Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Building an EdTech Department part 2: Relationships -- Getting Runs on the Board

If your department and/or position is new, nobody understands what you do. They don't really know what your position or department does and quite frankly they are too busy to find out on their own. It isn't part of the culture of the school, so your first real job is to make it part of the culture. This will not happen on its own -- you must work at it. You need to win some hearts and minds. You do this by getting some runs on the board. 

The first thing that you must understand about being an EdTech Specialist (Technology Integration Specialist or Technology coach) is that you MUST build solid relationships with people and departments in your school. The first step in this process is to "get some runs on the board" as my friend Ben Summerton would say. You need to make some positive traction. Go out of your way to help people; be friendly; be helpful; be positive; be energetic; be industrious; be innovative; be open. You will annoy some people, but you will make more friends than enemies. It is the old, "You attract more bees with sugar than vinegar" approach and it works. The goal is to build an environment, a culture, of asking for help and learning new things. People become more innovative when they feel valued and supported and your position is a support position. Besides, the more people ask for help, the busier you will be and it will justify your position in the eyes of the admin team. This is especially important if you are a department of one. If you have the title of director or coordinator for a department of one, establish the need for your department. Find new ways to help the school community. Offer professional develop, make tutorial videos, create a blog, use a Google Classroom to share information, use technology to spread the word about what you can offer people.
Here are some real-life examples for you.
  • Cruise the halls! Stop in on people who are having prep time. Just ask if they need any help. Most will say no, but some people will ask questions. Being friendly isn't a crime.
  • I go out of my way to help PE and the Fine Arts department, because they usually get ignored. They love feeling like they matter to you. Care goes a long ways.
  • I go out of my way to help elementary teachers, because they are usually working the hardest. They love knowing that you you respect their work and how difficult their jobs really are to do.
  • Do jobs that aren't in your job description. A teacher was looking for help with her projector. It isn't my job, but I helped her. Showing you are willing to make something better for someone builds trust.
  • Two teachers wanted to make a proposal for the school to purchase a 3D printer. They asked for some support looking for information about different printers -- the cost of the printers, what type of filament they use, how many print jobs can be done with a kilogram of filament. I could have easily pushed this back to them, but I did it. Besides, I'd like to have a 3D printer available at school. They're cool!
  • I helped an elderly faculty member organize items on her computer. Again, it wasn't my job. I could have easily pushed back, but people need to believe they can seek help from you. Later she had me help her students make short music videos. By being supportive, I made more work for myself.
  • I've arranged special training specifically for a department. These people could have came to one of my regularly schedule professional development sessions on the same topic, but they wanted to be together to work collaboratively on a project while using the technology tool, so I did it.
  • Another administrator was struggling to power wash his division's Chromebook computers, I jumped in to help out. The two hours of my Saturday cut his burden in half and created solidarity.
  • I also keep records of the types of jobs I do, how long they take, and who I worked with. This helps the rest of the admin team visual my position and work. I do this with a simple Google Form. You can find the form with this link. Please make a copy before editing. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/133vxwEeGpbum87zylYXhcicAf3U24hc4POyASXnz4vk/edit?usp=sharing
Get runs on the board and people will notice. Show you care and people will notice. Be industrious!

Part 1: Building an EdTech Department