The following is an excerpt from my book, The Missing Voices in Edtech: Bringing Diversity into Edtech. It is the chapter on teacher voice in edtech decisions where I describe ways that campus leaders can help teachers grow as digital leaders.
As a classroom teacher, I would have definitely described myself as a “Tech-Fearless Educator”. I’ve always enjoyed exploring to learn and definitely embraced that in my own teaching and learning. Any opportunity that I had to either train other teachers or serve on decision making committees, I jumped at it which helped me to swiftly develop as a leader.
In thinking of my own experiences, I have to wonder if we are in fact offering teachers on our campuses the opportunities to do the same? In other words, are we creating an environment in which teachers feel that they not only have a voice but a platform in which to grow? Are we creating a community of developers or a community that needs developed?
Ideas for Developing Teacher Tech Leaders on Campus
Don’t make the “fearless-tech” teacher your only go-to for all things technology. When you do this, you are creating an environment of “only them” instead of “us too”. The fearless-tech teachers is one of your greatest assets in terms of willingness to tackle new ideas but we must be careful that as we continuously validate the ideas of the teachers with automatic buy-in, that we don’t inadvertently invalidate the others. Many teachers will not automatically jump at the chance to share because they don’t realize that what they are doing in their classrooms is in fact transformative. As you see those moments, encourage those teachers to share with their team or even staff.
Have an unconference led by your campus teachers. What I love most about “edcamps” is that they are 100% driven by the collective knowledge of the group. An unconference isn’t about the “star” of the room but about amplifying what participants want to learn and their comfort in leading the learning. This is an excellent way to help teachers become more confident leaders which will only further the cause when it comes to technology. In addition, this a great way to pose an open discussion where teachers can freely voice their technology concerns.
Have an open policy for when teachers want to teach official campus training. This should be a priority. When teachers want to lead training, they should be given the platform to do so. Yes, your “fear-less” educator may be compelled to lead sessions as much as possible but by encouraging teachers to be collaborative, they will only gain more through developing together .
Encourage your teachers to submit proposals to speak at conferences. As a frequent conference attendee/presenter, I actually love hearing from teachers who are currently in practice versus a specialist who is not. In addition, it is a proven fact that when a teacher or trainer is faced with sharing with a broader audience, they almost always become even stronger experts of the content that they are teaching.
Form a committee to explore campus technology goals and give teachers ownership of ensuring that goals are met. This option is like killing two birds with one stone. Teachers get to not only lead a charge but have a voice in its development. For campuses that are in charge of their own technology purchases in lieu of a district office, this is huge.
Get teachers connected. As cliche as it may sound, being connected can be a game-changer for anyone with a vested interest in education, especially teachers. Through social media, teachers will not only have access to the global dynamics of classrooms but also to learning events that are often not communicated about in school. While twitter is not the only platform for connectedness, it is one of the most widely used.
Rethinking My Educational Perceptions
For the first time, I sat in a department meeting of a school that was not my home. In my current edu assignment, I’ll do many more of these visits across multiple campuses. I envisioned myself in the role of the teacher attendee…doodling, sort of ignoring directives, rolling my eyes and thinking about the kids in my room who needed my attention much more than the whine-fest that was our meeting. I then remembered my life, one year ago, as the person leading those meetings and watching the battered faces of the educators that I saw.
I had a few realizations…
Meetings should be more conversational. We wonder why teachers feel beat down. Here’s a clue…in most cases, they are absent of a voice. Someone is always talking at and not including their input or ideas. The department chair should not “run” the meeting but should facilitate the conversations. Admins shouldn’t be there overseeing or overtaking those meetings. Empowered teacher leaders should be trusted to facilitate this process with the goal of student learning being the focus. Teachers should not meet just to say that they met but to share in ideas to accomplish goals.
You can’t expect teachers to “be innovative” and “think outside of the box” when it’s not happening at the top. This one is so deep that a new post will follow specific to this thought.
Technology, to some, is still a “thing”…It’s now the new “district thing”…not a reflection of normalcy. Moving reluctant teachers is one thing. Changing the thoughts of an entire school is another. Regardless, it’s still a process that must be approached purposefully.