As positions begin to developed for the following year, in many school divisions/districts around the world. I have been asked by several people about my own position, the work I am doing/plan to do, and the title. As many of you know, the title of my position is “Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning” which is quite long, but I think the important part is that it focus on “teaching and learning”. It may not be the perfect title, but I think it does say some things. I really believe that our focus as educators always starts with learning (for ourselves and our students), but as Greg Whitby recently said to me (paraphrased), “there is no great learning without great teaching.” There has to be a focus on both.
Now although my position does largely involve using technology, it is not the focus of what we are trying to improve. I have been in many classes watching a teacher discuss with their students proper ways to hold a pencil so that they can improve their writing, yet we have no “pencil integration coordinators”. As we continue to develop positions to support the learning that happens in classrooms, is it not important that we include learningin the title?
So why do I think that this is so important? Through my short time in this position, there are a few things that have stuck out to me. First of all, it is the conversations that the title does start. Often, there is some amazing work and ideas coming from “educational technology” named positions, yet there is a misnomer that when the “ed tech” person walks in the room, the focus is now going to be on technology, and perhaps off of learning the other, or even worse, the “important” stuff. This for some, shifts the focus away from learning and technology is seen as an isolated component of the school. When people ask me what my title actually means, I talk to them often about the importance of working with students in a collaborative model, giving them the opportunity to not only be consumers of information but also creators, and the idea of personalized learning, amongst other things. I talk about how technology may facilitate this in a powerful way, but there are other opportunities as well. It is the conversation that focuses on the big picture ideas, not only on a component. I have found value not only sharing my thoughts on my job, but also the discussion and learning from the thoughts of others that I speak with as well. Anytime we can have conversations about learning, aren’t we better off?
The other thing that the title has done has helped me focus on my own role. It would be really easy to get caught up in the amazing tools that I see every day (SQUIRREL!), yet I know that my position is always focused on the idea of helping to improve teaching and learning. Many times I have watched the quick tutorial on how to use different websites or tools, yet we often go through them so quick, we lose the depth that we are looking to provide in learning. Narrowing my focus has helped to focus on depth, not necessarily breadth.
Now I know that many of my colleagues have “technology” in their job title and I know that they are doing some amazing things so this is not calling for a mass change. I do however think that as we develop new positions, we have to really think about the language that we are using and what it says to our staff, students, and communities. Sometimes when people believe that there is a mass focus on technology, it turns them away from it. There are too many things that we can do because of technology that this would be a huge loss to our kids. At the end of the day, as Chris Lehmann says, “technology should be like oxygen; ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible.” So why do we keep putting it in job titles?