Talking with Administrators

I’ve been working on trying to figure out what I might want to talk about to administrators during my 45 minutes presentation at the Tlt conference that is coming up in two weeks. My intro to the presentation was using technology to help manage your school. I began writing about that and, low and behold, I found that it was nearly as boring as watching primer dry. What was I thinking?

To top if off, I’ve started down a road at school that is so uncharted I feel like the early explorers. You see, I’m about to bring all my grade 9, 10 & 11’s together to discuss what we want the school to be like and how we, together, are going to work at creating this vision of school. Our first meeting will be to address some of the simple rules that have been a thorn in everyone’s side since I arrived: students arriving late to class, students skipping class, students wandering from class and the whole cell phone thing.

As an administrator, I’m just about fed up with trying to create an attendance policy because it doesn’t get followed by the teachers. I’ve tried to get teachers to be responsible for students showing up late for their class but that hasn’t happened. They all want to have the same policy so that no one looks “bad” but they don’t mind if I’m the one who has to deal with the problems. So, in a fit of delirium, I’ve decided to go straight to the students to work out how we will deal with these problems. I have no clue how this is going to turn out but I’m pretty much tired of the whole mess. Time to come up with a solution that will work.

This brings me back to my presentation. I want to impress upon administrators that they have to actually get into the fray and begin learning about the technologies that are all around them. They have to be the educational leaders and be learning about what is going on and how these tools are being used. As administrators, they have to see that the students walking through the doors are not the same as they were because the world we are living in is not the same. That to deal with issues and problems in the same manner we have been doing does not deal with the problems, it just sweeps them out of sight.

I really want to tell them that to let IT departments dictate the filtering and software use is contrary to what learning is all about. That teachers need to be addressing the issues of inappropriate information in all that they are teaching so that students can begin to sift through the ever growing mountain of information that bombards them.

I want to tell them that parents need to be brought into the discussions about acceptable use of information and technology. That they need to be aware of the statistics about youth and the “evil” internet. I want to tell them that schools are the one place where topics like improper social network usage, giving out too much information and other such things can be discussed without the fear factor that other media is giving the internet. I want to impress upon them that the cellphone that our students are carrying is a powerful learning tool that can surf the web, record events and information and transfer their ideas and creations. I want to tell them to get over their prejudices about the various technologies and to think of them as learning tools instead of problems that need to be controlled.

I want to show them the power that every person on their staff has to develop a learning network that is tailored to their interests. Explain that, through the use of some very simple tools, they can introduce their teachers to others who will move their thinking and learning in ways they didn’t think possible.

When I began to work on this presentation in earnest, last night, I realized that I my presentation is really a reflection of the frustrations that I have been having trying to deal with some of the issues at school. I’ve been banging my head trying to figure out how to have teachers buy into something that, really, I need students to buy into and understand. Instead of creating reactionary consequences to what is happening, I want to bring students into the solution so they make it their problem not ours. I want to join in a conversation with them to find out where they are so that we can come create a solution. Like I said, I’m not sure what will happen tomorrow or how this will all turn out but, as an administrator, there needs to be some solutions found so we can move on to tackle some more serious issues.

Instead of giving the administrators who show up to my session some neat little package that they can go away with, I want to challenge them to look at their schools in a totally different way. I want them to begin to glimpse that the technologies are tools that are available but unless people working in schools begin to see teaching a learning in a new way and view students from a new perspective, it won’t matter what tools we throw into the mix the final results will continue to be the same.

I want these people who attend my session to begin to glimpse that preparing students for life in this ever-changing social climate means that their learning needs to be diverse, multi-faceted and more about learning how to learn than what to learn because the knowledge will continue to change in ways that we cannot predict. Students are much more aware of the hypocritical nature of people and many see teachers who talk about life-long learning but that is where it ends.

Maybe it’s the frustration of the past week or so that has me thinking like this or because I’m just desperate. It could be a little of both. I’m dealing with students who are finding no use in what they are doing and want more and, for the most part, aren’t really happy with the answer “Well, it’s the curriculum.” As I listen to my own daughters and their friends comments about school, I see we’re losing a whole group of students because we are not challenging them – demanding them to demonstrate their knowledge in ways besides writing and tests. I long to hear my older girls come home excited about what they are doing at school instead of the stories I get to hear about some misadventure that has gone on involving their peers. The first happens so rarely while the latter happens much too often. I want to tell the administrators that these types of comments have been ignored for too long – myself guilty as charged. To bring about the change, we need to be the educational leaders that promote and lobby for change to meet the needs of the students in our buildings. Granted, there are many more needs that we need to address, but learning is the fundamental reason for our existence and it’s time to reshape what that looks like.

Most likely, I’ll show them a nice powerpoint and a screencast about using some social tools. I mean, I only have 45 minutes.

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5 responses

  1. While not an admin, I have been feeling many of the same frustrations about our Department of Information Services which filters out learning, peers (and admins) who just see technology as “stuff,” while missing the whole personal and social networking aspect, as well as the fact that kids are continually left out of these conversations.

    Even if you “only have 45 minutes,” wake people up. We have to start somewhere.

  2. “I long to hear my older girls come home excited about what they are doing at school …”

    I feel lucky because right now my daughter (Grade 2) does come home excited about what she is doing in school. I worry (that’s a parent’s job, isnt it?) that there will come a time when she loses that sense of joy in learning. Looking at the students in my school (9-12), I see that most of them have lost that sense of wonder and curiousity about what is happening in class or, perhaps even more alarming, they are feigning disinterest because being interested in school and in learning is “not cool.” I can write some of that off as a change in priorities once the raging hormones of puberty kick in, but that’s only a minor part. Somewhere between Grade 2 and Grade 9 we lose them. When does that happen, and how can I keep my daughter (and son, once he enters school) from losing too much of her feelings of awe and wonder?

  3. Kelly, I think you need to place your last point first. You only have 45 minutes and in that time you’ll no doubt want some interaction with your audience. That leaves you even less time to touch upon more than one or two key issues. I think you need to have the group leave you on a high note – with a glimpse of what can be done, something they can see themselves doing.

    If I were you, I’d profile one or two success you’ve had with changing learning culture and opening up communication, e.g. your work with wikis and Ning; then I’d move on to your current issue.

    Where are you going with your students after you pull them together to discuss behaviours and expectations? How will you keep the dialogue going and facilitate the organization needed to come up with action plans? “Knowing” you, I suspect you’ll use Web 2.0 tools. Discuss this situation with the group. Tell them how you’re planning to proceed. Ask the group what their issues are and lead them to a place where they can see that using technology could become part of the solution.

    I just looked at the conference page. I wish I was going to be in Saskatchewan – looks like a good conference! Good luck with your session and let us know what you decide to do!.

  4. As a new administrator, I have wondered what the best approach is to bringing people (teachers, parents, and students) on board with technology. I have taught for several years and have seen the transformation of no computer anywhere in the building to every teacher having a computer and labs full of computers for student access. The early days of just getting the teachers to use the computers for email and storage of files was a big step. Then the newness of the “evil” Internet scared several folks. Now, we are at a new barrier – helping people see technology as a tool for learning (more than power point presentations and research).

    I like your ideas about approaching the students to help come up with the remedy to your various issues in the school and would like to hear how your conversations with the students went as well as the follow through, esp. with what role technology will play in the process.

  5. Technology is here to stay. a transformative leader willencourage the use of technology and will being people together in a learning community.

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