Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Part 4: Let's Talk about Accountability

If your position or department has recently be created, you have some serious work cut out for you. In a previous post, I mentioned getting runs on the board to build your brand within the school. Even if your department or position is clearly defined and has been around awhile, you should still track your time. There are several apps on the market for doing this, but I decided to build my own with a Form. The link is to a copy of the Time Taker Form, I only ask that you create your own copy and then edit and adjust as you need. The Form allows me to record, what type of work I do, who I do it with, how long it takes, and notes to explain in detail what was done.

I was once involved in a rather heated debate about using this Form with a colleague. His argument was that our positions were created and therefore our time and work was understood and did not require defending. I, on the other hand, felt that our positions had been created, but that management did it on a leap of faith; they really had zero idea about what we did or how we did it. Tracking our time was a way to show what type of work we did and how much time that work took. A visible way to describe our role as an EdTech Department.

In the end, we agreed to disagree about that matter, but I still feel that tracking your time is a valuable tool. Especially if you are planning to request more time, money, and/or staff for your team. Believe me -- administrators and school boards are going to ask why you need more. If you can't physically show them, you aren't going to get more time, money, or staff. Tracking your time is doing yourself a favor; plus, it provides that all important component of accountability. If being accountable frightens you, you should stop working in education; you should especially quit working in EdTech. This is a job for self motivated people who get things done, not for lazy lumps.

First, you should provide more than one type of data. Second, you should share this information with your Admin Team and review it. Draw conclusions from it; use it to suggest trends and problems that can be solved. We use student data to drive instruction; we should use perforemce data to make decisions about funding and staffing. 

If you look at the results I have from Term 1 of SY2016-17, you see that some interesting information comes to light very quickly. I spend a great deal of my time focused on the
entire school (40.4%). After that high school (20.6%), middle school (16.9%), and First Program (FP; 10.4%) get my time in that order. This opens up questions as to why? Am I upable to help FP enough? Are FP teachers not requesting my support? How can we better serve FP? What type of support do they need?

You can also see that the majority of my time is spent creating & building (23.4%) and planning & research (25.9%). This makes a lot of sense considering the department didn't exist before. We are in a building phase and the department's role is being defined, but what should the trend be next year? Will the focus continue being creating & building and planning & research, or will it change to focus on co-teaching & co-planning? What direction do we want to move in as a school? Strategic thinking starts with looking at data and dicussing it, reflecting on it, and analyzing it. This leads to informed decision making on the institutional level.

The histogram provides more interesting information. The vast majority of my time is spent in activities and meetings that last less than 60 minutes. What you don't see in the chart, but you can understand from the spreadsheet, is that multiple short times are being used to complete tasks, which suggests that long periods of time to sit and focus on one project are actually difficult to come by in my day. This is only after one term! Imagine what we will have to look at after one year.

Part 3: Everybody's Cheerleader

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Building an EdTech Department part 3: Everybody's Cheerleader

You don't have to be an extroverted, overly optimistic person to do this job, but it certainly helps. I have met and observed introverts who are amazing EdTech support people, but it seems to lend itself more easily to extroverts. It is a people-person job. You are continually involved in communication and interaction with other students, teachers, and administrators. Being outgoing helps to create relationships and build bonds easily. I believe my introverted friends would argue that those relationships are often surface level. They feel that the relationships they build over time are more profound and transformational. This could be true; I've seen my introverted colleagues accomplish some amazing work with teachers that I felt couldn't get to the next level. Conversely, I have helped teachers get to the next level as well. In the end, it probably comes down to passion for the job more than personality types -- but I still think that being an extrovert gives me a leg up with breaking the ice quickly with people. Breaking the ice quickly is vitally important when working in a new position or department. 

As far as being optimistic goes, you need to be everybody's cheerleader; especially at the beginning of the position or department. Make sure to point out good examples of technology integration from your faculty at meetings. Everybody loves to be recognized for their efforts and it builds a community based on celebrating achievements of faculty members. You would be surprised how empowering that is for teachers; to be recognized for their skills and learning. Remember -- we are learners, too! But who is acknowledging our efforts; our triumphs over adversity; our acquired skills. Many teachers are isolated in their classrooms because when they go to meetings, all they hear about are new initiatives, new mandates, new headaches -- they need to hear something positive! They need something that isn't, "You need to do this blah, blah, blah; you need to do that blah, blah, blah; we need to improve blah, blah, blah; the recent test results show blah, blah, blah." Don't get me wrong, those things are important as well, but you need to nurture the souls of teachers as well as get work done. Unfortunately too many administrators don't make the effort to appreciate faculty members in front of an audience of their peers.  If you don't regularly attend division or department meetings, make appointments with the division principals/department heads to join their meetings and highlight good work. It only requires a few minutes, but it makes a lasting impact. Optimism is contagious! Spread it like the plague...
Part 2: Getting Runs on the Board

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