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EdTech Update





Putting the horse back before the cart

Today is Leadership Day, Scott McLeod's call for bloggers to post thoughts related to administrators and technology.

I was once lucky enough to work with a superintendent, Eric Bartleson, who also was concerned about technology skills and understandings for school administrators. Ten years ago, he and I co-authored the CODE 77 Rubrics for School Administrators (revised in 2002).

For being seven years old (70 years old in Internet years), they've held up pretty well. Take a look.

Here is the introduction to the rubrics. The "why" such tools are needed. I believe it fits the spirit of Scott's request...

Rubrics for Leadership
from The Indispensable Teacher’s Guide to Computer Skills, 2nd ed. Linworth 2002. 

It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.
Eleanor Roosevelt

At times it seems we’ve put the cart before the horse when it comes to developing technology skills in schools.

It’s pretty amazing how computer technology has come into the schools over the past 20 years or so. As thoughtful educators, we first gave computers to students. Labs of Apple IIs peppered many a school before computers showed up in offices or classrooms. Kids started learning how to program in BASIC, write with Bank Street Writer, and travel the Oregon Trail.

After a few years, we figured out that if students were going to take maximum advantage of these powerful devices, they needed teachers who could show them how to use computers as productivity tools. Teachers began teaching kids desktop publishing, spreadsheet design, multimedia production, and on-line research skills. Suddenly, we saw computers in classrooms, libraries and on teachers’ desks with formal staff development programs to help teachers master these more sophisticated computer skills.

Until very recently, one group of educators still has had little attention given to its computer skill acquisition and use – administrators. These school leaders – superintendents, principals, and directors - have some serious overall educational responsibilities including:

  • Helping create a shared vision and philosophy for the school
  • Communicating regularly and effectively to staff, parents and community
  • Directing long and short term planning efforts
  • Creating and controlling budgets
  • Selecting personnel
  • Evaluating programs and staff

Each of these areas of responsibility requires either the use or knowledge of technologies. A long-term technology goal for any school district should be to use technology to improve administrative effectiveness through efficient communication, planning, and record keeping.

We’ve put the cart before the horse when it comes to developing technology skills in schools. By helping school leaders become computer literate, we are again putting the horse back before the cart.

In 2001, the Collaborative for Technology Standards for School Administrators (TSSA) has issued an articulated consensus “on what PK-12 administrators should be able to know and do optimize the benefits of technology use in school. <> Six standard statements with corresponding performance indicators form the core of the TSSA document. This badly needed set of standards is a good start to helping insure all school leaders are technologically proficient. But standards are not enough by themselves. [A revision of these standards has just been released.]

What is the role of the library and technology department in helping leaders acquire technology skills?

We can do a variety of things:
  • Set examples of good communication, planning and record keeping using technology.
  • Involve our administrators in all technology staff development activities.
  • Provide technical support and individualized training.
  • Provide clear teacher and student information literacy and technology competency lists.
  • Serve on building leadership teams.
  • Serve on district staff development planning teams.
  • And finally, help administrators understand what they need to know.
Like any large organization, schools can use technology to improve daily operations. Administrative software packages keep student records, figure payroll, generate state reports, and schedule classes. Telephones, voice mail, e-mail, intranets and websites use the power of networking to collect, distribute and update information. Web pages, desktop published documents, and video productions inform our communities about school activities. Administrators can use brainstorming and organizational technology tools to more effectively plan and lead.

The rubrics, modeled after teacher computer use rubrics and correlated to the new TSSA standards, can serve two purposes. By asking administrators to complete an anonymous self-assessment using the rubrics before a learning opportunity and again after that opportunity, the district can judge the effectiveness of its staff development efforts. These opportunities might include classes, professional growth plans, or workshops. Simple graphs showing the percentage of training participants at each level pre- and post-training can be constructed. These results can then be shared with the staff development committees and other decision-makers. The rubrics can be used as a tool in the selection process when hiring new administrators. Candidates for administrative positions can be asked to complete a self-assessment of their technology skill using the rubrics and the results can be used as one factor in determining who is selected.

