From the Principal's Office: 10 Things School Leaders Do to Kill a Teacher's Enthusiasm for Technology

Here's a list of ten things a school leader does to kill any teacher’s enthusiasm for using technology in their classrooms. An alternative title for this list might be, “10 Things a 21st Century School Leader Will Not Do to Discourage Teachers from Engaging in the Use of Technology.”

1. Mandate the use of technologies or specific programs. One of the fastest ways to kill an educator's enthusiasm for infusing technology is mandate a specific technology or specific program. We all have specific needs, tastes and desires, and a program that satisfies mine will not necessarily satisfy the next educators. For example, I like Evernote. I preach the use of Evernote. But, some educators despise it. It does not match their needs.It does not do the things they want to do with technology. Mandating the use of Evernote is counterproductive. The same goes for iPads, digital cameras, interactive boards, and any number of tech devices and software. Some teachers can use these technological devices because they fit their teaching style, their subject matter, and their students' needs. Others would rather get students using devices themselves. Mandating specific devices, technologies, and software will kill an educator's enthusiasm quickly.

2. Use inadequate, faulty or overzealous web filtering systems that block sites teachers want to use. This one is a teacher enthusiasm-killer of major proportions. While school districts are obligated under CIPA and common sense to provide some level of protection for young students, a filtering system is inadequate or faulty when it dictates what teachers can and can't do with the technology. For example, I am an advocate for blogging, and as a former English teacher, the potential of blogging for providing authentic writing experiences for our students is enormous. But then comes the web filters, that dictate that blogs are off limits because the manufacturer of that filter sees blogs as a greater threat to kids' safety than its potential to get students to engage in authentic writing. A web filtering system that dictates what teaching resources teachers can use is a quick way to stifle a teacher's enthusiasm and to force them back to using textbooks and other 20th century materials.

3. Provide inadequate or sloppy tech support systems. While teachers should always have plan B, even without technologically enhanced lessons, they should not have to have a plan b, a plan c, and even a plan d. If a school district has such shoddy tech support systems that using technology is like running an obstacle course, then expect your teachers to lose enthusiasm for using technology. Having technicians available is only one aspect of support. Too often administrators like to brag about the number of iPads or laptops they've added, but they failed to hire the support needed to keep those things operating. When adding technologies it is vital that school leaders factor in additional support systems and their costs as well.

4. Provide inadequate funding. There is a great deal of frustration when a classroom teacher wants to implement a project using a technology resource, only to be told there's no funding for that. It's not frustrating because of the lack of funding itself, it's frustrating because there's evidence all around of funded projects that were a waste, and that same money could have been used to pay for technology a teacher wanted. Sometimes I have to wonder whether some administrators get a trip to the Bahamas out of the purchases they made because they obviously could not have made the technology purchases with a teacher in mind.

5. Fail to provide adequate hardware and/or software. I've seen so many examples of this over the years. Teachers are encouraged to get students writing and engaging in online blogging, but they don't have access to computers. Another example is even more ludicrous; students being asked to create 21st century projects yet they aren't given anything but 20th century tools such a colored pencils and construction paper. It is the school leader's responsibility to ensure teachers have adequate hardware and software for implementing technology.

6. Purchase hardware or software after a sales pitch rather considering staff needs. Sometimes while attending a leadership conference or in a leadership meeting a school leader will see a demonstration of a new product like a smartboard or class response device. He becomes so impressed by the device that he forgets he's seeing a "sales presentation" and agrees to purchase 15 of them. Next thing anyone knows, these things are being installed in classrooms and no one has any idea about how they are going to be used. The devices become expensive dust collectors. Administrators should always bring in the end users when making these purchase considerations. School leaders would do well to remember that sales pitches don't always translate into effective classroom implementation when it comes to technology sales presentations too!

7. Fail to be enthusiastic about technology use themselves. This is self-explanatory in many ways. There are many a school leaders who communicate a total lack of enthusiasm or even disdain for technology by their reaction to it. They don't talk about it. They ignore it. They even change the subject when a teacher excitedly describes a technology-infused lesson that went well. Twenty-first century education is exciting. I find it very difficult to understand the school leader who is not excited about technology's potential, but there some school leaders out there who kill teacher enthusiasm by just their reactions.

8. Refuse to use technology yourself. This is related to number 7, but involves a total rejection by the school leader to use technology. You can't be a 21st century leader by refusing to be a tech consumer yourself. Your refusal to engage in its use demonstrates what you really feel about technology. School leaders shouldn't complain that their teachers fail to use technology innovatively when they keep sending out paper memos.

9. Fail to provide training and additional resources needed for tech implementation. Training with an expert user is always a plus, even when using someone on staff as that expert. Even more important is providing time for the teacher to explore, experiment, and "play" with the technology. As far as resources, school leaders need to make sure teachers have all they need to implement new technologies: everything from powerbars to tables. Nothing can be more frustrating than having your greatest tech plans foiled by a lack of power outlets.

10. Use test scores as the only measure of successful technology implementation. This is a real killer of anyone's enthusiasm for technology. Everything we do and do well cannot be connected to a "higher test score." Test scores provide valuable information but they are not the only measure of effectiveness. School leaders who always want to know, "Will it increase test scores" aren't really interested in successful technology infusion and tech implementation anyway. Their focus is pretty obvious.

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J. Robinson has decades of experience as a K12 Principal, Teacher, and Technology Advocate. Read more at The 21st Century Principal.