For years, conversations about the end of traditional schooling as we know it and the beginning of an era of digital education have gained traction. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, educators got an unexpected crash course in online learning. School leaders had to adapt to remote online learning quickly. However abrupt the shift, educators worldwide accomplished the transformation, developing new tools to facilitate this move. Whether strictly online, in-person or a hybrid of both, the pandemic has irrevocably changed the classroom, and schools have a strong drive to integrate into the digital era.
According to Munirah Khalid AlAjmi for ScienceDirect, “More than 128 million learners in over 190 countries have been affected by school closures during the pandemic…Teachers have had to upgrade their digital literacy skills as both users and educators, playing a primary role in encouraging learners to embrace technological literacy.” From Zoom to Google Classroom to several interactive apps, educators who once may have been unfamiliar with technology have had to learn as fast as possible.
So, it’s completely understandable why it may be frustrating for some people to start making this shift. “Many administrators want their schools to lead the way with technology, but there’s a disconnect if the administrators themselves don’t know how to use the technology,” notes Victoria Thompson from Edutopia. The author proposes that principals start seeing themselves as educational technology leaders and suggests that “[r]outinely working with the same tools that your faculty and staff use gives you the opportunity to craft realistic expectations for how hardware (tablets and computers) and software (word processors and multimedia presentations) can be used.” This represents the most basic first step to enter this new frontier, but, as a leader, one must go above and beyond.
Teaching the Teachers New Methods
To aid with this, the Office of Educational Technology has a website with guidance for educational leaders adapting to the online learning landscape. A particularly good piece of advice is to prioritize professional learning for teachers: “Just as the students learning with digital tools need time and support from schools and districts, teachers, too, need investment in professional learning from your digital learning leadership team.” Although most teachers already have some knowledge by now, taking the time to get familiar with applications, websites and programs will create the base for more robust development of educational technology in the classroom.
School leaders should not only consider offering professional development for teachers but also seeking out this knowledge as a principal. Lamar University’s Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Educational Technology Leadership online program, for example, offers courses like Designing Online Learning, Sharing Resources for Digital Environments and Assessing Digital Learning — which can prepare educators to excel in these roles.
We shouldn’t envision technology as a foe but as a friend. Integrating it into everyday school tasks and lessons can immensely improve the communication among school staff members, students and parents. Teaching students how to properly harness the technological tools at their disposal is also of utmost importance, as they need to learn to be responsible internet users. Overall, the best way to tackle technology use is to develop a plan and a shared vision that aligns with the school’s values. Having a clear goal will help avoid wasting time purchasing expensive gadgets and apps that will go unused and help leaders evaluate the success of the integration into the digital realm.