership principles that were effectively illustrated in Sun West’s and Regina Catholic approaches to EDTech innovation. (I have to be honest I was super impressed by these approaches!)

Sun West

Sun West has (PeBL) Personalized Electronically Blended Learning. After having listened to Guy Tetrault speak in his podcast, I was taken aback by all the amazing initiatives that their school division is leading.

Having student voice in their video made their message clear about the personalized learning that is taking place in their classrooms. It was explained that their classrooms encourage students to be unique in their learning and to take on what works best for them. It is also a student lead process where students have choice for personalized learning. I really was impressed that students set most of the goals and that the teacher is the mentor. The students are super engaged in this process for the reason that what they are learning prepares them for the real world.

Guy Tetrault discussed the importance that there is “buy in” from all levels of the school system. It’s a blended education where it is teacher led with online learning. There is of course a culture of leadership in the school that supports its educators and their pedagogy.   Furthermore, the school is focused and wants to ensure that students have access to all online learning that is available. To support this initiate at Sun West, all teachers are supported with tech coaches and PD while at the same time students have instruction that is blended and tailored to their needs. This provides many opportunities for both the teacher and the student through online learning.  

Educators in this program use differentiation with technology to support students learning which encourages personalized education. I was very surprised to hear that there are over 70 electives available for the middle years to high school students while at the same time, students are engaged and taking control of their own learning.  Sun West is leading the way in Canada and they are currently sharing and collaborating between other educators and other districts to build more programming with other schools.

What I found empowering after having listened to Guy Tetrault, was how students have this sense of ownership in their learning which changes their mindset.  At the same time, it’s increasing graduation rates for the reason that they are supporting student interest while at the same time keeping students more engaged.

Bart Cote (Regina Catholic Schools)

Bart Cote a digital design and training coach / principal is finding ways for teachers to use technology to enhance educational pedagogy. His leadership in his division is focused on 21st century learning, what students need to know to be a participant in the 21st century connected society. In his leadership he is using digital technologies to deepen student learning and promote digital citizenship.

Teachers are given technology in the classroom, while at the same time these teachers are given PD and learning what technology is useful in teacher pedagogy. It’s important that the educator asks: what is good teaching?  When we use technology is it efficient and authentic?

Their school division is using the 7 C’s when it comes to effective leadership skills in essential skills of 21st century learning. They are: connect, collaboration, curate, citizenship, communicate, critical thinking and create.

21st century learning

Image taken from Regina Catholic Schools: The 7 C’s of Essential Skills of 21st Century Learning

Their school division is using tech and the SAMR model to accomplish their goals. I was reminded that technology can be used for simple substitutions and can be used to redefine what is happening in the classroom and lessons. That technology can be used to enhance a lesson, but to only use technology when it fits with pedagogy.

Furthermore, their school division provides PD when their educators want to try new technology that supports their own technology goals. They RCS uses PD to support and enhance teaching and structural design.  The SAMR model is a tech journey that is different for all teachers. Teachers are using technology for inquiry based learning, genius hour and for various projects. They are also promoting and encouraging the leadership of their teachers, where they are connected and want to be involved in the change that supports students varied learning needs. 

samr

The SAMR model

I was reminded that as a leader, we need to continue to find ways to lead and innovate instead of trying to change the whole system.  Classrooms are a place of learning and as leaders, we need to be willing to take risks, and find ways to make a change. We have to be willing to learn, be a leader of change, have that constant passion and enthusiasm. Be willing to re-define education with technology that is meaningful for our students and for our pedagogy. 

I really enjoyed this Ted Talk video from G. Couros (brother to Dr. Couros) where he talks about encouraging our students to take risks with their own learning. Feel free to check it out when you have moment.

 

I am wondering from other classmates in this EDL 820, what image did you choose to comment on from Couros, G. (2015) about Edtech leadership issues at your school division?

Thanks.

Krista