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The Power of Teachers

March 29, 2010

A recent study of 1:1 effectiveness cited teacher implementation as the most crucial determiner of success or failure in a 1:1 initiative.  This should not surprise anyone.  Take out the phrase “1:1” and insert any educational initiative or program, the result is the same.  The most crucial determiner of a reading program, math strategy, etc is always the willingness and ability of teachers to implement the program with passion, enthusiasm, and a focus on continuous improvement.

In Chapter 6 of “1:1 Learning: Laptop Programs that Work” Livingston lists crucial elements in getting teachers to buy in and become leaders in effective 1:1 implementation.  Here are some highlights:

  1. Give the teachers the laptops before you give them to the students.  This should be a “no-brainer.”  We have all used a piece of technology that is new to us and we all know there is a learning curve.  As children we must learn to run and kick before we can put these skills together and be able to play soccer.  In the same way, we need time to learn how to use a piece of technology before we can learn how to use it for learning.
  2. Train a group of tech-savvy students to support teachers.  This one is crucial and something we have worked hard on in my current school.  We have a large number of digital natives that laugh in the face of Youtube and scoff in the face of Google Docs.  The fear no technology and they can be an outstanding resource if we first ask them, second empower them, and third (and most important) become willing to learn FROM them.  This paradigm shift is significant and is one we have discussed before.  Some teachers will find it difficult to learn from students, after all, they are the students and we are the teachers.   If they know more than we do then why are we sitting in the big desk?  The answer of course is that they don’t know more than we do, about the content that is.  They have expertise in using the technology tools, we are experts in content.  If we combine those areas of expertise there is no limit to what we can do.
  3. Reach out to master teachers and early adopters.  Leadership does not come solely from the principal’s office.  In fact in the best schools it does not even come primarily from the principal’s office.  The primary source of leadership in highly effective schools is from teacher leaders who have been inspired and empowered by their administrators.  Each teacher will come into the initiative with their own areas of strength, interest, and comfort.  If you have a teacher who really takes off with a certain tool or project, share it!  We have done this through formal and informal means including demonstrations by staff members that are seeing success in using certain tools, programs, or methods.
  4. Schedule regular, varied, informal learning opportunities.   I have chosen to begin this process with voluntary weekly learning opportunities.  Each week we discuss a different program or tool.  So far we have had a few sessions and some teachers have come every time, some have come to one or two, and some have not come to any.  At some point the expectations to utilize these tools will be laid out but by training early adopters and the eager staff members early, when that time comes we will not only have a significant amount of support but we will also have a cadre of proficient users and great examples to learn from.

There is no question that teacher buy-in is crucial.  By planning, discussing, and utilizing strategies like the ones listed above we can gain the teacher support that leads to successful implementation.  Never underestimate the power of teachers!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Nick Boots permalink
    April 1, 2010 7:31 pm

    I like the comment that if you put anything in front of educational initiative the teacher will be the key to it’s success. How true, teacher buy in and implementation is vital to the vision. That’s why strong leaders better be able to defend the vision.

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