A year in…reflections on a my first year as an eLearning Coordinator
This post is inspired by the Xmas end of year podcast by the EdTech Crew. The podcast was a Google Hangout with a collection of inspiring educators (Hello Mel and Lois!!) with the focus of the Hangout being to provide guidance and support for a graduate teacher who had also been appointed as an ICT Coordinator (Click on the link to listen to the podcast, highly recommend it. EdTech Crew Xmas Podcast). In my first year of teaching, I took on the role of District Sports Secretary for the whole of our school district which was a massive role at the time but with support and guidance (like the EdTech Crew podcast), I managed to find my feet and complete both my first year of teaching and the challenging leadership role. 15 years on and I have now just finished my first year as an eLearning Coordinator and so I write this post as part reflection and (hopefully) part guidance/support.
First off, I must lead off with stating that I love my job. In my spare time, I am always playing, tinkering, finding, solving and challenging myself with technology. Being passionate about what you do makes work feel like play and people can really sense that. I also believe wholeheartedly that technology when driven by great pedagogy can transform learning for all learners. This authenticity also helps validate your credibility with other staff.
So here a few things that I have learnt from my first year in the role…
The job of the eLearning coordinator is to help with the successful integration of technology. However, with that being said, success in the role relies more on the person that you are and how you manage yourself and your relationships than your knowledge of technology. Don’t get me wrong, knowledge and capacity with technology are extremely important but in this role, who you are and how you do things are number one.
- Be positive, optimistic and proactive. Be open when you don’t know something but proactive in developing a solution.
- Be genuine and responsive. Sit in on classes, attend team/faculty meetings, meet face to face with staff, catch staff members for a coffee. Show that you are willing to learn about the way that people operate. This will provide greater insight for your own planning as well as increase your standing with staff.
- Take more time to get to know staff. Actively listen to them to learn about the intricacies of their contexts. Context is a huge factor in the success of your ideas and initiatives. The greater your knowledge of the various contexts at your school, the greater your opportunity for success.
- Take stock of your progress by regularly looking back at what you have achieved. Forward focusing all the time can be a big drain on morale if the workload is heavy.
- Find platforms to showcase the great work of staff and students. Once you spark creative conversations between staff members, you build momentum. Try to keep this up by championing staff of all capacity levels. If you are rolling out new technology, have a small group of staff members (mixed capacity levels) beta test the technology. Having advocates of all skill levels will help inspire all staff.
- Celebrate the big wins & little wins. I worked with my Director of Staff Learning and Director of Well-Being to develop a Staff Professional Learning Newsletter called Connect-ED. This magazine was designed to share the professional learning that staff had undertaken, celebrate the innovative use of pedagogy, spark conversation and to build collegiality. I used SimpleBooklet to do this. It is very easy to use and allows for great dynamic content to be shared.
- Learn, learn and more learning. Find manageable feeds to feed your learning and support your role. For me, Flipboard and Scoop.it capture everything from RSS feeds to Twitter hashtags to Google + hashtags.
- Use web tools to make your life easier. I use Trello to manage daily workflow as well as to manage project timelines and tasks and it works on all devices. Use IFTTT (If This Then That) recipes to capture web content easily. Find an organiser that works for you…for me it is Evernote. Using IFTTT recipes and tags, I can easily find great resources to share with staff or to fuel an idea.
- Be flexible and firm. Know when you bend and flex and when to hold your ground. This one is inspired by some marriage advice I was given about “picking your battles”. Suffice to say on that front, I’m still losing the war ; )
- Have fun and play. If you are passionate about this role, it is a great role. However, like all leadership roles, you can lose yourself in the day to day existence so take some time out for yourself to keep play as an element in your role. Every holidays, I would keep every Tuesday free for myself and would head in to the State Library (great Wifi, location and inspiring context) where I would work on creating, building, exploring or writing. I would not use any of this time to check work emails or other mundane tasks and these small windows of personal time helped rejuvenate me for another big term of work.
- Find like-minded people to bounce ideas off and find folks with different perspectives to challenge yours. I have been lucky enough to have found a few great mentors on staff and their perspective and advice have been pivotal to my development as an educator. Develop your Personal Learning Network. Connect through Twitter, TeachMeets, curation, conferences and any other form that you can think of.
- When talking to staff, don’t lead with technology. Talk about learning. The possibility of enhanced learning is why we are using the technology in the first place. Talking about learning also reduces staff anxiety about their capacity with technology as you are speaking a language that they are familiar with. Take plenty of notes (old school way or Evernote, whatever works for you) and use your organised information feeds to provide possibilities. Your role in the conversation is to listen, hear and then see the possibilities. Couple this with a good knowledge of context and a dedication from both parties to work together will help to find solutions that will have longevity and will help transform the learning.
- Work with staff teams and staff collectively to develop a vision and plan for the future. Think Big picture and then work to marry this to the day to day existence. Everyone needs a plan and the best plans are developed collaboratively with buy in from all key stakeholders. Tie your goals to the key strategic goals of the school. This will help with traction, take up and support. Bringing about change requires a great plan, collective buy-in from all on the journey, time, plenty of highs and lows, hard work and more hard work and flexibility to adapt and recalibrate.
- Be prepared for meetings and then also be prepared to throw the ideas to the curb if need be. Sometimes the best laid plans just fall flat.
- Form a good working relationship with your technical team and support. I regularly annoy our team by asking “Why?” and “Why not?” Learn about how your system works and this will help the ideas that you are trying to get off the ground succeed.
Someone asked me the other day what my vision for my role was. I told them that I wanted my role to be obsolete in a few years. If I have done my job correctly, all staff will be equipped with the capacity to use technology to transform the teaching and learning in their classrooms and there would be no need for my position. I know it seems silly to try to work myself out of a job but I do believe that innovative use of technology led by innovators and hard workers will transform education. I hope my reflections have been helpful.
Best of luck!