Yes, You’re a Leader

“I have nothing good to share.”

“No one wants to hear from little ol’ me.”

“I don’t have anything to offer that hasn’t been shared a million times.”

“What I did isn’t a big deal.”

These are just a few of the statements I’ve heard from teachers over the last many years as I’ve worked with them to build their capacity around technology and innovation in teaching and learning. Whether it’s a teacher that has jumped in feet first into project based learning or a teacher that learns new ways for students to publish their work to the world, I hear statements like those above when I encourage them to share what they’ve done.

To those of you in a similar role like mine, one that delivers professional learning and support to educators; encouragement, and cheerleading is an essential component of our profession. There is no victory too small to celebrate. We now have such a variety of ways to share the great things we’re learning and trying with students that we can no longer afford to not do it. While Twitter and blogging is certainly an option, there are also more localized ways to start. It might just be sending an email to your immediate team or department, or to the staff at your school, or in 5 minutes at a faculty meeting. Share in ways that feel comfortable to you, then once your comfort increases take it up a notch from there.

These are big but necessary steps in your growth as a teacher. Here’s an example from a teacher in my district: Mrs. Romero, who jumped back into blogging after some time away from it to reflect on 1st semester of going gradeless and trying more innovative things in her classroom.

You have the ability and the power to be a leader in your school and in your district. Don’t doubt it! Once you make that step I promise it will not only be rewarding for your colleagues, but for you too.

Help Me Help You

If you’re an instructional technology coach, instructional technology specialist, educational technologist, or whatever edtech coaching title you may have, a crucial skill in the work of supporting teachers is being a good communicator. It’s essential. It must be a regular, well thought, purposeful component of the job.

a few megaphones over a blue sky
https://www.flickr.com/people/paulbrigham/

A quick email or Google Form can give you just the right information you need ahead of working with teachers, administrators, or support staff. The more you know ahead of time not only helps you be better prepared, but also helps you make the learning more relevant for your audience. It doesn’t matter if it’s one teacher or a big group; invest the time to reach out, learn their needs, and be prepared to meet those needs to the best of your ability. This includes providing necessary information to help your audience be best prepared to learn.

For those of you that are receiving the communication mentioned above, please take the time to help us better help you. We want you to feel like your time with us was worth it. It’s important you have successful learning experiences because that means giving our students better learning experiences.

I hope to expand on some communication tips and tricks in future posts!

 

Inundation Does Not Create Innovation

My job is to support teachers with technology integration. Sometimes it’s technology that they’ve learned from me, and sometimes it’s technology they have sought out on their own via a conference, Twitter, a colleague, or some other avenue. I really enjoy sharing new tech tools with teachers. It’s important for teachers to be equipped with a reasonable amount of options for how they can infuse more technology into teaching and learning. The end goal is to positively impact student achievement. That should be the #1 driver of anything we do with technology. I want to help build teachers’ capacity so that they leverage technology to bring innovative learning experiences to students.

I’ve discovered through my experiences being the provider of support and a facilitator of learning opportunities, that teachers don’t like to feel overwhelmed any more than students do. That is certainly the last thing I want a teacher to feel. A barrage of too many edtech tools will leave teachers feeling confused as to which one is best and without a clear plan of action going forward. It can feel like you’re trying to take a drink from a fire hose. In my role I follow a simple rule: If I’m sharing it with you, that means I’ve vetted it and it’s worth your time.

firehose
https://www.flickr.com/people/cne-cna-c6f/

If a teacher is initially overwhelmed with this firehose style delivery, it can cause real damage to that teacher’s willingness to try out new tech. ~Kerry Gallagher

Why do so many conferences and other professional learning events offer so much of the “firehose” style experience?  You can easily see it with a quick glance over any conference program. We see so many sessions like “842 edtech tools in 60 minutes” (I admit this is exaggerated) or “72 ways to use Google Forms in your classroom”. I sincerely appreciate the willingness to share, but is that what’s best for teachers that want to become comfortable with new ideas?

If you’re leading professional development you have to be cognizant of your audience’s needs and make sure to have adequate sandbox time sprinkled throughout.

If you were having students create a multimedia presentation we wouldn’t throw an unnecessary amount of tool options their way. We’d give them a few and if they find others and want to give one a go that’s great too. I’m all for options and not being locked into just one way to show mastery, but I think an overabundance of options doesn’t make for a good learning experience for teachers either.

Less is more, right?