I recently moved into a new position with my district. As the director of instructional technology, I am responsible for the vision and direction of the technology program for a district made up of 80 schools and 57,000 students. It is an incredible opportunity that I am thankful for every day.
As I have been transitioning into this technology leadership role, I have been thinking a lot about how to lead and drive real change in an environment where the pressures are clear. Technology is often seen as another “thing.” “I don’t have time to worry about technology. I have to get my kids ready for the test,” is something we hear all the time. So as the technology leader I have to help everyone (teachers, administrators, parents, students, community) understand that the access to and infusion of technology into learning is necessary for the so-called 21st-century education.
Each day I ask myself these five questions that help me focus my vision and goals for what I am trying to do.
- Where are we as an organization going? The overall vision and direction of my district is out of my hands. That is decided by our superintendent and board of education. But what I can do is match our instructional technology program’s vision and direction with the district’s overall vision. So where are we going? How are we getting there? What do we need to get there? How can I ensure we get there? And if we aren’t on the right path, what can I do to make sure we correct ourselves?
- What are we doing to carry out our mission? My district’s technology mission is: “Prepare our community to meet the challenges of the 21st-Century Learner, act as a conduit of continual change, serve our students to help them succeed and to support the technological needs through planning and integration.” How am I and my team preparing our community, acting as a conduit of continual change, serving our students, and planning and integrating? What can I do to be better, and what can I do to help my team carry out our mission?
- What are we doing to make learning better for kids? Ultimately, our goal is to educate kids — to help kids discover their passions and provide for them the necessary tools and resources to live and work in a world that is rapidly developing and changing. We have to ensure as a team that we are doing what is necessary to create environments for student learning (with the infusion of technology) and support teachers, administrators and schools as they create those environments. And how can I as the technology leader help my team? What tools and resources can I provide for them to meet their needs?
- What connections can we make today? One of the best lessons I learned as a classroom teacher was that the connections I made with my kids and my parents made my classroom better. When kids learn that you care about them and genuinely care about their learning, they will do anything for you. Parents are the same. Many parents bring negative attitudes to the school because of their own bad experiences. The more connections we can make, the easier our jobs become. The same is true with instructional technology. When all we do is offer a menu of professional development choices we aren’t meeting teachers where they are or providing for them the learning opportunities they need. Nor can we make connections with them. Rather, what we should do as a team is meet with teachers individually or in their PLCs to be a part of the planning process and provide them the answers they need. Oh, and we make awesome connections too. We are breaking down walls and helping schools and teachers understand technology integration. But we can’t stop there. What other connections can we make? How can we strengthen our existing connections to do more?
- What am I going to do to be better for kids? This is the most important question. We start our day and end our day with that. No matter what we are doing that day, are we doing something that will be better for kids? If we can’t answer “yes,” then we need to reconsider what we are doing and get back to being better for kids.
Every day is a chance to do something great. While it may not seem like it, there are possibilities around every corner. How are we going to be awesome today?
Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom) is the director of instructional technology for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. He also is an independent educational consultant. Check out his blog, Web 2.0 Connected Classroom.