Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Our schools need passionate, caring, and visionary leaders – not JUST technology

Thanks to Tracy Murdach and her PBwiki site of K-8 Tech resources, I found Interwrite’s cute video on TeacherTube, “All I Want is Technology.” This video was created by Trish Fugelstad, an art teacher in Illinois. (Thanks to Karin Beil for sharing Trish’s name and website!)

The message of this video may be the quintessential dream of vendors and even many participants attending NECC 2008 this year virtually and/or in person.

If only we had cool new digital technologies at our school, then learning would be great and everyone would love school.

While it is DEFINITELY true school leaders need to place a high financial priority on technology resources, it is misleading and dangerous to suggest that “technology is all we need.” Please don’t misread me here, I am not wanting to be harsh to the creators of this adorable and creative video. The video is cute and well-done, certainly. The overt as well as underlying messages of this video are, however, potentially dangerous, and I think they point to BIG problems we often encounter at educational technology conferences and in discussions with others about technology in schools.

Our children need something far MORE important than JUST technologies in our schools: They need passionate, caring leaders (teachers, administrators and parents) who are continually looking for effective ways to help students learn and authentically engage in the learning process. That is what we need. As Sharon Tate, then-principal of Memorial Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas, stated in Spring 2003 in the video, “Keys to Technology Integration,” administrative support and leadership for technology integration is ESSENTIAL as well. The most important key, however, as Sharon said, is a cadre of teachers continually seeking what is BEST for students and to meet their diverse needs. At the end of this video, Karen states:

…We are very heavily into differentiated instruction and finding the best way that works for every single learner. When you have that philosophy, and you want to reach every single child in a classroom.. with that orientation, the teachers will try just about anything to get kids excited about learning. It might be wonderful science experiments. We have bugs, caterpillars and things being shipped in here on a regular basis, and getting kids excited about the cycle of life… But when they bring in computers, you see not the gifted kids, sometimes those reluctant learners jumping on that computer and becoming the experts. So they [THE TEACHERS] see it as another way to motivate children. Another way to get them excited about learning. It’s interesting because we know when teachers are excited about learning, the kids will be excited about it too. They [TEACHERS] are sometimes excited from a standpoint of being nervous about it. Oh my gosh! Here comes this mobile lab, and thank goodness the tech specialist is there with it. We’re all going to learn together! When they [TEACHERS] see that spark in those kids’ eyes, it makes a difference for them. It’s a much different thing than saying, “OK, everyone has to teach 25 lessons in the classroom using the computers, the Internet, what have you.” I like them “getting it” because they are dying to schedule that mobile lab in their classroom because they heard from the teacher next door, “You should have seen my kids! It was wonderful! You should have seen what they wrote!” I think when they see children’s reactions to it [TECHNOLOGY] or they hear about it from other teachers, they get pumped and they are ready to start it, no matter how scared they are, or how reluctant they think they are, because they see their most reluctant learners just fly, and become leaders in ways they never knew they could become leaders… It’s hard for educators change. I think the culture of each school is a little different, but if you love kids, and if you see them as unique little critters, every one of them, you want to try every single tool you have in your arsenal… They [TEACHERS] have seen this [TECHNOLOGY] as yet one more exciting motivator for kids.

I know this video from the Texas Technology Leadership Academy (which I did shoot, produce and publish for the project) isn’t as eye catching or as cute as “All I Want is Technology,” but I think it personifies much more accurately the “Christmas List” I have for our schools and our children.

Yes, we need technology. But let’s be honest. Many (if not most) of our schools in the United States have a LOT of technology now, thanks to E-Rate as well as other sources of educational technology funding. Where have these educational technology purchases made the greatest difference in the lives of students? There is one, unequivocal answer. In the schools blessed with administrative and teacher leaders who have the passion for differentiated instruction and helping each child learn which Sharon Tate describes in this video, AND focused on the ways digital technologies can help make the learning process even better. THAT is what our schools need.

Where are our schools going to “get it,” this passionate, caring and visionary school leader? No one can buy this on the NECC vendor floor, because this quality and characteristic of school leadership is not for sale. It can’t be purchased. But it CAN be cultivated. It CAN be inspired. It CAN be modeled. And it CAN be shared.

I’m hope to dig out the higher resolution versions of all these videos from the Texas Technology Leadership Academy and publish them on a web 2.0 video sharing site like YouTube soon. While the video production qualities of these are certainly not up to the high standards of other educators like Marco Torres, I know the IDEAS contained in these videos are FANTASTIC and worth sharing.

I know lots of other educators with a passion for learning and using technology to reach kids, just like Sharon Tate articulated, are coming to San Antonio for NECC. THAT is why I am most excited about going to the conference in person!

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On this day..







4 responses to “Our schools need passionate, caring, and visionary leaders – not JUST technology”

  1. Lisa Parisi Avatar

    When I first started, a little over a year ago, on my Web 2.0 ride, I really did believe that technology would change my classroom. And it did. But I realize now, technology really had nothing to do with it. It was the excitement I felt toward this new learning that I was able to bring into the classroom. That’s what got my students excited. More and more, I realize that technology is the means, not the end. It’s a vital part of differentiating instruction that enables all students to be successful, but it is the learning environment – the projects, collaboration, and communication – that make the classroom an engaging, exciting place to be. And it’s why I, too, am excited to go to NECC – to connect on a more personal basis with great educators who are just as excited as I am.

  2. blogggeer Avatar

    A web page, to at least show you how creative a child can be:

  3. Skip Zalneraitis Avatar

    Thank you. I appreciate your effort to clarify the needs and uses of ICT skills. Lisa’s comment is really insightful as well.

  4. Maureen Avatar

    I wish that I had seen the video to show my faculty when I did an intro to tech integration. They would have appreciated it. I, too, sometimes feel like a kid in a candy shop with all of the new tools. At times, I will actually take a step back and wonder why I want to learn so many new things. I feel like the new tools I explore and tell others about are just new strategies, new tools in my teacher toolbox. Sometimes they will replace my old standbys, other times, they won’t.

    One thing that really stuck in my mind when I had teachers show the full faculty what they had tried using technology, was a 6th grade English teacher’s statement about using LOC photos on a blog for her kids. They were reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and she put together a blog with amazing photographs and music for the kids to see, comment on, relate back to their reading. As she said, if she could have done something like this in the past, it would have entailed finding the photos, writing for permission and buying copies, which would have been xeroxed for an assignment,etc… It wouldn’t have happened. With the blog, she could put it all together, share it with the kids, and their families and bring new meaning to the reading and writing they were doing in her class.

    So, it’s really not about the gee-whiz gizmos that are out there. It’s not just a “cool factor”. It’s another way to get the kids and their teachers excited about learning, the ability to tie different media together to bring new, deeper meaning to their work. It also can involve the families at home, which is a plus in itself.

    Simply having “technology”, be it a pencil, or a fancy web 2.0 application, doesn’t make the learning happen.