Sunday, September 24, 2017

Is the role of tech director dead?

This is a question I've been asking myself over the past 2 days.  Do schools need tech directors, or do they simply need someone to be responsible for tech support while the job of educational technology morphs into something more like a director of innovation and learning?  As I was pondering this thought, I started to recall one of the biggest shifts in my professional life - when I stopped thinking that all my PD had to come from within my school, but instead started to connect  with others via Twitter and by reading blogs of educators all around the world.  One of these was George Couros.  As I thought more about this question yesterday, I decided to get the Kindle version of George's latest book, which is focused on an innovator's mindset, change and moving forwards.  And wow - I'm glad I did!  So far today I've only managed to read through the introduction but here are some brief bullet points of the things that most struck me and helped me to consider my question again:

Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai - traditional open air laundry. Not much has changed here despite the city growing up around it

Change (or not?) in schools
  • Change is an opportunity to do something amazing, yet within the institution of education there is often a reluctance to embrace new opportunities.  Even in schools that have the latest technology, teachers and administrators use that advanced equipment to do the same things they did before.
  • If we don't really think about the way we teach, and, more importantly, how both educators and students learn, we will all miss out on the opportunities that lie in front of us - right now we have many 21st century schools with 20th century learning.
  • The world is changing and if you don't change with it, the world will decide that it doesn't need you anymore.
Fort area of Mumbai
Our role as educators 

  • Our job as educators is to provide new and better opportunities for our students.
  • Students remember great teachers, not because of the test scores they received but because their lives were touched.
  • Kids walk into schools full of wonder and questions, yet we often ask them to hold their questions for later so we can "get through" the curriculum.  If students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.
  • Compliance does not foster innovation.  In fact demanding conformity does quite the opposite. In a world where new challenges constantly arise, students must be taught to think critically about what they are facing.  They must learn to collaborate with others from around the world to develop solutions for problems.  Even more importantly, our students must learn how to ask the right questions - questions that will challenge old systems and inspire growth.
Worli fishing village - with the Sealink and new skyscrapers being built in the background.  Here the traditional way of life is under threat - can the people adapt to change?
Learning and growing
  • If we want innovative students we will need innovative educators.  Teachers want to be innovative but instead of connecting and learning from others around the world .... they spend their time in staff meetings that often seem irrelevant to the heart of teaching.  They are constantly told that if they want to be innovative they are going to have to find time to do it. As leaders, if we ask teachers to use their own time to do anything, what we're  really telling them is: it's not important.  We must make time for our teachers to learn and grow.
  • Leaders of the most innovative organisations in the world know there is no end to growth and learning.  Schools, more than any other organisation, need to embrace a commitment to continuous learning.
So as I was thinking about my original question and framing it in the light of the above main headings, I'm considering this:  as a tech director am I encouraging the use of technology to do new things in new ways, or simply letting teachers digitize what they are already doing?  Do we still have 20th century learning (sadly the conclusion that I came to was yes we do) and in that case should the role of a tech director be redundant?  Does our current focus on standards get in the way of inquiry and curiosity (again, yes it does seem to), and how can I encourage the use of technology to have students reach out more to experts in the global community?  How can we use technology to help students ask and find the answers to deeper questions than just those demanded by standards (most of which could be Googled)?  How do we find time for our teachers to "play" and so learn in the same way that we encourage our young students to do?  Does having the word "tech" in the job description limit me too much?

By the way the photos that I've included in this post are from my walk today around the Worli Fishing Village and South Mumbai where I was contemplating change.  A lot of the images show the traditional life in the foreground, and change that is threatening this life in the background.  

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