From Dependency to Enablement

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I’ve often wondered why competent and confident teachers are sometimes thrown off kilter by new technology. After all, a great teacher is by definition an excellent learner. Teachers learn new things all the time. So why does technology add an element of fear and trepidation for some? With time as the most precious commodity for teachers, I expect fear of lost time plays into these anxieties and hesitations. Working in the area of technology, I’ve never considered myself a technologist, but rather an expert learner. I like to try all the menu options and work out the functionality, all the while looking at new application opportunities.

As we implement new technologies in schools, teachers cry out for more technical support. I’m of mixed mind about this and question the right balance of enabling support versus what I call rescuing support. Enabling support is proactive and includes self-help, coaching and growing a community of learners who perpetuate this cycle. Rescuing help fixes the immediate problem, but keeps teachers coming back for more. Rescuing help could never be staffed fully as new problems arise and the old ones perpetuate. Teachers want their technical problems to be fixed, but to a large extent in my experience, still feel helpless to solve the problems themselves and want someone else to “just FIX it”. When systems and technology is error prone, this attitude is understandable. However, when systems are singing and the technology “just works” most of the problems are of an educational nature. Parents too are challenged by the rapid growth of take-home technology in use in schools. So.. what strategies can help people to help themselves and their children? Here are some I’ve tried over the past year for technical support, learning teams, students and parents.

Tips for the Techies

  1. Think like a teacher. Make sure it works the first time and proactively provide clear instructions
  2. Show children how to solve their technical problems and have them show you back. Teach them to teach their classmates.
  3. Provide Self-Help strategies for common problems that can be accessed again and again via an iTunes U course, eBooks or FAQs in the Help Desk
  4. Post clear instructions on all AV equipment. Keep things consistent and simple so teachers can help each other.

For Teachers 

  1. invest in lead learners and share within teams and professional learning communities
  2. provide a weekly SnipITS sharing session at staff meetings
  3. run TeachMeets at school where sharing is the norm
  4. feed great tools and resources to lead learners to share within their teams
  5. provide staff induction resources in an iTunes U course that can be revisited and used with new staff through the year

For Students

  1. Provide self-help books on their devices for common problems (adding printers, what to do if you can’t print, about content filtering…)
  2. Have self-help posters in the junior years and keep referring back to them
  3. Create student experts (App Captains, Techies, …) to help each other (and the teachers)

For Parents

  1. Create an iTunes U course for Digital Citizenship (help parents understand risks and responsibilities in a digital age)
  2. Run parent workshops at your school or refer parents to workshops at the local Apple Store or equivalent
  3. Create tasks that involve parents with student technology (eg interview your parents, record feedback, or have them take pictures of students taking action on their learning)

Some may seem rather simple, but all are geared toward building confidence and enabling others with technology.  What strategies do you use to enable learning in your context?

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Education: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

After inspiration from Seth Godins’ “Stop Stealing Dreams” and Sir Ken Robinson’s “How to escape education’s Death Valley” I’ve created my own Education Manifesto reflecting on:

  • The Purpose of Education
  • The Role of the Teacher
  • Learning Environments
  • What educators need to STOP doing
  • What educators need to START doing
  • What educational leaders need to do about it!

Education: The Good the Bad and the Ugly by Christine Haynes

Education: The Good the Bad and the Ugly from Christine Haynes on Vimeo.

My reflections on what is right, and wrong with education and what educational leaders need to do about it.

Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin

“How to escape education’s Death Valley” by Sir Ken Robinson

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Inspiring Action

Leadership expert, and author of “Start with Why”,  Simon Sinek, conceptualises the strategy of communicating from the “Why” within a simple, but powerful illustration he calls “The Golden Circle”. The Golden Circle codifies the Why, How and What of communication.

  • What you do:  everyone knows thisGolden Circle
  • How you do it:  some know this
  • Why you do what you do:  “very few people or organisations know why they do what they do or why they even exist!”

Sinek claims inspired leaders and organisations all “think, act and communicate” from their purpose – or the inner circle “of why”.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Sinek aptly exemplifies his point through great leadership examples from Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright Brothers; all leaders who clearly understood and could articulate their purpose to inspire action.

Sinek sees innovators as those who are clear on what they believe and take action early on. He moves us beyond the marketing strategies of features and benefits to the conceptualisation of why they would want your product or service.

In my current profession as an educational technology leader, I draw on my initial career in business to gain strategies and insights into how to more effectively lead by influence rather than authority.  Although not speaking directly to educational leaders, Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” provides a conceptual view of communicating from the why to inspire and motivate with purpose. Although communicating from the “why” isn’t exactly a new idea, Sinek’s illustrations make it crystal clear why this method works.

What does this mean for education?

From a learners perspective, we need to keep learning purposeful and from a conceptual level so we tap into personal motivation and relevancy. Motivation, according to Daniel Pink’sDrive” tells us that intrinsic motivation is based on purpose. It is this purpose that is tied closely to our beliefs. Pink believes to maintain our “drive” we need three components of mastery, autonomy and purpose. Mastery comes from practice and refinements guided by reflection, autonomy from choice and empowerment and purpose that is tied to intrinsic motivation. To develop life-long, self-directed learners we need to enable learners who can manage, monitor and motivate their own learning.

From a school perspective,  leaders need to be clear on their purposes and apply strategies that can be conceptualised and carried out to steer the organisation.  This purpose needs to emanate through all parent communication, marketing strategies and policies. The purpose needs to be understood, believed and practiced. The same is true for educational bodies on a grander scale.

In my years in education, I have seen many programs, plans and strategies come and go. True purpose is unshakeable.  As individuals, we must tap into something deep inside us that aligns us to the organisations we choose to serve, particularly in education where the motivation for exceptional educators is much more than monetary.

As Sinek says:

 “Those who lead inspire us. We follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to”.

What motivates you to follow the leaders you are following? What makes your heart sing?

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