Making and Innovating: The Educational Leader’s Role

Eat. Sleep. Create.

We have the technology, now what?

Our school has been on this technology journey for about 4 and half years now. We began with a 1:1 initiative, which is now a staple amongst our learning tools. We have provided hours upon hours of professional learning opportunities to prepare our educators with the framework and standards for best practices for integrating technology within the classroom. And our teachers are rock stars. They have had ample experience and practice swimming in the SAMR pool. SAMR is a method of seeing how technology might impact learning. Each letter represents where teaching and learning is on the the continuum of technology integration. Technology is integrated through substitution, augmentation, modification, and finally, redefinition. As you move along the continuum, technology is deeply integrated and is an assumed part of the learning process. Our teachers have moved through substitution, augmentation, modification, and yes, redefinition to impact learning while leveraging technology. Was it an easy or smooth journey?  A big giant NO! It is not easy to see the positive implications of technology in the learning environment at first. Most of us, include students in this group, see our gadgets, apps, and software as forms of entertainment. It takes courage and a considerable mind-shift to realize that technology is a great tool that will change the way you deliver content and assess learning.

 

Educational leaders, such as administrators and instructional coaches provide support and a safe arena for practice and risk taking. Once you have the technology and you can see that teaching and learning are changing, how do you build upon that capacity? As educational leaders, we can look at the ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education) Standards for Education Leaders

ISTE STANDARDS

Equity and Citizenship Advocate

Leaders use technology to increase equity, inclusion, and digital citizenship practices. Education leaders:

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Visionary Planner

Leaders engage others in establishing a vision, strategic plan and ongoing evaluation cycle for transforming learning with technology. Education leaders:

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Empowering Leader

Leaders create a culture where teachers and learners are empowered to use technology in innovative ways to enrich teaching and learning. Education leaders:

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Systems Designer

Leaders build teams and systems to implement, sustain and continually improve the use of technology to support learning. Education leaders:

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Connected Learner

Leaders model and promote continuous professional learning for themselves and others. Education leaders:

As I reflect on the ISTE Standards for Education Leaders, there are several characteristics that stand out for me. Education Leaders need to transform learning by empowering teachers and learners. Their focus needs to remain on learning, not the technology. Education Leaders lead by example by connecting and sharing learning. It seems like a tall order. If you are already integrating technology and empowering learners, what’s next?

Try Making!

At FDR, we have ventured into the Maker Movement. What’s the Maker Movement? Check out this article in Scholastic to get a more complete description. But I’ll share how the Maker Movement came to us, and how it is giving our students more choice, more independence, and it is more child-centered. We received an Innovation grant from the Verizon Foundation to create an Innovation Lab. It provided us with 3D printers, a laser cutter, 360 cameras, Spheros, VR Stations, a vinyl cutter, littleBits, a sound and video production studio, circuits, bunches of arts and craft supplies, and I’m sure I am forgetting something. We have all of this technology, equipment, and materials, but the Innovation space was not ready to house the maker “stuff”. It all sounds super cool and awesome, right? Except, we the adults, did not know how to use the “stuff”.

As the instructional coach and supervisor of the Innovation Lab I was suppose to know how to use all of this technology. Giant gulp! The actual Innovation Lab was not ready for primetime, so I had some time to learn (fingers crossed). I started an afterschool STEAM club, and put some items on a cart. We started small using the Spheros and littleBits. The students were completely engaged. It did not matter if I knew all of the technology. Whatever I brought out, the students tinkered with it and learned it. I had students  figure out every stinking piece of technology that was presented to them. I learned from them! This was truly a child-centered experience. The students were empowered! I now have students who are experts with the 3D printer. They can design something in TinkerCad and then print it using our 3D printer. The laser cutter (totally intimidating to me), was another piece of technology that they just “figured out”. You name it, and they can figure it out. I have a student who is a master at the VR station. He created items in TinkerCad and then put them into VR. He later figured out how to use ANIMVR in the VR to animate drawings. I had to request that he write up directions easy enough for me to follow to replicate what he was doing. Of, course he did. This is the magic of the maker movement. As an educator, we are now facilitators of learning. We have definite areas of expertise, but we also can guide students in how they demonstrate their learning. What we can learn from students is how to use technology as a tool to share their learning. If we provide the supports and allow the learners to create, we are providing a more engaging learning environment. The trick is to get educators to follow the students. As educational leaders, we model that by following ISTE Standards. Encouraging educators to bring making into the classroom, allowing some time away from the testing focus, and modeling the mindset that learning is different now. If you can Google it, you probably don’t need to teach it.  We need to help students ask questions and find multiple solutions! I love this video that shares the big idea of why we need to provide opportunities to ask questions, explore, make, and create!

 

The Maker Movement allows kids to tap into a very human quality, to create. It allows our kids to say, “I did this! I made this!” Eventually, our Innovation Lab opened and classes, teachers, students, and our after-school club began to use all of the “cool stuff” in the space. Listen to what some of our students and our principal had to say about the space.

 

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Innovative Maker Lab Video