Hear more from these and other innovative analysts, thought leaders, and educators at the 2018 Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), January 23-26 in Orlando, Florida. Learn more here.
In this week’s special series, presenters from the upcoming Future of Education Technology Conference will share their best insights, advice, and strategies in response to key EdTech questions. What should educators think about when planning for education technology implementation that will meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students? What new leadership skills or strategies are needed to take EdTech – and other aspects of education – to the next level? Read on below for insights:
What are the most important things leaders need to understand about professional development?
First, professional learning takes time, and one of the responsibilities of leadership is to provide the space and time for learning to happen. In Salisbury, Lynn and I have created a culture of learning where everyone is expected to be a learner, regardless of formal titles. If you are curious about learning something, and it connects to our Profile of a Graduate and Learning Beliefs, we will find a way to make that happen because we need our professionals to be models for our younger learners. The space for learning comes in many different forms: early release days, professional learning days, release time, cohort learning models, Summer Academy, conferences, Edcamps, book studies and passion projects.
Second, the most powerful professional learning reflects what we believe about learning. Just as we do not value one-size-fits-all learning in the classroom, we do not value it for our professional staff. Learning has to meet a just-in-time need for our teachers and leaders. It has to be relevant to context, in the moment. It must be social and both push-out into the community and push-in community resources.
The following response is excerpted from Jennifer Abrams’s Learning Forward blog, “Does your professional learning experience have a ‘strong door’?”
When you commit to these ideas and make them a part of the day-to-day, job-embedded professional learning your faculty receives, as well as a part of your standard PD days, you increase your chances of getting buy-in and follow-through from a motivated faculty:
- Be ready at the start of a professional learning opportunity to greet participants – When restaurants open for business hours, the tables are already set, the water pitchers are full, and the hostess is waiting to greet you at the door. I think professional learning should be the same way: Get to the room an hour before the session to make sure it’s set up right and that the materials are ready. This way, when attendees arrive, you are able to greet them rather than leave them to feel awkward while you run around. I have seen facilitators show up one minute before the session, which leaves the impression that this experience might not matter too much.
- Know your audience and remove jargon from your communication if you can – At trainings, I often hear acronyms get thrown around, and I am not sure if everyone in the room understands what is being discussed. We can’t expect those outside education to know the letters that stand for a piece of major legislation, or understand the acronyms for committees we have created. This is important to remember because it also applies to new staff. Explaining acronyms and jargon helps everyone get on board and participate in learning.
- Stay until the end, physically and mentally – Time is valuable, and many of us have commutes and other places to be. However, I see many facilitators packing up materials while the event is still in progress, leaving me to wonder if they’ve also packed up their engagement in the learning. We would never want a restaurant’s staff to take our plates and turn off the lights in the middle of our meal. Likewise, remaining physically and mentally present at events from beginning to end matters. Some of the more important connections happen after the session when a question can be asked one-on-one, or a comment can be made with fewer people in the room.
~ Jennifer Abrams, international education and communications consultant. See Jennifer’s FETC schedule here.
I have a philosopher’s mind about any terms that have implicitly supported the idea of work-life divisions — the phrase “work-life balance” comes up a lot, yet so many of us are now finding that our passions are represented in the “work” we do, which becomes part of our lives in an authentic, personal way. So, we lead and teach with our whole self — undivided. “An undivided life,” as Parker Palmer talks about. When leaders approach professional development, this applies to personal development, too. What’s professional is personal, and what’s personal is also professional, if I’m leading with my whole self. I like the quote, “If you want to become a leader, you first have to become human.” I’ve seen it many times, and I would have to research more to discover who said it first — I think that’s elemental.
Professional development is human development. That would be the first thing. And, the second thing leaders should take into consideration is that this learning and development is best in connected context, it’s ongoing, and it’s fueled by traits of curiosity, openness and cooperation. Howard Rheingold talks about communities of cooperation (see graphic) — professional development happens in context and in community. It should not exist in isolation. We’re all connected, and that’s the power of the modern learning network, much like a human brain, making rapid-fire connections and forming new layers of meaning and context. What an exciting time it is to be human!
How can schools make sure they have the right student data?
This seems like a loaded question! Certainly, educators throughout history have intended to have the “right” data about a student. Scores, ranks, and grades have all been used to distill a student’s achievement into a single, easily digestible measurement. That’s been driven by parents, post-secondary institutions, and employers who really just want to know “how does my/this student stack up against other students?” For a long time, this worked, but we’re seeing now that a number or grade is insufficient, inaccurate, and needlessly limiting. Now schools need to capture a bigger picture, capturing not just the products of learning, but documenting the process and making it transparent through technology like portfolios, images, and video.
Since we use the term “data” to mean all kinds of information that doesn’t translate into a simple mathematical equation, I think schools today need to consider that the “right” data should mean “all data” relevant to a particular student. If there isn’t one right learning journey that fits every student, there isn’t one right data set for every student.
Schools have used academic data for years to evaluate a student’s competence, as well as their own. Today, there is also data available on a student’s social and emotional wellness, and in many cases, these factors are a truer indication of a student’s likelihood to succeed. Using technology to teach character development and SEL can provide schools valuable data to better assess a student’s path toward success.
What are the most important factors for determining how and when to incorporate education technology for early childhood learners?
For the vast majority of children entering the formal education system for the first time, this will not be their first time using some kind of technology. Generation Alphas are students born starting in 2011; this was the year that the iPad was released, the year Instagram launched- it was known as the ‘year of the app’. So while one hopes these children have not been ‘raised’ by technology, it certainly has been a constant presence in their lives.
So for educators, the question becomes how do we transform this technology into ‘educational technology’? We continue to use sound pedagogy and not give in to the temptation of allowing whatever hardware or software they use in school to become a ‘babysitter’ or ‘digital worksheet.’ And most importantly, we directly teach them about not only the knowledge and power they now have quite literally in the palms of their small hands, but the great responsibility that comes with it.
With so much conversation around our youngest learners and screen time, this is such an important question. A phrase I use when talking about technology integration is “tasks before apps” – it’s also the title of my new book. Educators working with students of any age need to make sure the learning is first during their decisions around technology integration. The two most important factors for determining how and when to incorporate education technology for early childhood learners is WHY and WHEN. The why connects to the reason behind choosing a tool and the way in which it supports a specific learning goal for that child. The when isn’t about the time of day as much as the time when families can sit together with their child or teachers can facilitate conversations about what is happening on a young student’s’ screen.