Do You Think You Are an Instructional Edtech Leader?

We all define “teacher” as the one who covers the curriculum content to teach learners. However, what if “teacher” meant something beyond the classroom? Teaching has been evolving since the birth of humankind and it is transforming every day, thus, the doers of the teaching who are mainly called teachers have been acquiring different roles. While some of these roles are the requirements of the age, some of them are gifted to the teachers so that they can enhance their classroom practices. To illustrate, to make the teacher feel more like a guide, teachers are assigned to be leaders of their classrooms. Leadership is defined as undefinable state of having presence, communicating, curating talent, and developing shared vision on Edtech Digest. That’s why, in today’s modern education contexts, teachers are expected to support their learners by expanding their vision and raising awareness in them, rather than standing in front of a board and dictate.

In this entry, I would like to take the teacher-leader phenomena to beyond and assign teachers with a different role: Instructional EdTech Leaders. We all agree that teachers should be leaders, before explaining the EdTech part, I would like to elaborate on the instructional leadership part. First, we should make sure that instructional leadership doesn’t mean school administration. Teachers who aren’t managing a school are still managing a classroom and the school systems should prioritize supporting teachers to become instructional leaders. I hear you ask what the difference between leadership and instructional leadership is. The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP,2001) defines instructional leadership as leading learning communities, in which staff members meet on a regular basis to discuss their work, collaborate to solve problems, reflect on their jobs, and take responsibility for what students learn. Basically, when teachers are working with the idea of that they are active learners while they are teaching, this will open a path for them to become instructional leaders. Acquiring a new role will not be easy for any teacher, therefore, they will need  guidance which include coaching and mentoring. At this point, it is practical to say that school principals should support the teachers to provide them with the opportunity of developing instructional leadership strategies. NAESP mentions that “If principals are to take the role of instructional leader seriously, they will have to free themselves from bureaucratic tasks and focus their efforts toward improving teaching and learning” . That statement itself shows us how important to prioritize teacher development. With this entry, I would like to post a side note that Schools of Education should start instructional leadership programs to support school principals and teachers on this concept.

Taking the discussion further, especially after pandemic when we all realized teachers have had a limited knowledge of technology and poor performance of managing it, instructional leadership has gone through another transformation: instructional edtech leadership. Educational Technologies dates to the start of internet age where people started to explore how they can use google search and YouTube in their classrooms. However, globalization and mobility has showed that learners need interaction with the content and the only source to satisfy the need is the teacher. Following that, Schools of Education has started to integrate the technology component into their curricula, private school has started to promote themselves by marketing their tech facilities. All the progress and transformation has been great, however, there was a problem with the teachers who had already been in the profession as they weren’t trained to manage technology in their classrooms. When this has already been a problem, another problem has come to our attention: novice teachers who got trained to manage technology in the classroom but don’t have a classroom experience yet. Considering both cases, a need arouse: how to train teachers to make them instructional EdTech leaders.

US Department of Education has Educational Technology Office, and the office is working effectively to provide all educators with the perspective of teaching with technology. The office has set up a goal which is “Educators will be supported by technology that connects them to people, data, content, resources, expertise, and learning experiences that can empower and inspire them to provide more effective teaching for all learners.” This broad goal has given me the sense that teachers are supposed to become not only the instructional leaders but also IT of their classrooms. I still remember from my school days that when my teachers had a tech problem, they used to call for the IT person and we used to wait until the problem was fixed. It was time consuming and impractical; moreover, the issue wasn’t get fixed sometimes.

I believe EdTech office of the US has been granting teachers with a smooth classroom practice and practicality in terms of management and with the sense of confidence where a teacher thinks they can handle tech problems on their own. After discussing how important to grant teachers with EdTech leadership skills, it is high time to discuss how to grant them. When we google, it is easy to find tips on how to become an edtech leader; however, combining the concept with instructional side of it will not be easy to find as it develops within school system, a teacher personality and globalizing world.

As we all know, most of the schools are offering professional development sessions for teachers, but this question still wanders in our minds: if teachers have professional development sessions offered by the school, why do we still have edtech implementation issues? Bearing that question on my mind, I had a chance to talk to teachers in Turkey and in the US. Both sides have informed me about info gap in EdTech and applications. When this is the case, it is indispensable to have a hardship in raising instructional edtech leaders. Here, I would like to propose alternative ways of making this dream true.

