Saturday, December 17, 2011

Smoke from my keyboard: Cut the excuses and lead!

The #edchat discussion this past Tuesday evening (What are the positives and negatives of limited technology in school) managed to bring my blood to a boil as excuse after excuse scrolled down my Twitterfall screen. I managed to squeeze in a few comments that solicited a mild although limited debate, but by the time I managed to close my eyes that night, there was smoke coming from my keyboard. I took pause for a few days to vet my thoughts with my esteemed colleague, Pam Moran, and a couple of others from my own district, opting to remove some of the rough language that sounded more like my 22-year military career rather than an educational professional, but here it goes.
Enough already! Waiting for exactly the right conditions to provide or even allow widespread use of technology in your district, building, or classroom is lunacy. It's idiocy!
And here's my personal message for fellow superintendents and principals: If you continue to get in the way of technology integration in your schools, get out of the education leadership business. You may not even realize it, but you're getting in the way by not adapting, by not personally modeling the use of mobile technology, and by not leading the technology transformation. In this 21st century learning environment, you've reduced yourself to office decoration; you're not out front leading. As such, you've shown that you're averse to taking risks, you're a politician who lives by polls, and your kids are the ones losing out. Go ahead and field that championship football team so you can suck up to your school board, your parents, your community. But don't screw up the future of your entire student body just because you're afraid kids just might become distracted in the classroom or accidentally venture upon a web site that's (shudder) bad.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

If the problem stems from not knowing what to do, shame on you. There's plenty of guidance out there to help you help yourself and become not only technology literate (so you can babble on during one of your all-day staff or school improvement meetings), but to become an avid consumer AND contributor to the vast personal learning networks available on the net. Not interested? Then get out before you do any more damage to your kids. But before you make up your mind, read this recent post: 5 Indications Your Leadership Is Obsolete for 21st Century Schools.
If you've made up your mind to change or you've already started down that road, I suggest you read, study and apply CoSN's Empowering the 21st Century Leader.
And when you're finished perusing that document, purchase a copy of Communicating & Connecting with Social Media by William FerriterJason Ramsden and Eric Sheninger. Read it and share what you've learned with your staff. Begin to use the tools, not just in the quiet, safe comfort of your office but in the hallways, classrooms, board room and even the athletic complex. You haven't lived until you've accidentally walked into a wall or closed door while Twitter or reading a blog (don't do this while driving, though!). The staff (and even the kids) will chuckle but they'll also note that you've shed your dinosaur skin and it may excite them to do the same.
Teachers waiting for that mythical tsunami of all the right toys, conditions, and the perfect PD need to set down your chalk and slate and mosey on out the door - for the benefit of your kids. If you can't model lifelong learning for your students by taking risks, thinking outside the box, adapting to change, and bringing technology - any technology - into your classroom, your kids don't need you. And believe me, they will eventually leave.

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”  Steve Jobs

Are you listening? It's about your kids' future, not yours! In fact, it's not even about your present! Teaching has never been about you nor should it be. It's about kids - rich or poor - being raised in a world where technology is woven into their lives 24/7 (except during school in too many places) and has become a key tool in how they learn, how they communicate, how they socialize, how they create and publish, and simply who they are. Stripping this generation from the opportunity to use digital technology in schools is akin to forcing them to check their vocal cords at the door but expecting them to sing. Stop waiting for your leaders to serve technology and PD on a silver platter. Get something in your classroom, whether its your own personal device or the kids' devices. If policy prevents that from happening, storm the board! Insist that your leaders and school board join the 21st century. Don't stop until they do or they leave.
EVERY teacher and administrator should be completely knowledgable about the ISTE standards for technology in education and they should even be part of your evaluation:

Communities waiting until only the best roads are put in place before anyone's allowed to drive a car are just plain backwards and need to get out of the way of progress. As I continue to repeat, it's your children's future not yours. It doesn't matter if you have full accessibility to high-speed internet or not. Waiting for that to happen before you make a move at using or even allowing technology in your schools is akin to malpractice. Forcing your schools to simply be museums of what life was like in the 1980's (or in many cases, the 1950's) will not help them become centers of learning excellence and your students will struggle later on competing in a flat world economy.
We keep making excuses, whether valid or not: unfettered access to technology is too distracting, too dangerous, will have negative effects on reading and writing habits, will increase plagiarism, will harm their social skills. Or, they don't all have access to high speed Internet, no computers at home, not enough PD for our teachers, lack of devices for every student, la, la, la.... Just a bunch of excuses intended to keep those who are making them from putting themselves out there and keeping up with change. The world evolves and the power of technologically-driven evolution is beyond anyone's capability of stopping it. We couldn't stop pencil and paper, we couldn't stop mind-numbing television, and we won't stop the infusion of digital technology in our lives, but what we can stop is the incessant whining and excuse-making about why we can't, shouldn't, or won't move forward.
Now that I've got your attention, let's get moving. Here's a few additional resources besides those mention above to help you in your journey:

21 Things for the 21st Century Administrator:

21 Things for the 21st Century Educator:

Educator's PLN: The Personal Learning Network for Educators: