By Chris Lehmann
Trying to navigate the many choices administrators have to make can be challenging for even the most tech-saavy. What follows is three “soft skills” that can apply to the way they think about education technology reform.
1 Filtering. No, not the kind where you decide whether to let Facebook on the school network, although that is important too. Learning how to quickly decide what information is mission critical, what you need to be familiar with, and what can be filed away is one of the most important skills an administrator can have. Setting up email filters, reading sites like www.43folders.com, and creating smart ways to end your day with your desk in some semblance of order can make the difference between reactive management and proactive leadership.
2 Fearlessness. It can be very difficult to help students and teachers integrate new tools into their learning. But innovation is rarely easy, and the perfect tool hasn’t been invented yet. So don’t be afraid to take the plunge and start using Google Docs to keep faculty meeting notes or to let the science classes develop wikis to collaborate on their experiments. You don’t have to be the expert in the tool, but you do have to be willing to let the risk-takers in your building make bold leaps forward.
3 Foresight. That being said, leaps of faith aren’t always the best way to keep your job. The most important question you can ask of new technology initiatives is “What is the worst consequence of your best idea?” The answer shouldn’t keep you from moving forward, but it should allow you to plan for the problems that inevitably arise. There are some other important questions that should help you plan:
¦ What is the end goal and how does this use of technology move us closer to it?
¦ Is this an additive change or a transformative change? (In other words, does this allow us to do things we’ve always done slightly differently, or does this fundamentally change the way we have done something?)
¦ Is this sustainable? (Is this a currently free tool that may not stay free? Do we own what we create? Does this have a fee?)
In the end, a smart, thoughtful approach to technological innovation will help students become ready for the world they will inherit.
Chris Lehmann is the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. He will be the keynote speaker at Tech Forum Texas, November 5, 2010.