Friday, January 8, 2016

Factors Impacting Effective Technology Use: School Climate – Communication

It is no secret that working in isolation is one of the historical trademarks of the teaching profession. Teaching from bell to bell, grabbing a quick lunch between conferencing with students or meeting with parents, or prepping for the next class period defines a typical teaching day. Regular PLC meetings and professional learning workshops afford teachers a chance to share and discover instructional technology strategies that have unlimited classroom potential, but teaching in isolation sometimes makes these new discoveries difficult to implement in practice. How many of us have concluded an inspiring professional development day with great intentions that fell flat upon returning to the classroom due to a lack of direction or continued support? What can be done to empower teachers and students to better integrate technology into everyday learning?

I recently read an article entitled, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Tech-leading Principals, that provided a fresh take on how to inspire innovation rather than simply require the use of classroom technology. The habits include:

  1. Create an atmosphere that inspires innovation
  2. Foster collaboration
  3. Be open to new ideas
  4. Be a connected learner yourself
  5. Locate and provide adequate resources
  6. Take risks
  7. Have a visionary focus

Building leaders who were able to model these "habits" and engage in regular two-way communication with staff changed the way their teachers now perceive and use technology in the classroom. Asking teachers to collaborate, take risks, or innovate is futile if the school climate doesn't support a two-way feedback cycle that involves teachers and administrators listening, modeling, coaching, sharing, and supporting best practices beyond their face-to-face interactions. It seems absurd that we would expect teachers to have students collaborate online or provide targeted student feedback if they aren't accustomed to modeling these behaviors professionally.

In the upcoming 20th Anniversary Edition of the LoTi Digital Age Survey, we ask respondents to rate the following statement from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree:

I engage in a two-way cycle of communication and feedback with my school administrators. 

Determining teachers’ perceptions about the level of two-way communication with their colleagues as well as with building leaders may therefore offer a glimpse as to possible roadblocks impeding or obstructing the level of teaching innovation on campus. It is the intent of the LoTi Digital Age Survey to generate sufficient data points to determine the role of two-way communication in the change process. As Jane Ripley notes, “Genuine collaboration is an environment that promotes communication, learning, maximum contribution, and innovation.” Stay tuned!

This blog post is the eleventh in a series of fourteen online entries highlighting factors that impact the effective use of technology in today's classrooms. This series focuses on each of the research variables used to conduct comparative analyses as part of the 20th Anniversary Edition of the LoTi Digital Age Survey.