We’ve had iPads in every kids’ hands for a total of about 12 days now. We’ve also got a voluminous new state evaluation system we’re piloting, a key component of which is a digital management system for teachers and evaluators to keep track of their goals, observations, and artifacts1. Layered on top of that, we’re using an online tool to schedule parent-teacher conferences for the first time ever.
Needless to say, I have seen that some of my teachers and staff members are on technology overload. The disparity, however, between the newer and more veteran staff has never been wider. I routinely do a “ticket out the door” after structured professional learning opportunities and, while newer (often younger) staff will indicate that they are “excited” about the new tools and how much easier it will make things, some veteran staff are more stressed than ever. How, I wondered, could some people see such possibilities and some see nothing more than one more added stressor?
While I don’t think I’ve got it completely figured out, I had a small cognitive breakthrough while I was on my run last night (the best time to think!).
Those of us who grew up or came of age with technology think less about the tools themselves. I haven’t done any research on this, but I’ll use myself as an example. When I am told that our state evaluations will be collected using an online tool, I launch my browser and type in the address. When someone mentions using a particular app in their class with their students, I have built-in schema that tells me to open my iPad, launch the App Store, and search for the app. I spend little or no time thinking about the tool (the computer or the iPad) and, instead, set about doing the task.
Those who either did not come of age with technology or who have been able to get by with minimal use of technology struggle, first and foremost, with the tool. For these staff members, what I take for granted (e.g. they said it’s a website so I opened my browser) has to be explicitly scaffolded. I think back to the number of times I have led a conversation like this: “So you go to the school website…” only to realize that someone needed me to say, “You go to the Dock. That’s the little bar at the bottom [or side] of your screen with all the little pictures of apps. You click on Chrome [or 'the stamp' or 'the compass'] which is the little circle with the colors around it. No. The other one. Now, when it launches, put your cursor in the address bar and type the school site. No, you don’t need h-t-t-p-colon-slash-slash. No. The other slash…”
So my struggle right now, as a leader, is how to run with the front of the pack while still coaching and supporting those for whom even the most basic task is a major hurdle. I worry that I have been complicit for too long in not pushing hard enough or providing enough support and, now that we’re a 1:1 school, even the learning oportunities we’ve already provided hasn’t been enough.
- I’ll withhold commentary on said evaluation system for another day [↩]