Bringing technology into the classroom is a no-brainer for Daniel Frazier, superintendent at the Litchfield Independent School District in Minnesota.
“I’ve always felt that it is important we stay on the leading edge of technology and education,” Frazier said. “The future of our kids requires they know how to use this technology.”
And he’s done it, too. At his previous job in Iowa, Frazier took the district to a one-to-one computer model. His schools have been featured in the New York Times. And, of course, he blogs and tweets about leadership and technology.
“I want to be involved,” Frazier said of his online presence. “I feel there is a certain obligation I in my profession to work with my peers to share and connect.”
His connections have taught him about teaching students to create mobile apps and taught his teachers in Minnesota about him when he first took a position there.
“They had been on my blog and read about my ideas,” he said.
And one of those big ideas is leading by example; embrace the technology and the school will, too. Here’s what he’s learned along way:
Set the vision
Frazier believes that as a leader, it his job to set the vision for the school. Often teachers are focused on what’s going on the classroom and their curriculum. Educational leaders should help others see the bigger picture.
“It means staying on top of what is going on in the world around us, know how technology is changing businesses and relay that to your staff,” he said. “It’s a changing world with a changing landscape. My job is to maintain a vision and communicate that.”
Frazier’s current district emphasizes getting teachers out of the classroom. He likes to see teachers visit other schools or districts and go to conferences at the local, state and national level. That’s where they’ll see new ideas to embrace and build the confidence to put those ideas into action, he said.
Make a safe space
Frazier’s district picked one teacher with a knack for technology and gave him a new job — technology integrationist.
“It’s a thing that is becoming a word now because we need it,” Frazier joked. “His job is to coach teachers on a new pedagogy.”
Ideally it’s someone with ideas and know-how. But most importantly, Frazier said, it’s someone who can create a safe space for teachers to work out new ideas. It’s a low-pressure staffer, a peer, whom teachers can sometimes fail in front of as they try new tools. (Because, hey, failure is part of learning.)
Know where you are going
When Frazier’s Iowa district first went one-to-one with computers, the idea wasn’t to just bring in the machines.
The campuses focused on question-based learning. The district spent several years developing classes where students used research tools to answer questions they studied. When computers were added to campus, it was another piece of that puzzle.
“We knew what we were going to do with those computers when we started,” Frazier said. “What we said was that in order to take our learning to the next level, we needed more power research tools.”