Here in the overly large school district we are having a big argument over the use of Chromebooks. But the merits of that particular device is a discussion for another post. This particular rant concerns the huge leadership vacuum we have around here when it comes to the larger issue of instructional technology.
The Chromebook conflict involves our little group in the instruction department, many of our school-based trainers, and some of our principals versus the IT department. And, as is usually the case in conflicts like this, IT prevails. Not because they have solid research or compelling facts or even good anecdotal evidence on their side. No, what IT has is a leader willing and ready to express a vision for the place for technology in our educational process.
That the IT vision is a very narrow one, incorporating educational clichés often drawn from tech industry publications, and skewed towards what is most convenient for their technicians to set up and manage is totally irrelevant. When an instructional technology issue is raised in our system, their leaders are most often the people called to respond, the people who jump in front of the microphones to answer the questions. The IT voice is the one that fills the silence.
So where are our leaders on the instructional side? The ones with actual teaching and school administration experience who are supposed to represent the needs of teachers, students, and schools?
When it comes to a vision for technology in teaching and learning, we find that huge leadership vacuum. The superintendent, her deputy super, and other assorted members of her “leadership” team offer nice phrases about “21st century” this and that, they’re concerned about inequity, suggesting that we need programs like 1-1 computing, and they rave over photo-op sidebars like BYOD.
What they lack, however, is any kind of cohesive, clearly articulated concept of the place of technology for instruction. How all the devices and connectivity, on which we already spend tens of millions of dollars a year, might alter and improve the traditional educational process. Where should we be heading in the future.
Certainly we have teachers, school administrators, and others of us who are trying to shake things up, attempting to fill in the empty space and articulate some forward-looking ideas. And that kind of grassroots, guerrilla-style approach to leadership can be very effective, especially in a large bureaucratic structure. But it’s also a slow, scattered, largely unfocused approach to changing a system that is in love with it’s past successes, and which values inertia over almost everything else.
Ok, so none of my ravings here are meant to disparage the people in our IT department, most of whom are nice, very talented people doing a great job with the given resources. But the bottom line is that IT should not be making final decisions on what tools and techniques are used in the classroom. It should be the job of our instructional leaders, beginning with a clear definition of our instructional needs.
If they would only accept their responsibility.