Many thanks to Indiana Jen for her recent post, “How to Gain Parent Buy-In for Classroom Technology Integration” for inspiring this post!
I’m in the opposite situation: I’m a parent that trying to get administrators to pursue tech integration! I’ve been talking to the admin at both of my kids’ schools for the last two years about these issues. One kid is at a large first-ring suburban high school, the other kid is at a very small “hippy” private school.
While they sometimes humor me when I ask questions about why the philosophy and pace (or lack thereof) of tech integration, it is rare that I am taken seriously or given more than a token nod. To their credit, both schools are taking tiny baby steps to better understand the benefits of tech integration. I’m just incredibly impatient!
To that end, I have adapted Indiana Jen’s post to help parents get Administration’s buy-in for tech integration! The bold headlines are from Jen’s post (or slightly edited for my purpose), the content under the headings is solely mine. Don’t blame her for any of it!
Do your research: start talking to the principal, superintendant, school board, tech directors and more. Ask questions about how they plan to successfully integrate tech, and don’t take no for an answer! If they say they’re not moving in this direction, ask for clear reasons why not. Find the teachers in the system who are the thought leaders — there will be some. Find out what they’re doing and how the administration is supporting them — or not.
Emphasize Skills – and Job/College Readiness
As an employer, I often emphasize the skills I look for when hiring staff. I don’t care about staff who can take a multiple choice test. I want staff who can easily learn new skills, who can communicate in many ways: written, visual, spoken. Written communication in the working world is rarely (e.g. NEVER) a 5 paragraph essay. It’s an email with short, succinct arguments. It might be a business case or a white paper that incorporates research, facts and statistics. It is often a visual presentation, using a presentation software or a video.
By next year, it’ll be something else! I want staff that can be flexible, figure things out, know how to find and evaluate information. I want staff who can identify and solve problems, who can be creative in thinking of new products and services.
These are the skills that tech integration can teach when used appropriately.
I’ve had the opportunity to talk to superintendents, principals, teachers, tech directors and more about how to work with districts that are slow on the uptake. Their advice has always been to keep talking. Keeping telling the decision makers how important it is to move towards integration. How important it is to empower teachers to explore and make new choices. How important it is to prepare our children for 21st century skills, not the factory model.
That said, it doesn’t go over well when you tell an administrator that you think their philosophy of education is like a factory. I have found other ways to phrase this…. but I do keep up the communication. I am respectful of the fact that their plates are very, very full and that there are emergencies and immediate issues that need to be handled. I make sure I’m at events, that I send interesting articles (not too often), and that I take opportunities to connect with administrators where we’re not discussing tech issues.
Enlist the Aid of Other Parents
There is power in a group. The more parents you have asking the same questions and asking for the same things, the better. It’s hard to be taken seriously on your own. Yes, you often do have to educate other parents. People like to think of education staying the same as when they were in school. Not every parent will agree with you, but it is amazing how many do.
Provide Time in Class
In one school, I’ve been able to provide examples of the advantages of tech integration. In another, I was able to see examples of teachers doing great things with tech integration. Using these examples has been helpful to give a good illustration of the whole point of tech integration. I do things like not letting my kids print assignments – they turn them in electronically. I model how homework can be done with digital media.
Time. It takes a lot of time to convince people that something that we once thought was so evil (NO Cell phones in class!) can actually be a good thing.
Don’t Grade the Tech
I do think kids should get grades on tech skills. It’s something they’ll need throughout their life. There are kids who will just take off when allowed to explore with tech, and may find incredible new opportunities to shine. I do agree with Jen, however, that that shouldn’t be the focus especially at the beginning of tech integration.
As for getting buy-in with administration, this applies in don’t focus on the tech. It’s really not about whether you’re using an iPad, Chromebook, iPhone, Nexus tablet, whatever. It’s about how you think about information access, assessment and assignments. This is a paradigm shift, and it’s hard. Putting tech tools in kids’ hands but still focusing on the drill and kill testing, rote memorization and teacher-as-expert atmosphere will guarantee failure.
There are no guarantees that this will work. I have seen small, tiny, baby steps, and hopefully things keep moving. I can only keep asking the questions and give support when I can.
Many thanks to Jennifer Carey for inspiring this train of thought for me. I hope I haven’t taken her original post out of context or offended.