WHERE TO FROM HERE?
How to lead with digital technologies
Written by Guest Writer - JJ Purton Jones
“We are sleepwalking - government, schools and universities - into the biggest potential disaster of modern times” (Sir Anthony Seldon)
As someone who is responsible for leading schools forward with the use of technology, it is important to have a vision and a plan on how to achieve your goals. Over the years in the education sector, I have seen lots of innovations and pockets of amazing teaching practice, but without a path clearly laid out, overall progress on the digital transformation journey for schools can be complex and slow.
So why do we need technology in our education environments? We know the world in which we live is changing. Digital technologies play a critical role in developing our students to become innovative creators of digital solutions, effective users of digital systems and critical consumers of information conveyed by digital systems. The Australian Government has recognised this need to embrace technology and has responded in various ways, such as implementing the Digital Technologies curriculum. Furthermore the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration (2019) clearly states that “successful lifelong learners who are productive and informed users of technology as a vehicle for information gathering and sharing, and are able to adapt to emerging technologies into the future” (p. 7). But how can we as leaders help navigate this space? How can we start to improve our learning and teaching for all of our students preparing them for our ever changing world?
It all starts with a clearly articulated vision. To start creating a vision, you need to think about your values and beliefs - this is what should drive all leadership decisions. A vision is a destination where we focus our efforts.
Some example include:
Disney: To Make People Happy
Microsoft: Empower people through great software anytime, anyplace, and on any device.
Google: to provide access to the world’s information in one click.
For educators to be truly inspired, the vision needs to be big. It needs to be something that seems challenging, so that it will encourage your school community to draw on their best skills and knowledge to be able to achieve it. Think big picture, anything is possible, blue sky thinking!
An example of a vision in the Lismore Diocese is “Empowering learners to be ethical, discerning creators of digital content and competent, flexible users of technology.” This was co constructed with the relevant networks.
You may find the following questions useful when thinking about the direction of your school:
What is our culture of learning driven by? Curiosity, creation, assessment, building skills, whole child or something else?
What culture around technology do we want to develop?
How can we engage our students in realistic examples, immersive experiences and activities that make an impact on their communities?
How can students engage in critical thinking through independent learning and discovery, including problem solving, interpretation and analysis?
How can technology support students’ interests and provide equitable access to learning materials?
How can we encourage teachers to allow students to create products that show what they know or think and share them with others?
How can we encourage teachers to create content that offers inclusive design and a variety of formats?
How can we encourage teachers to foster learning opportunities for their students and themselves?
Once you have clearly defined your vision, you need to think about how you are going to achieve it. A useful way to think of this is to use the following structure: “We’re doing X(what), for Y(who), because Z(why)”. This will be the start of your strategy. Remember through the process it is important to get feedback from your teacher, student and parent communities. Strategies work best when everyone feels invested and has ownership over the progress and the end product.
So what next? Often it is useful to think of the strategy as covering three distinct areas of:
Learning (student learning)
Teaching (professional learning and instructional design)
Environment (learning spaces and infrastructure)
I believe all of these three things need to work together in order to achieve the goals. We cannot provide personalisation of work, critical thinking and real-world engagement opportunities without teachers who could integrate technologies and an environment that supported connectivity.
We are just at the start of our journey to improve how schools and teachers offer an innovative digital experience to all learners. What is important to acknowledge is that there is no 'end' point. As fast as technology is changing and creating opportunities, we want to be harnessing this in our classrooms, whether face to face or online. Your vision does not have to be 'fixed', it can be revisited and adapted as your journey and contexts change.
Connect with JJ Purton Jones on Twitter.