Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Modeling the Five Tech Behaviors We Want from Teachers

Leadership in its most powerful form is leadership by example. If you are a leader of people, you know this. But it is hard work. It is easier to talk about what to do than to actually do it. However, you are reading this because you want to be the best that you can be. So lead out front, modeling the way you want others to follow.

Technology is the future for our students. We know we need our teachers engaging in it. So below are five technology behaviors you need to adopt (if you have not already) if you are to model the skills of a 21st Century leader.

1. Keep reading and stay current.

For years, monthly professional journals were our primary sources. Now we can find experts from all different fields, and they can all come directly to our homes or offices. We already know we have to keep reading to stay current. But now there are technology tools to help us in this endeavor.  First, learn to search online. That's easy. Next, develop a professional learning network (PLN) and watch their posts, follow the links they recommend. They probably posted it because they found it valuable. Finally, learn how to use an RSS feed. Instead of picking up the morning newspaper, click to your RSS reader. News sources and blog posts most relevant to you come directly to you. They find you.

2. Keep searching and find exciting resources.

While you are out there searching, share your information. Post sources the way you see others do in your PLN. You want your teachers bringing exciting thoughts to their classrooms, so you must bring exciting resources to your professional development activities.

3. Communicate and connect with parents and the public.

Share the news. Learn to post directly onto your school's web page. Don't wait for someone else to do it for you. This is the age of instant communication. Learn to create wiki pages to share news, and use blogs and message boards to get your news out.

4. Communicate and connect with peers.

I already mentioned the PLN. It is most powerful when it is online with professionals from around the world. To connect with them, you need social networking tools like Twitter (@DanielLFrazier) and LinkedIn (Daniel Frazier). Learn how to use these tools, and then more importantly, get in the habit of using them regularly.

5. Share and support the profession.

We do work every day because someone laid the foundation for us yesterday, last decade, or generations ago. We have a professional obligation to build upon their foundations and make things better for the next educator. The lessons we learn can be communicated without someone learning them the hard way--maybe the way we did. Share your thoughts, advice, and experiences where others can find them and learn from you.

If you follow these behaviors, you'll be setting an example as a 21st Century leader.

I know I left some things out. (Let's say it was intentional.) Please comment below and offer me your thoughts on what else should be part of this list.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The PC versus Mac Debate Can End

Last month I had the honor of presenting to a number of school board members from across Iowa on the merits and implementation of one-to-one laptop computing in the modern school classroom. This was at the 66th Annual Convention of the Iowa Association of School Boards. I was impressed by all the thoughtful and conscientious citizens who are voluntarily serving their community schools for no pay and often considerable grief.

Much of my session was spent answering questions. I did not want to make a formal presentation, instead striving to make the time as relevant as possible for the participants. The most common questions I heard was, "Should a school purchase PC's or Macintosh computers for its one-to-one computer initiative?"

In response to this question, I emphasized the computer platform is the lesser part of the issue. The greater part is what the school is intending to do with the machines. Simple mathematics suggests that merely purchasing enough computers to have one for every student is the process for becoming a one-to-one school. However, this simple formula is missing the point. The computers need to fit the classroom objectives and methodologies, not the other way around. Deciding on a platform is ultimately influenced by what a school intends to do with the devices.

For our school, we wanted to create student-centered classrooms where the students are instructing themselves and each other. We wanted classrooms where the teachers are more guides to learning with the students the active participants in the class. Therefore, we wanted powerful machines that can access online resources and facilitate project-based learning. We want our students finding resources, comprehending the material, breaking down the information, and reassembling new knowledge. Therefore, we chose computers that could do audio projects, podcasting, and video production, in addition to some of the more standard functions available from most manufacturers.

The next question board members asked was usually this: "Yeah, but what if our teachers want Macintosh computers, yet nine out of ten computers in the business world are PC's?"

In my opinion, PC versus Mac operating systems is no longer much of a debate. The two systems have grown together over the last 20 years to the place where a person takes very little time to retrain for the opposite system. I made the change myself a few years back, and in less than a week, I felt completely comfortable in the new platform. Moreover, as computer operations move to more web-based systems and cloud computing, the type of computer becomes even less of an issue.

Ultimately, the operating system is a very small question. It is no longer worth debating. A much greater consideration is the performance ratings of the different machines and manufacturers. And again, it is more important what a school plans to do with their computers in order to choose a machine that meets its aim.