DAILY INSIGHT: The administrator superhighway, part 2

By Jon Castelhano, CIO Advisor

Good Teaching vs. Shiny Object

Digital-Age Learning Culture ISTE NETS for Administrators (NETS•A): Educational Administrators create, promote, and sustain a dynamic, digital-age learning culture that provides a rigorous, relevant, and engaging education for all students.

Building and promoting a digital-age learning culture can be difficult with the rapid change of technology. Every week a new shiny device is released and it can become distracting from the educational goals of a district, unless the focus is on good teaching and not the device. The device type will continue to change, but good teaching must remain constant and use whatever tool best meets the needs of their students. Take the time to collaborate and create a foundational plan that will guide good teaching practices that support the learning goals. The “College Readiness for All” is our foundational guide in the Apache Junction USD.

Role of IT

As we continue down the administrator superhighway we have to ask ourselves what role every department and staff member plays in supporting the foundational plan that is guiding good teaching. As a Technology Director, I feel that the Role of IT can have a tremendous impact on a district’s educational plan. IT staff spend many hours in classrooms and cannot make it across a campus without being asked a question by staff and students. The days of IT staff just replacing a video card or upgrading operating systems are becoming a thing of the past. I recently asked my Superintendent what his thoughts were on the role of Technology Directors in the K-12 environment and this was his response.

“The Director of Technology can absolutely play a significant role in helping influence change within the district if he or she assumes the role of instructional leader. Many of today’s school systems are technology-rich, especially compared to just ten years ago. But technology in and of itself won’t improve student achievement. Putting computers, Smart Boards, Doc Cameras, etc., in classrooms without first developing teacher capacity to utilize these tools to create authentic, learning opportunities will do little to change our current school systems.

Great technology, paired with excellent teaching, is what will provide students a better opportunity to learn. This is where the Director of Technology can have a huge influence on change. By being an instructional leader, Directors of Technology can help districts keep a balance on first, good teaching, and then second, how technology can be utilized to provide students with quality learning opportunities. Directors of Technology should be instrumental in shaping professional development opportunities for classroom teachers, focus the conversation about how/what technology should be utilized to support quality teaching, how dollars should be utilized when purchasing technology, how technology fits into a school/district strategic plan, etc. By fulfilling this role, the Director of Technology will absolutely influence change in school districts for the benefit of all.”

Put Me in Coach

Excellence in Professional Practice ISTE NETS for Administrators (NETS•A):
Educational Administrators promote an environment of professional learning and innovation that empowers educators to enhance student learning through the infusion of contemporary technologies and digital resources.

Administrators must model the practices that they want to see happen in the classroom, but who can help support the teachers on a daily basis. One Technology Integration Specialist was not going to be able to support 6 schools by herself in my school district, so we turned to the Microsoft Peer Coaching model developed by the Peer-Ed team. The focus with our collaboration coaches is first on good teaching, aligned to our College Readiness for All plan, with technology embedded in the instruction. If administrators are going to “allocate time, resources, and access to ensure ongoing professional growth in technology fluency and integration” they will need support from departments, staff, and peers to make this happen, peer coaching is an off-ramp worth taking.

The Real Leaders

I hope that you have enjoyed the ride down the road to visionary leadership on the administrative superhighway! The off-ramps I have discussed are few among many that make up the complex K-12 environment in our technology rich world. As long as we keep the real leaders at the center of all decisions, the students, the K-12 landscape will continue to evolve and still be the goal that all others strive to achieve.

Jon Castelhano is director of technology for Apache Junction Unified School District in Arizona. This blog is cross posted on his blog, This and That.