Digital Age Leadership for BYOT

A Note from Tim: Forsyth County Schools in Georgia is in its sixth year of implementing Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT).  Debbie Smith is the principal of Coal Mountain Elementary School, which was featured in NBC News for its use of BYOT.  In this post, Debbie shares her ideas about how she coaches her teachers to embrace digital age learning with BYOT.

Guest Post by Debbie Smith @Napier000
Principal – Coal Mountain Elementary School

From my view point, there is a larger issue than a teacher’s willingness to become digitally competent. Because we greatly value using devices to engage students in their learning and to bring the world into our classrooms, our teachers know that becoming digitally proficient is an expectation.  We provide ongoing professional learning to train teachers in the uses of technology in the classroom and provide mentor teachers if needed.  The truth is that the students are the BEST teachers….and that is a paradigm shift that some teachers find hard to achieve.

Debbie_Smith1Because we have been using digital devices in our classrooms for two years, with great success, all of our teachers are aware that this is the future of education.  There is no doubt that student engagement is much greater when technology is used as part of classroom instruction.  However, unless the design of instruction is of high quality, the use of digital devices is simply not effective.

With all that said, here is the issue of leadership as I see it:

From the district level leadership: 

Has capacity been built and has infrastructure been put in place to utilize technological devices at the classroom level in a consistent, safe, and useful manner?  Has support been provided in the form of technical personnel – Instructional Technology Specialists, as well as high quality professional learning for the BYOT/BYOD to be implemented with success at the school level?

From the building level leadership:

Does the school culture provide a “risk free” environment for teachers to try new things?  Are there ample opportunities for professional learning to support teachers as they work to increase their digital expertise?  Are the teachers provided the latest research supporting the use of digital devices in the classroom…do they understand the urgency?  Has the building level leadership built trusting relationships with teachers, parents, and community members, and communicated the positive impact and aspects of digital classrooms?  Is there a commitment to educating students about digital footprints and correct/acceptable use of devices in the classroom?  Is the building level leadership committed to “staying the course” through, what at times can be, the troubled waters of change?

From the teacher leader perspective:

math_groupsAm I committed to what is best for my students?  With the knowledge that using digital devices is hugely successful in engaging students in their learning, what am I doing as an educational professional and leader to hone my technological skills?  Am I committed to continued learning and growth as an educational professional…with technology, as well as the design of quality instruction that calls for students to think deeply and “show what they know”?

If the answer to any one of these questions is  “no”, then perhaps it is time to reflect on the reasons I am still in the profession and research other career choices.

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