2014 sees me change schools again. I will once again be taking on the role of ICT Co-ordinator as a Leading Teacher. This, combined with the recent podcast from The Ed Tech Crew podcast that focused on tips for new ICT Co-ordinators has made me reflect on my own experience as ICT Co-ordinator at my current school and look at what worked well and what I would do differently next time.
I moved into an ICT Co-ordinator role after a few years of teaching and managed to change this role into a Leading Teacher role. The podcast did make me think about though the fact the teacher in question is a graduate teacher and ask the question “Can a graduate teacher be an effective ICT co-ordinator?”. I think back to my first year of teaching and there sure was a lot to cope with and get my head around in my own classroom. (Lois touched on this in some of her comments throughout the podcast). I did wonder then what kind of “ICT co-ordinator” this school may be they after? If they want someone who can “fix problems” and has technical knowledge then yes, I am sure that a graduate teachers would be capable of this. But without experience in the classroom, is the pedagogy going to be there? (I can see this being a separate post all together!)
So, as I reflect on my experience as ICT Co-ordinator and consider my actions as I move in to my role, here is my advice to new ICT Co-ordinators.
Shut up and listen.
In his book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey talks about “seeking first to understand, then be understood“. He goes on to say that “we have a tendency to rush in, to fix things up with good advice. But we often fail to take the time to diagnose, to really deeply understand the problem first.”
I have also been reading “Fierce Conversations” by Susan Scott following on from a workshop I attended in Cairns earlier this year. In the book, they talk about the absolute truth.
To get an understanding of the absolute truth, they talk further about ‘beachball reality‘.
Imagine your company as one giant beach ball, where every employee is occupying a different colored “stripe” and experiencing reality from their own unique vantage point. As a leader, your main objective should be to make the right decisions for your organization, rather than be right. In order to do so, you must accept that while your “truth” about the company is valid and important, it is not the capital “T” truth. Rather, every individual owns a piece of the truth and it is essential that you look outside of your own viewpoint to understand as many stripes on your beach ball as possible. Only then can a solid decision be made based on ground truth.
It’s very easy in any new role to get caught up with the excitement of wanting to ‘do something’ or to be seen by others to be ‘doing something’, but without a clear understanding of where thing are at, much of this work may be in vain.
Based on this, I plan on having lots of conversations. And with lots of different people; teachers, admin, support staff, students, parents, as each of them brings a different perspective and viewpoint.
I see these conversations taking a “coaching” style approach with lots of questioning and little comments on my part. Coaching is a skill that I want to develop further and I hope that this approach will not only provide me with the data and information I need, but also give me an opportunity to develop this skill.
Score some Quick Wins.
With a solid understanding of where things are at, work out what tasks you can undertake that will require little effort, will have a high chance of success and result in maximum return. Remember, you are the new on the block and will be watched closely by others to see what you do and how you do it. What you do and how you do it will set the tone for future projects to want to undertake.
Find your allies.
With an understanding of where things are at and an idea of what you want to do, identifying others who can get on board early with you and help lead the way are essential.
In the video, “Lessons from The Dancing Guy“, the first follower ‘publicly shows everyone how to follow. Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it’s not about the leader anymore – it’s about them, plural. Notice he’s calling to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.’
You are not the technician.
In my first gig as ICT Co-ordinator, I was at a small school and we had limited technical support hours supplied to us by the Department. Because of this, I did a lot of those simple but annoying tasks like fixing printers, changing proxy settings and resetting passwords as I wanted to make sure that the jobs and tasks that were beyond my skill level were taken care of by the technician with the limited time we had.
When I changed schools, the size was much larger and I still continued to do a lot of these “fix it” tasks. I quickly burnt out doing these tasks and learnt that I could not do it all.
My approach now is based on the workflow from David Allen’s “Getting things Done”. Although I’ve pushed the time out to about 5-10 minutes, if a problem takes me any longer than that to solve their problem, I’ll defer it and get them to ‘log a job’ with the technician as it would be far too easy to loose my time to solving problems.
I also recently read about using students to run a “genius bar” that I am keen to explore further. I am also keen to setup a school wide online resource where people can source resources and answers; and hopefully get others to add to it over time.
Get Time. Get Support.
I have been fortunate in both ICT Co-ord roles I have had to be provided with a regular additional time allocation for completing ICT tasks. Again, this has usually been scheduled in bulk which has allowed me time to get sunk into a task without having to finish it an hour later. If your school truly values what you do and sees it as important, then you need to be compensated for it through time, support or money.
In addition to this, I was also offered any additional time release going due to people being absent and their being CRTs free. Having a list of simple short tasks at the ready made sure that this time was utilized effectively when it presented itself; often with very short notice.
You will often be the only person in your school in this role and at times it can be isolating. Getting in touch with other ICT Co-ordinators and joining (or establishing) a network of ICT teachers at nearby schools and sharing stories can be a great support. I regularly draw on this local group of teachers to help with technical questions or to get advice on how to best go about deploying a new tool or strategy.
Building a broader network is also important. Twitter and more recently Google+ have been invaluable in terms of connecting with other amazing educators across the state, nation and globe and has presented me with some amazing opportunities that I would have never known about otherwise.
It’s easy to always be looking ahead at the next big thing that you want to take on that taking the time out to stop and look back at where you have come often gets forgotten. Make sure you build in time to reflect on what has been achieved; regardless of how small it is. The warm and fuzzy feeling people will get from this will hopefully inspire them to go that extra step further.
To all new ICT Co-ordinators I wish you well in your new role and to those returning to the role in 2014 I hope the year ahead is successful for you. I look forward to using my blog as a tool to share my own journey with you.