But more importantly, the rubrics also serve to provide a “road map” for practicing superintendents, principals, and directors wanting to improve their own technology skills. By examining the specific skills described, administrators know which areas they need to continue to seek additional training or practice.

The expectations and stresses on educational leaders are greater than they have ever been and seem to be increasing each year. Accountability for student achievement, attracting and keeping top-flight teachers, and dwindling budgets challenge all of us. But instead of looking at a technology as just another problem to be added to the list of those we already face, we must harness its power and use it as a powerful ally. By purposely and continuously improving our administrative technology skills, guided by the TSSA standards and rubrics such as the one suggested in this article, we can lead with technology, not be lead by it.


Those thrilling posts of yesteryear

"Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear." The Lone Ranger television program

I've been tagged by Joyce Valenza for a meme. She writes...

Meme rules:

1. Scan your posts for your own personal favorites.
2. Choose one post in any/each of the four categories:

  • Rants
  • Resources
  • Reflections
  • Revelations

I leave it to you folks to define these terms, but my instinct is that we could treat these loosely. You are welcome to suggest new categories if these don't fit.

3. In a blog post, list those posts and very briefly describe

  • why it was important,
  • why it had lasting value or impact,
  • how you would update it for today.

4. Select five (or so) other bloggers to tap with this meme.

5. Tag all of your post with #postsofthepast

I will do my best to honor the spirit of the endeavor. Quite a number of my entries have been expanded and polished and turned into columns, articles and presentations, but most I have forgotten. Unlike Joyce, I tend to enjoy re-reading my writing - I am so easily amused. A future project for me is turning the best posts from the Blue Skunk into a Lulu published book. It already has a title - Common Scents.

Back to the meme:

Rant: The Subversive View of Copyright, April 1, 2008. This was my first stab at forming a different view of how we approach copyright instruction in our profession - and it is still the basis for the writing and speaking I do on the topic.

Resource: Emotional reactions to the Kindle, November 23, 2007. One of a number of posts about e-books, especially my Kindle. I suspect we can't even imagine the impact these devices will have on education, libraries and culture once they are truly mainstream. It's not the tech here that's fascinating, but people's reaction to the change it may precipitate.

Reflection: The Illusion of Change, March 14, 2007. IMHO this is still the funniest, most cynical and most honest post I've written. And nobody likes it but me - at least judging by the number of print publishers who've rejected some version of it. I don't think blog-readin' educators like to admit that "change" is not a charge placed on schools by society.

Revelation: Libraries and Committment, May 19, 2009. Perhaps the realizations you have as you get older are the most difficult to accept. Writing this recent post made me realize that there are schools that just don't need libraries because of their intractable and outmoded goals and philosophies. As a life-long proponent of effective school libraries, this is tough to admit. But it does feel good to stop beating one's head against a wall.

Ok, consider yourself tagged:

  1. Chris Harris
  2. Paul Cornies
  3. Shannon Wham
  4. M A Bell
  5. Jim Randolph

"Hi-yo, Silver away!"



Woot, W00t - evolving language

But al the thyng I moot as now forbere,
I have, God woot, a large feeld to ere,
And wayke been the oxen in my plough,
The remenant of the tale is long ynough.
I wol nat letten eek noon of this route,
Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,
And lat se now who shal the soper wynne;

The Knyghtes Tale, Chaucer, 14th Century England

And... me sorry but dis book iz horrible i dont lyk it n tew me itz jus borin sorry not trying tew be disrespectful tew da author but i mean really. But thanx 4 writin it s0e i can read it tew n0e nt tew read it again but da 1st tym i read it it wuz ok but az i keep readin it more den 2 tyms den it gtz more borin s0rry.

Quintonya, response to blog post, 21st Century cyberspace

Language evolves. I just wish that human thought evolved along with it.