Teaching Technology Leadership Online

Community leadership flickr photo by Lilia Efimova shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

This course couldn’t have come at a better time as I am currently co-developing an online course, as one of the subject matter experts/teachers, with my colleague Steve Wihak. The course is EADM 820: Leadership & Administration of Instructional Technology. This is a switch for me as I’m usually working with developers to support them.

So before I get into the details, I wanted to give a shout out to Logan for his find of a report on best practices in teaching online. He summed up the points well:

  1. Visibility – students may get caught up in text and forget the teacher is a presence in the digital classroom. Be sure to maintain visibility.
  2. Organization and Analysis – plan out course well in advance of offering it, provide timely feedback and be open to constructive criticism of your course.
  3. Compassionate – understanding the requirements of a teacher may actual be more personal than in a traditional classroom because some voiceless students may now have one.
  4. Leader-by-example – model proper behaviour and foster connections with students.

Those are things I very much want to keep in mind when working on my course!

Since this is an actual class that I will be co-teaching this summer, I am starting from a slightly different position than some of my classmates. My key student demographics are pretty set for me:
Key student demographics:

  • adult learners who are most likely 25 years old or older
  • primarily employed full time
  • educators, many of whom want to be involved in administration of K-12 education
  • graduate students
  • many will have families
  • relatively even split of genders
  • primarily from Southern Saskatchewan
  • likely high proportion of English-speakers

In short, our learners will be a lot like many of you in EC&I 834 (although I know not all of you are interested in education administration necessarily). My degree in EC&I has been a great learning experience to get more exposure to issues and people so I’m hoping to put some of that into practical application because I know something about the students. Also, my co-developer was a principal for quite a few years so he has some insights of his own. It helps to have some field experience of BEING the student!

The course will be a three week intensive which has really impacted things like making it personal. There are only so many hours in a day and I don’t expect the students to spend EVERY hour working on their course. So we can’t leave as much open. We wanted to have choice of modules, have students gathering and sharing materials. But there will not be enough time for nearly as much as we were hoping to do if in this three week span students must read all the material, grapple with it, respond to it, produce work, get evaluated. We are hoping to leave the assessment and activities more open and give some room to be personal. For example, we are building a bit of a survey/quiz to get everyone thinking about their personal approach to technology and their school’s approach to technology, then finding a way to represent how they fit into various labels/profiles. We want students thinking about how they feel about technology, how their school as a whole reacts to it, and to also consider the personalities they are going to be dealing with as a leader. Plus a bit of room for creativity is always fun because there are tons of ways to represent things:

xkcd self-description comic
Lots of ways to display info. Source: XKCD: Self-Description CC BY-NC

I am completely okay with the use of crayons for this quick project. Also, my co-developer and I are often very opposite in our approaches and we want to demonstrate that you can take on a leadership role with technology without having to be the tech cheerleader, and even if you are the tech cheerleader, you can also have other facets that balance that.

Because this is an existing course in a particular program (and thus has to fit with other courses in that program), we will be using UR Courses. I can grant access to everyone in this course, however, so that won’t be an issue. It doesn’t fit with my personal preference, and I’ll probably see how much of the material I can share more openly, but at least some of our activities will be built using that platform. When building within a program, especially for a 3 week intensive course, there just isn’t time to orient students to a totally different way of learning. I’m betting some of you can attest to the learning curve for a course like this one! Also, we want to give some protected space for saying things that might not be popular, thinking things through, without having to be as careful to match up with the opinions of a school board, a division, a ministry, etc.

So our mode is basically chosen for us. It will be online. With the condensed time, we also don’t want to get into synchronous activities because as much as we value synchronous encounters, this course is going to take a lot of time and different people work at different rates, have different commitments. If someone wants to work until 3am or work at 5am, we want to give them that freedom.

The plan is to do some scaffolding with the assessment. Still sorting out the particulars but, again, we want there to be relevancy to the students so there will be a lot of attention paid to the situations they are in. We do, however, want to push them to think differently, so for each of the “levels” we have chosen a different metaphor to help them think about it in a different way. We will also be using case studies of actual things that have happened or things that have been discussed to help root this in the world.

To help with that, our basic unit layout will be as follows:

  1. Leadership Theory Review – We assume the students have encountered leadership theory but we want to review it in this context. (my co-developer loves this stuff so this is his piece)
  2. Critical Theory – This is very much the position we will be taking and we want students to take so we are doing an introduction. (my co-developer also loves this stuff and has particular points he wants to make, so we have worked on this jointly)
  3. School Level – On to the practical! Time to look at leadership and tech within a very local setting by applying the metaphor of a play. Cast, scenes, conflicts. This is probably going to be the unit I use as my example for this course, although I’m hoping to have two.
  4. Division Level – Time to think about an ecosystem. Co-developer is a former science teacher so he’s going to start this one and then we’ll build up the readings and things together.
  5. Provincial Level – Metaphor of a sports team. Yeah, I don’t play sports so again, my co-developer is starting this one and then we’ll build together.
  6. World Level – I’m going on a trip and I’m going to take…? A trip seemed like the right metaphor when we will be looking at things that are happening in the wider world, both positive and negative.

The plan is for each unit to have forum activities that get students thinking, sharing, and interacting, and then use the 4 “level” units to build up to the major assignment. We have talked about all sorts of options but until we get more of the content nailed down, we are holding off. Both of us are the types who like to mull things in the back of our mind, then work when inspiration strikes. We’ve had some great moments of that so far. It helps that our offices are not much more than a meter apart and we often have our doors open.

As for having presence, we plan to mix in some videos, text, and images to help illustrate things so our faces and our voices will definitely be present.

At the core, we want to talk about who is advantaged, who is disadvantaged. We want to train our students to consider what oppressions might be happening when it comes to technology and how they could work to mitigate that, or at least prepare. It is no longer enough to just jump on the latest bandwagon or, conversely, hide and hope you won’t have to deal with it.

real bandwagon image
A literal “bandwagon”, whence the metaphor is derived. By FreekeeOwn work, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Smithsonian’s National Zoo Red Panda Rusty flickr photo by Smithsonian’s National Zoo shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

3 thoughts on “Teaching Technology Leadership Online”

  1. Hi Kirsten, how cool that you will be working with Steve on this! I used to work with him at Deshaye as well!
    There are many comments you make in your post that I agree with, including the attributes of a teacher online including *compassion*. Often something not examined in how we approach this online, but perhaps needs to be explicitly examined and model for our students. But what I also really appreciate is the fact that your course will use synchronis time for face to face encounters – my sentiments exactly.!! Encourages participants to maximize the f2f by engaging with eye contact. I intend to do the same with my faith-based DigCit grade 7/8 course!

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