Reflections on Instructional Technology and Media

Transforming My Own Work to Transform the Work of Others November 30, 2007

For the past 2 years, I have created professional development opportunites during the summer for our teachers and any other faculty member who wished to join on web 2.0 tools and strategies to use them in the classroom. While the workshops have been well attended, I have only seen “pockets of excellence” as my superintendent calls it. In other words, the workshops have not transformed the way all teachers teach in the district. Rather, a small number of teachers have begun doing amazing things in their classrooms, but the number of teachers doing so is small.

So I have changed my strategy. While I will continue to offer summer professional growth opportunities in this area, I have begun attacking this problem with another approach – and it really is nothing radical. I have begun modeling the use of these tools for every meeting and interaction I have with teachers, administrators, and my technology specialists and media specialists. Below are some examples of the way I have modeled the use and the effects it is already having:

  1. Graduation Project – The Director of Secondary Education, Sherri Martin, asked me to work with her to facilitate a series of committee meetings to develop a 21st Century Graduation Project that will be required of all graduating seniors beginning with this year’s sophomore class – this is a state requirement. It seemed to me that if the students were going to be asked to incorporate 21st Century Skills into their project, the educators working with them better learn pretty quickly what those skills and tools look and feel like. So I did two things: rather than create a traditional web site with all of the committee info, Sherri and I created a wiki and shared the password with the committee. Additionally, the committee is divided into five work groups, each of which has a specific aspect of the graduation project to work on and a document to produce. So I set up a Google doc for each group and have them working in these docs collaboratively even outside of the committee meetings. I shared Common Craft’s video on Google Docs in Plain English with them so that they would understand why we were using this approach rather than the traditional Word Doc over email method. They were all very excited about this concept and one teacher asked, “you mean my students could use this to collaborate on their projects?” With a smile, I said “Yes they Can!” One of the administrators left this meeting to immediately set up a Google doc to work on with one of his groups, and more importantly, created a Google calendar to share with her co-workers – and another one with his wife to replace the paper calendar on their fridge so that they can keep track of what plans they have when scheduling new ones. He is totally psyched about this use!
  2. Workshop sign ups – I have grown weary of trying to explain how wikis can be used to various groups, so rather than explain, I have increasingly begun using them. I have started a series of Lunch n Learn sessions for central office administrators (and any other central office staff) on web 2.0 tools. Rather than send out in an email the lust of dates and ask them to respond if they plan to attend, I created a wiki and asked them to edit the wiki to add their name beside any date they planned to attend. Do you know I have not gotten a single complaint about using this method or about how to go in and add their name? Instead, I have had a few administrators who were so impressed with this concept they have asked me to help them set up wikis of their own to do a similar sign up with their own groups. And we have not even done the session on how to create wikis yet! I have seen more progress made in a week after modeling the use of wikis than I have in the past 2 years of trying to explain them to the same people.
  3. Organizing Work – with my technology specialists and media specialists (we have one of each in every school) I have been using so many wikis and Google docs, that I needed a place to organize them all so that they were easy to find rather than digging through emails. So I created a Google Group for each of these groups to organize the work we do. Now, rather than have them email various products to me, I have them post them in the group space. This has transformed my work significantly. I was getting bogged down in trying to track who had sent me the products I was asking for and compiling all of them – it was taking a tremendous amount of time. Now they are compiling their work for me and it is in one place for me to find – I love this.
  4. Sharing Best Practices – Each month I have the technology specialists submit a best practice use of technology in their schools. Again, they would email me the link and then I had to create a web page and post the info. very time consuming. Now I have created a wiki that they post the best practice to by the end of each month. I then send out the wiki link each month to the teachers so that they can see all the projects going on around the district.

I know this has been one of my longer postings, but in a short amount of time, I have seen major progress made by using the tools rather than by evangelizing about them. It reaffirms my belief that teachers and administrators will not use new tech tools in their work with others until they have had to use them in their work for others. We have to become users before we can be leaders.


2 Responses to “Transforming My Own Work to Transform the Work of Others”

  1. Dave Sherman Says:

    I did not know if I should comment here or at LeaderTalk, so I did it at both! I really appreciate your ideas in this post, and I am interested to know if any principals in your district or elsewhere are using one or all of the four suggestions you offer. As much as I enjoy reading and writing blog posts, I am frustrated by the lack of time I have to do so. The principalship just does not allow me the opportunities to do as much on the web as I would like. I have played with wikis and Google Docs, but I have not found a way to use them successfully, on a daily basis with the staff, students, or parents. As it is, I struggle to reach my goal of writing one post per week on each of my two blogs. Running a school takes up so much time! Do you see other principals using these cool tools successfully? Do you have any suggestions where I can start in the limited time I have?

  2. dkzody Says:

    Just had some visitors from NC in my classroom, and they were particularly interested in the portfolios we have been doing for 16 years. After reading your post, I see why. It sure fits with your graduation requirement.

    Your information here is very valuable, and I am glad you shared it.

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