Today I have been reading the Powerful Learning Practice blog discussion about how tech savvy all principals should be and how they should be taking on the role of lead learners in our 21st century schools, understanding the needs of students and teachers in order to prepare them for the future.
Lyn Hilt, who wrote the post, draws from Marc Prensky’s book Teaching Digital Natives stating that it is more important for teachers to become comfortable with a different pedagogy, than with the new technology itself. This involves empowering students to collaborate and to create using tools of their choice, in particular social media tools, which implies that school leaders have to consider the learning environments in place in their schools.
The IB Primary Years Programme encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning through inquiry. As an information and communication teacher I see my role as encouraging students in their research and in helping them to discover the most effective ways of sharing their learning. More and more I’m asking them to make their own choices about the resources and tools they use for their inquiries. But reading this post I feel I need to do more.
One of the things I’m reflecting on is how the teaching role is now becoming more of a partnership – between myself and the classroom teachers in setting up the right learning environment for these inquiries to take place, and between the homeroom teachers and the students as the teachers offer suggestions and guidance during the inquiry process. What I see also needs to happen is that there needs to be a partnership between the administration and the teachers to develop a shared vision about what true inquiry looks like and how the needs of the students involved in the inquiries can be best met. Support for mentoring and coaching, for in-school professional development and for building a professional learning network or community are all a part of this partnership so that teachers can develop new pedagogies to take account of the new technologies that students are using.
The idea of sharing is very important. Developing a shared vision can only come about by listening to all those involved and by encouraging them to share with others. Recently I was involved in leading a PYP workshop in Paris. Feedback from the participants made me realize how valuable sharing my professional practice with them was – and sharing this knowledge was also extremely valuable for me as it allowed me to “dig deeper” into what I was doing. In preparing for this workshop I had to revisit again the whys (the philosophy underpinning the PYP), the whats and the hows (the theory and practice). Writing a blog allows me to think deeper too. The feedback, challenges and support I have received from those who have read my various posts have led to more reflection about my own practice – I have become a better teacher by sharing what I do with others.
I am hopeful that the newly created Tech Director position at our school will attract someone who will be promoting new learning and pedagogy. Perhaps we will be able to start looking at the NETS for administrators and teachers which include, among others, standards for digital age learning and culture and digital citizenship. For me a lead learner is one who is not just encouraging his or her teachers to reach out to other teachers using social media such as blogging, twitter, wikis and so on, but one who is actively modeling the use of these as learning, communication and sharing tools within and outside the school community. To me, a lead learner is one who is looking at how we can use these powerful tools to transform student learning opportunities too. Being tech savvy is not really enough, leadership involves more than just walking the talk, it involves walking with others on their learning journey too.
Photo Credit: 70 kites on a single line by Rona Proudfoot