Sunday, February 17, 2013

How To Engage Administrators with Technology

I find myself to be quite interesting.  As a presenter I feel that I am funny, charming, and that I really connect with my audience.  My stories are pithy, and most times when I have imparted my wisdom on to crowds large and small, I see a combination of bewilderment at the earth-shattering revelations that I have evoked in the participants along with rueful nods of attendees wishing that they too would have made the brilliant connections that I established during my thrilling presentation.  I often feel I deserve standing ovations.

If you missed the tongue in my cheek, then I will be a bit more blunt.  I am not quite delusional enough to think that I have the ability to engage people for more than 15 consecutive seconds.  But I persist.  In fact, there are a few people that have the ability to simply stand in front of a crowd and keep them engaged just by their mere presence, but I am not one of them.  Especially with a group of school administrators.

When it comes to educators being engaged in their own learning, I think administrators (myself included) can be some of the most off-task, giggling, coffee-slurping, pull-each others finger people that you can find in the education field.  I say this with affection, because as much as we have created structures for our teachers to collaborate within the work week, we have done nothing of the sort for administrators.  And while we do gather as a group at monthly meetings, these meetings are often driven by the business of the day, with the professional development piece of the agenda getting tabled or scuttled all together.  As a result, when the group does get together, they want to socialize a bit as well.

So when I was asked to present to all of the administrators in our school district about the Supervision For Learning project created by the BC Principals and Vice Principals Association, I knew that I would have my work cut out for me.  I knew that while I myself could find my presentation to be riveting, this might not necessarily be the case for my colleagues.

But I could also kill two birds with one stone.  One of the things that I feel is lagging behind in the administrative ranks is technology leadership.  And while there may be a number of reasons for this, and there are a number of principals and vice-principals who have made the jump into the technological deep end (and we have a number in our district!), the fact is, there are many others who have just dipped a toe in the pool, or not even thought to get their swimsuits on.  As a result, I wanted to make my presentation one that not only dealt with the concepts around Supervision For Learning, I wanted to take the opportunity to model the use of some web tools that our admin group could take away and utilize in their own learning situations.

The following describes how I approached and worked through the day with our group:

1)  I developed a blog that would act as a repository of all of the resources and ideas that we would use for the day (in truth, I modified an old one that I had developed a couple of years ago that had been left stagnant, but the reality was I changed so much that it was like starting from scratch).  I referred to the blog probably more than two dozen times during the presentation, and it was a really easy way to anchor the presentation and all of the different things that we were doing in one central place.  I emailed this to the administrators just prior to the session:  one thing I notice about administrators (myself included) is that they look at their phones every time they vibrate, so I knew they would get and be looking at the link.

2) I introduced the group to Google Forms by doing a survey that would allow us to determine our prior knowledge of S4L, and would also demonstrate how simple a form is to use to get 'right-now' feedback.  I was thrilled to see our admin team using their smartphones, tablets and laptops to fill it out (see picture above).

3) We then used a Google Doc (and a literacy strategy called GOSSIP) to collaboratively create a list of mechanisms that we were using and had heard of to create time for teachers to collaborate within the timetable.

4) While looking at these different mechanisms, I showed them a screencast using Screenr that describes the collaborative model that we have at our school.

5) We then used a different type of Google Form to create a Wordle that would visually represent the characteristics of meetings that the group felt were great (and not-so-great) so they could reflect upon their own faculty meetings.
A Wordle showing characteristics of 'not-so-great' meetings

6) I then showed them how we use Google Docs to co-create our faculty agendas, and Wallwisher to create an on-going interactive billboard of good news at our school.

7) We later co-created a poll for our smartphones using Polleverywhere to get a sense of whether we felt that we could be doing more to engage our staff and our students in their learning and professional development.

8) And finally, I showed them how we have used our dynamic school improvement plan blog as a keystone not only for our goals to improve student achievement and social responsibility, but also to share the great things that we have accomplished at our staff meetings over the last two years.

Overall, I felt that the group learned a great deal about the concepts of S4L.  But perhaps more interesting (and maybe more important) to me is that people came up and told me that they were ENGAGED.  They liked using the web tools.  They liked using their phones for things.  They liked being plugged in.  Furthermore, there has been nearly 600 hits on the blog site over the last couple of days, and I hope that the group is accessing the different documents and becoming more comfortable with using the web tools that we created during the session.

While administrators like me can be 'little scamps' during PD sessions, I found that by using these tools, I was able to keep the group interested and on-task, and get them a bit more exposure to tech tools that they can use in their own schools.

If you have any other ideas on how to engage administrators with technology that you can add to what we did, please comment!


  1. Great post and ideas. Law enforcement is so similar and what a great way to engage technology and incorp it into a learning environment.
    Glad I came across this post, thanks for the ideas.

  2. Great post! Your candor and frankness in describing your experience(s) and the need to be literate otherwise are noteworthy!

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