Let’s set the tone with asking the right questions to address problems better. Here, I will be getting assistance of Edutopia with the following questions I found on their blog post “Making Technology Work” :

  • Why do you want to use this technology here?
  • Why hasn’t the approach that you’ve been doing in the past worked?
  • How do you hope the technology will change it?
  • Can the technology make this idea more relevant to students?
  • Can it push the lesson up a notch, or can it enhance things for students by allowing them to do something that they couldn’t do without the technology? For example, does the technology allow students to collaborate beyond the classroom walls?
  • Is the technology making possible a certain level of transparency for the teacher to assess where students are individually?
  • Does the technology provide a platform for students to be creative without overbearing them with gadgets and apps?

The reason why I would like to make use of those questions is that all questions are centered around learners’ benefit, as ideally, all the school instruction is supposed to be student-centered. As well as giving the opportunity to support learners, those questions will help teachers to collaborate better. Having why and how questions will urge teachers to brainstorm ideas and grow together as US EdTech office indicates “ Educators can collaborate far beyond the walls of their schools.” After asking the right questions, it is time to set the steps. Here, I would like to use G.I.Z.E.M (my name) Methodology that I developed couple months ago while teaching Turkish at a Turkish school in WA state.

  1. Getting to Know: Encourage teachers to know, identify, and own the device, software they are expected to use in their classrooms.
  2. In the Know: Encourage teachers to take their time to interact with the device and software and feel it is okay to get confused and have lots of questions in their minds.
  3. Zoomer Time: Encourage teachers to use that technology with their students. It doesn’t have to be a formal setting or a lesson plan. Let teachers have a trial time and reflect on their own learning experience.
  4. Engage Worldwide: Encourage teachers to ask, brainstorm, come up with ideas and share with others. Find an international platform or a project or may be encourage them to start their own. Let them see how other schools, states, countries are doing.
  5. Measure and Assess: Encourage teachers toobserve themselves and conduct both a me before edtech and me after edtech study and a my students before edtech and after edtech study.

Let me give you an anecdote: March 2020 was my first time with the use of Canvas which was the software that my school used during pandemic. When they announced that, the administration didn’t have time to offer training sessions for teachers as pandemic hit suddenly and we had to continue our course instruction as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this was the case almost everywhere in the world. As a tech-savvy teacher, I spent my time playing on Canvas teacher and student modes to see my feasibilities and limitations. The first day of the class, I had a honest talk with my students and told them it would be my first time with the software as it was theirs. I said “Let’s try and see what Canva is and what we can do on it”. This way, I made sure that my students had the time to engage in the software (and they can’t complain that they don’t know how to make use of it) as well as that it gave me a chance to spot tech experts of my class and make pair work to enhance peer support. Most importantly, being individuals of Gen Z – zoomers- I aimed at learning from them as they were all born into tech era, which took me out of my comfort zone and turned me into an active learner. As I am the member of international teachers groups, I started to read posts of the teachers, attended international webinars. The sessions encouraged me to search and find more information on edtech and edtech tools. I was realizing that the more I became knowledgeable about edtech the more I felt confident in my teaching sessions. Then, I decided to see how my students are performing and I think the statement I heard “ This is so much fun, I will use that in my real life too” was the best proof that I reached my instructional goals. . After all these, I have become aware how little I know about edtech and I can say I am a complete edtech leader. Keith Courville from Louisiana State University describes a complete edtech leader as following:

  • Someone who promotes the integration of technology in a school system with the moral imperative of improving the learning of students.
  • Someone who is aware of both the emergence of the new technology and the means by which it can positively affect student academic achievement.
  • Someone who views the leadership component of an edtech leader as a position that requires knowledge of change process.
  • Someone who is aware of and adjust their leadership style to accommodate certain factors that can impact their own performance as a leader.

Unfortunately, not all teachers had that chance because of several issues such as financial hardships in school supplies, time, unsupportive or uninformed school leaders. Likewise, I didn’t have anyone to encourage me to ask right questions before I started my own work. Although now I can feel myself as an EdTech leader, I still need to learn more and more as the era changes, I feel the need of catching up with it. So, now do you think you are an instructional edtech leader?

References:

Courville, K. (2011 November 28th-29th). Educational technology: effective leadership and current initiatives [Paper presentation]. Louisiana Computer Using Educator’s Conference. New Orleans, LA, United States.

Making technology work. (2015, June 23). Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/practice/instructional-coaching-driving-meaningful-tech-integration

5 tips for teacher tech leaders. (2018, March 23). Retrieved from https://www.kajeet.net/5-tips-for-teacher-tech-leaders/

US Department of Education. (n.d.). Section 2: Teaching with technology. https://tech.ed.gov/netp/teaching/ 

Morrison, B., (2006, October 31). 6 Strategies to help principals become technology leaders. Retrieved from: https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2006/10/6-strategies-help-principals-become-technology-leaders

Do You Think You Are an Instructional Edtech Leader?

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