Reflections on Technology Leadership


At the beginning of this summer I was fortunate enough to attend the Principal Training Center’s Technology Leadership course in London. While a few weeks have passed, and I am already focused on the school year ahead, I wanted to reflect on a few key take-aways from the course.

Remembering the why

All too often, technology initiatives are developed simply so that a school can say that they are using the most current gadget or platform available. It is easy to be wowed by a new tool or learning platform, and particularly in competitive environments, there can be an urge to buy a tool first and then figure out how to incorporate it later. But effective integration of technology in education should mean that teaching and learning outcomes are the drivers of technology decisions. Before an organization rushes to incorporate the latest and greatest tool, they should start by consciously identifying learning outcomes that they hope to achieve, and have a clear and defined rationale of how student learning needs to develop. Only then should they begin to identify technology tools that will help the organization to reach its goals.

Mindfulness and using technology with purpose

Similarly, once technology tools are in place in schools, they need to be deployed and used in an authentic and meaningful way. While I personally feel that the SAMR model has been beat to death in ed tech circles, it does remind us that we should not simply be replicating traditional activities with technology, but rather striving to use technology in a way that furthers understanding and pushes student inquiry to the next level.

School vision vs technology vision

Often there is a disconnect between the larger goals of a school and those of a technology department. Some technology departments will even go so far as to create their own vision and goal statements. But really, the technology department vision and goals should be the same as those held by the larger school community, and educational technology should simply be one of many tools that will help the school to succeed in meeting its targets.

Celebrating successes

This point is one that is really common sense, but something that I wanted to flag and remind myself of. A lot of great things happen each day in many classrooms across a school, and its important to champion those who are working to effectively incorporate educational technology. Particularly in environments with varying levels of comfort and experience with using technology in the classroom, it is critical to celebrate where achievements are being made.

Now here’s to a great 2014-15 school year!


Embedding Professional Photos for Free

Getty Images has recently launched a new tool that allows anyone to embed the professional photos in their catalogue on non-commercial websites free of charge. When hovering over images in Getty’s massive catalogue, you’ll now see a button to embed a chosen image. Copying the given html embed code will allow you to easily insert this image on your site, with proper attribution included (like the one you see here below, which is one that I have licensed with Getty):

As a Getty contributor, I have mixed feelings about this newest move. I realize that photos are used all the time without respect to copyright (I get many  hits each day on my photostream from Pinterest, for example, even though I’ve never shared anything there), and can see this as a move to at least start acknowledging others’ work. But I wonder how much incentive is left both for clients to purchase my images, which are now freely available in the public domain, and for photographers like myself to continue to contribute them.

I love the idea of sharing and collaboration, but I worry at the same time about a future where people expect everything for free. While this post pertains to photography, I see similar discussions happening around all sorts of other creative industries from music to graphic design. I love getting things for free too, but I certainly don’t like working for free. Fortunately for me, photography is a passion and a hobby and not a source of income that I rely upon, but I worry about anyone who is trying to make a living off their creative talents. Aside from ‘credit’, what is their incentive to create new work?

Joining the Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer Community

ImageI am honoured to have been recently accepted to join the worldwide community of Google Apps for Education Certified Trainers. While this designation allows me to better offer training to my peers and colleagues working to effectively implement Google Apps in their classrooms, it also allows me to personally connect with a fantastic group of like-minded technology educators. This is particularly important, as, as far as I can tell, I am currently the only Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer in Korea!

It always amazes me at the amount that educators are willing to share and collaborate even if it means no obvious immediate benefit to them. Google Apps for Education are a fantastic resource to employ in any classroom, but their dynamic nature means that functionalities and tools are updated and change on a regular basis. Having access to a global community of fellow trainers means that I can help the learners and educators that I work with to stay on top of these developments, and have an overflowing talent pool to tap into should I encounter problems that need solving.

The process for becoming a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer is a long one, and one that is itself undergoing changes. But if you’re looking to explore Google Apps for Education further, I’d recommend you start by exploring some of the training opportunities online (and keep an eye open for upcoming changes and updates), or even better, by attending a Google Apps for Education Summit in person. These resources will help you connect with passionate Google Apps users and trainers on the way to building your own global learning community!

Researching Google Style

I recently was able to present a couple of sessions at the first Korean Google Apps for Education summit, held at Seoul Foreign School. These events are always high energy whirlwinds, and I’m always left impressed by the many innovative things that people are doing with their students.

In one session, I focused on using various Google tools (Google Scholar, News, and Books) and conducting smarter Google searches when undertaking research. While the slides from my presentation are really just an outline, they may help to build an understanding of just how much is possible when you dig deeper with these very helpful free resources.

As with most things Google, the various interfaces, toolbars, and menu options for these tools regularly change as the products are improved. In its attempt to simplify things (which will be appreciated by the majority of users), advanced settings and features can sometimes become hidden away. But these options can be critical to allowing users to explore the full potential of a given tool, and so it’s worth spending some time playing around and finding the settings and filters that can help you to become a more effective researcher.

Today I read a Book to Teenagers…

An actual, made out of dead trees, book. With pictures. To 16 and 17 year-old IB Diploma students. And they loved it.

Many, if not all of our students in international schools are stressed and juggling (perhaps too many) commitments as they work towards illusive goals. It’s so important to remind them to stop sometimes and do something different of their own choosing, like reading for pleasure, that they can enjoy.

After my story was done, we all had a blissful twenty minutes together of sitting quietly in the library and reading whatever we felt like.

In case you’re curious, here’s the video version of what I read to them:

A Library Start-up Year in Review

As the school year came to a close, I thought it important to reflect on the progress that we have made in developing an effective library facility and in delivering excellent services to our school community thus far. Often working in isolation or only intermittently with various constituencies in a school, the work that we do in libraries can sometimes fly under the radar. The annual report that I’ve drafted (below) is an attempt to highlight some of the work that we have been doing. There are of course still many challenges ahead, some of which I’ve attempted to identify in the report, but I feel that on the whole, we have accomplished a great deal over the past ten months.

Google Teacher Academy

Sydney, I barely saw thee.

Sydney, I barely saw thee. © Brian Farrell

The past few months have been quite busy, but most definitely busy in a very good way.

After attending the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute in Bali in March, I was fortunate enough to also be accepted to the most recent Google Teacher Academy as part of the Google Certified Teacher program. Completing these two programs so close to each other gave me a better understanding of the ethos of both companies and how they are supporting education, and I know that I have already benefited and grown professionally from these events.

The Google Teacher Academy, held at Google’s offices in Sydney, was a very intense few days, but I certainly appreciated the hands-on sessions and practical nature of the event. All of our discussions seemed to be very much rooted in growing our pedagogical practices, and there was a buzz of energy as people shared how they are using Google’s products to enhance learning in their classrooms.

What I probably appreciated most about my experiences at Google was the collaborative nature of our activities there. Googlers (Google employees) and lead learners (Google Certified Teacher alumni) worked together with us to regularly share and learn from one another. Much like what I could garner from the culture of Google itself, there was a very flat hierarchy and an openness to working together regardless of position or stature. This learning continues online within the network of connections that I have now established with fellow Google Certified Teachers.

The next Google Teacher Academy will be held in late July in Chicago, and I would fully encourage anyone who is working with Google tools in their classrooms to consider applying. While intense, the event itself and the community it connects you with represent an incredible opportunity to grow your understanding of educational technology and how it enhances learning.