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 discussionÂ for another post. This particular rant concernsÂ the hugeÂ 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 haveÂ solid research or compelling facts or even good anecdotal evidence on their side. No, what IT hasÂ is a leader willing and ready to express aÂ vision forÂ the place for technology in our educational process.
That the IT vision is a very narrow one, incorporatingÂ educational clichÃ©s often drawn from tech industry publications, and skewed towardsÂ what is most convenient for their techniciansÂ to set up and manage is totally irrelevant. When an instructional technology issue is raised in our system, their leaders are most oftenÂ the peopleÂ 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 ourÂ leaders on the instructional side? The ones withÂ actual teaching and school administration experienceÂ whoÂ are supposed to represent the needs of teachers, students, and schools?
When it comes to a vision for technology in teaching and learning, we findÂ thatÂ huge leadership vacuum. The superintendent, her deputy super,Â and other assorted members of herÂ “leadership” team offer nice phrases about “21st century” this and that, they’re concerned about inequity,Â suggestingÂ that we need programs likeÂ 1-1 computing, and they rave over photo-op sidebars like BYOD.
What they lack, however,Â is any kind of cohesive, clearly articulatedÂ concept of the place ofÂ technology for instruction. How all the devices and connectivity, on which we already spend tens of millions of dollars a year, mightÂ 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, attemptingÂ to fill in the empty spaceÂ andÂ articulate some forward-looking ideas. And that kind of grassroots, guerrilla-styleÂ 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 thatÂ 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. ItÂ should be the job of our instructional leaders, beginning with a clear definition of our instructional needs.
If they would only accept theirÂ responsibility.