Administrators and Technology – Are We Seeing the Signs of Change?

My last few administrator trainings – for OCDE‘s AB 430 Module 3 program – have left me thinking that perhaps I’m seeing a change in trends. Some of the change was deliberate on the part of myself and the other trainers and organizers, and some of it may be an indication of large-scale change slowly taking place.

For my part, during the year and a half I coordinated Module 3 for the Institute of Leadership Development at the OCDE, I purposefully integrated emerging technology and pedagogy into the administrators trainings. Before I left, I was responsible for a re-write of the program and explicitly included such topics as these:

  • 21st Century Skills
  • The Read/Write Web (Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, Online Surveys, etc.)
  • Creative Commons
  • Video Games in Education
  • Customization for individual district’s contexts.

The fact that I was writing these segments (and more so, the fact that the state department of education approved them in the context of AB 430) says a lot about the changing context in which administrators are being trained and expected to operate. However, what the administrators are bringing in with them says even more…

At the first training of the year back in September, which I led with Christine Olmstead of Brea-Olinda, the administrators were definitely not beginners. Even when I started training (in January 2005) many in each session needed help creating their first PowerPoint and were proud when they presented their slides to the board, or to their staff, or to parents. This year, though, our “Professional Presentations with PowerPoint” segment (which discussed basic how-to’s, basic slide design, and annoyances to avoid) was almost completely unnecessary and we had to move quickly to challenging them with things such as embedding media, using hyperlinks, creating non-linear shows, and exploring ways their teachers could run gameshows with PowerPoint (such as “Jeopardy” or “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”) These folks blasted through every technical segment we had prepared, and were well aware of the issues we had to discuss. (These were still great discussions!) Interestingly, though, many of them were assistant principals and reported that there was still a generation gap between them and their principals.

Last Wednesday was the most recent training I lead with the new coordinator, Ted Lai. At this training we also saw an overwhelming percentage of administrators who knew the technology basics and the issues. During the welcome activity we heard descriptions of schools with many smart boards, laptops to check out, and many more exciting technologies… and exciting examples of use. Luckily, Ted had completely revamped the presentation segment with a bit focusing on presentation style, citing resources such as Presentation Zen. (You’ve got to see the Yoda vs. Darth Vader post… and the Gates vs. Jobs post.)

In retrospect, I recognize that this was the trend at the end of last year, before I left the county. I was more and more amazed by the stories the administrators brought into the trainings, and they were more and more excited about topics such as the read/write web and video games in education.

Perhaps some slow and sustainable forces of change are at work here?

I would find it hard to believe it’s just the administrators we’ve happened to train… or that its just Orange County. Are any of you seeing similar patterns?