Growing up in the suburbs there was a distinct feeling that spring brought every year. As a student it was exciting because the end of school was approaching and that meant summer was near. In my backyard however, spring told a different story, one about hard work, diligent care and maintenance, and then life. It’s the story of the typical small farm like the one that bordered the house I grew up in.
Each spring, usually in March, you would see the tractors coming through the fields turning over the soil. The process takes some time and would require hours and hours of work just to get the ground ready for the next step in the process. After the fields have been turned, seeds are dropped in the rows formed by the tiller and then everything is covered over by the ground in an organized manner so to protect the seeds from the 100’s of birds, mice, and anything else interested in a meal of seeds. Fertilizer then jump starts the growing process providing the nutrients necessary for growth. Now that the seeds are planted it’s time patiently wait and monitor the growing process, fine tuning the process by observing, providing just in time support when necessary. If diligent enough through the process, the seeds begin to grow and at the end of it all yield a good crop.
To be honest my limited knowledge of farming probably shortchanges the process, but the spirit of my farming description is a direct analogy to the process we must take in fostering the growth of technology in our schools.
In much the same way sprinkling seeds on a patch of dirt yields little in return, the diffusion of technology in our schools must be given a more well planned and patient approach. Framing the conversation through the analogy above, I have listed below some of the steps we can take to become keen technology facilitators.
- Prepare the fields and planting the seeds- In the early stages beginning to prepare the environment for a shift is critical to the success of any technology program’s growth. Much like our farmer friend making sure that the capacity of the environment to support growth is critical be it teacher, device, or network capacity. Depending upon the program to be implemented, the farmer (technology integrationist) must assess the needs of the environment in order to prepare the environment for the roll out. Anecdotal evidence along with data and a coherent vision can smooth the process.
Once the needs assessment is complete planning and executing the development necessary to sow the seeds must be done. I think worth mentioning here is that though planning is important, innovation doesn’t occur in a linear fashion and so it must be said that over-planning isn’t necessarily the best option. Where the crop really benefits is in the next stage
- Tending the crop- Any good farmer closely follows the growth of his crop, taking note of which parts of his fields are growing faster than others, noticing deficiencies in the plants growth, and finding what timing works best for the continued growth of the crop all the while providing that just in time support that can make or break the growing season. Like the farmer technology and instructional leaders we must constantly tend our schools watching, listening, and taking note what works and what doesn’t. Providing technical support, coaching, or professional learning opportunities can add to or take away from the growth of any technology program. Being agile and responsive to the needs I would argue is not only good practice in technology leadership but leadership in general.
- Being patient and harvesting- One of the biggest struggles I have had in my transition from classroom teacher to technology administrator is patience. In the classroom I had immediate control of the days activities, and that I felt made it easier to monitor growth and adjust my instruction. In my new role those changes happen slower, the signs of growth or struggle may not be as clearly visible, and the field is constantly changing, making the job that much more challenging. Be personal in your leadership talking to people noticing trends and once again being responsive is something that can help produce the biggest growth. Naturally, it is important to reflect on growth and so steps 2 and 3 of this blog should happen over and over again until the desired outcome is reached.
Being a farmer is hard work and much like the farmer the harder and the smarter we work as technology leaders, the bigger the yield will be. As the old adage goes, you reap what you sow.