Remixing Future Ready School Culture

I am no longer impressed by a 1:1 device deployment. Just as much as I am no longer enamored with Apple commercials for the iPod. It’s easy for schools to get caught in an innovative lull or a financial one. Aside from mobile devices and new infrastructure models, schools can still innovate and move their programs forward without the devices.

As I have said since I was first involved with one of the first large scale iPad 1:1 rollouts four years ago, the focus should be on shifting culture, not devices. One of the primary reasons for this statement is that I know for certain that the iPad will come and go in classrooms just as its many predecessors have. Whether its the dry erase board, smartboard, or laptop, the technology we deem necessary and purposeful for today’s student will soon be gone.

Therefore, it is wise for schools to work on the fundamentals of building a strong school culture around shifts in professional learning paradigms, curriculum building and assessment, and non-technological approaches to designing dynamic instruction. These pieces will similarly change and should always evolve, but the district or school mindset must be in the right place in order to prepare for an ever-changing future.

Without even considering devices a school, through focused and collective leadership, can begin to develop a culture around shifts in professional learning, content creation, and instructional design. Additionally, one constant in schools is learning goals and objectives. Setting attainable, measurable, and adaptable learning goals early will help with instructional design and any type of technology integration. What’s more, technology hardware is nothing without dynamic, malleable content design. This is not to say that devices, or teachers for that matter, are simply carriers of content, but rather, they are the facilitators of inquiry, exploration, and discovery.

The next constant is a consistent, open, and democratic model for professional learning that allows time for conversation, sharing, reflection, and demonstration. Professional learning should be driven by the voices of all educators involved and focus on a district theme or initiative. The focus of professional learning should never hinge directly on hardware and applications, rather it should focus on how those pieces can be layered into the learning sandwich that happens each day in the classroom. I imagine we are now both hungry for a learning sandwich. But, I digress. This is not to say that technology focused professional learning opportunities are unnecessary but, they should not be the ultimate goal. Let’s be honest, it has become increasingly important for educators and administrators to learn new and emerging technologies to facilitate learning. The problem I see is an over saturation of these types of professional learning opportunities. Additionally, I too often see technology hardware and applications be the sole focus of a school’s initiative or conference’s theme.

Finally, the instructional design and content design are equally important when you’re learning at the intersection of instruction and technology. I have written several pieces on this specific subject and can be referenced in early posts. However, along with developing curriculum scope and sequence and new paradigms for professional learning opportunities, instructional design is very important. The key in designing effective instruction with technology is to lead with your goals in mind, rethink your role in the classroom (facilitator of learning), and making sure you use technology that is meaningful and will challenge or provoke students’ thinking.

School leaders must establish a culture of trust throughout their respective school or district. This happens with transparency and a conversation amongst all stakeholders in the school system regularly. I don’t like to consider myself an administrator (director of technology) in my district, but rather a resource. I work with building administration regularly to get an understanding of how I can serve each school better. We also conduct monthly EdTech PLCs at each school building that first focuses on creating a vision for learning with technology as well as action items and evaluative pieces for that vision.

If you want to be “Future Ready”, then we need to first focus on shifting the culture of our school, and then, develop a strategy for updating and sustaining infrastructure, finding devices that meet the learning needs and goals of all students and teachers, and providing opportunities for all stakeholders to regularly discuss, share, and evaluate the school’s vision.