One of my favorite questions to ask administrators is, “What kind of technology is your faculty using, and how are they using it?” In my role as a STEM coach, I often collaborate with administrators to show how effective technology usage can help teachers improve their instruction and personalize student learning. While I don’t expect them to know each detail of what every educator does, I do anticipate that they will at least know what’s in use and how it impacts student learning goals.
Unfortunately, I tend to find that the opposite is true. Many administrators not only are unaware of the types of technology and tools that their faculty use in their classrooms but also don’t fully understand how to use technology to truly innovate instruction.
Administrators often view themselves as the instructional leaders of their schools. And for good reason—so much of what happens in a school revolves around leadership guiding educators to provide quality and engaging instruction. However, since education has such potential to be elevated by using technology, I propose that it’s time for administrators to start viewing themselves as technology leaders too.
3 Key Reasons to Be a Technology Leader
1. Being a technology leader helps you craft your school’s mission and vision around technology. Many administrators want their schools to lead the way with technology, but there’s a disconnect if the administrators themselves don’t know how to use the technology.
It can be extremely frustrating for teachers when there’s an expectation for them to use technology in their classrooms and administrators don’t use it themselves during staff meetings, etc. Consider being a technology leader so that you can model and explain how to use different tools on your campus.
Routinely working with the same tools that your faculty and staff use gives you the opportunity to craft realistic expectations for how hardware (tablets and computers) and software (word processors and multimedia presentations) can be used. If you find that technology use doesn’t align with your school’s mission and vision, consider meeting with teachers to find out what support they need in order to use technology in a way that connects to your school’s goals.
2. Being a technology leader clues you in to what your faculty and staff are doing with technology in their classrooms. I once spoke to a principal who had no idea that an entire grade level purchased a personal license for a video-creation service despite the fact that one was already available in the school’s set of tools. Both the teachers and the principal were unaware of the existing service, and I was the one who informed both parties that the district had already paid for a tool that they could have been using.
That was a disappointing and avoidable situation given the multiple (and often expensive) technology licenses that some schools buy; it was especially upsetting due to the realization that a principal didn’t know about an important project that an entire grade level was working on.
Awareness of the lessons and activities happening on campus helps administrators figure out how teachers can effectively use the technology that’s already available to them.
3. Knowing the technology tools that your faculty/staff uses helps you assess their needs. The positive outcome of the previous scenario was that the principal realized there was a campus need for a service and was able to renew the license for the platform that the school already had. The principal also invested in training so that teachers knew how to use the tool. Now, that principal conducts an annual technology needs assessment and ensures that there is time for teachers to explore the tools that are available to them.
Ask 3 Questions to Become a Technology Leader
1. How can technology help to innovate at our school? Administrators play a big role in setting expectations for technology use on campus. However, technology is not just about the tools that your teachers use—it’s also about how technology can elevate academic instruction.
Think about the different types of tools that your teachers are using—or can use—to enhance learning goals and outcomes. For example, instead of waiting for students to raise their hands to share their thoughts, teachers could use a tool like Pear Deck for anonymous responses to increase student engagement during class discussions.
2. How do I want my teachers and students to be using technology? As you are your school’s instructional leader, this is perhaps the most important question to ask yourself. How does the use of educational technology align with curriculum, student learning goals, and assessment? How can educators use educational technology to improve learning goals?
This may require additional support, and that’s OK! Consider assembling a team of teachers, families, other administrators, and students to determine how technology is currently used and how they would like to use it in the future.
The team can start with class visits to identify the technology teacher leaders in the school—those who innovate their instruction with technology. Next, consider sending a survey to students and families to gauge their feelings about current technology use and to ask if they’d be interested in joining a team to identify how to best use it in the school.
Questions can include the following:
How do I/my students best learn using technology?
What three things do you like about how technology is used at our school?
What three things would you change about how technology is used at our school?
3. How can I model best practices as an administrator? If there’s an expectation for your faculty and staff to use technology, it’s also important for you to model best practices for it. Consider conducting an assessment to learn what types of tools your teachers are using so that you can begin to use them during professional development, staff meetings, and faculty discussions. This helps to build up the school community through intentional action and demonstrates a consistent unified approach to technology tools that ultimately provide educational benefits for students.