A Classic Tale of Mistaken Identity:
How I Ended Up At An IT Leaders Conference
It all started a number of years ago when I was invited to be a member of a Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) Accreditation Team. If you don't know about this process, to contextualize this post let me first give you a little background. Each school within CAIS undergoes an accreditation process on a regular basis. An integral part of this process is a school visit/evaluation by a team of professionals who are assembled from across the country. As stated earlier, I was a member of one of these teams in 2013 and was invited to visit St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School in Oakville, Ontario. Prior to departing for the visit, my understanding was that I was asked to join the group because of my background in school leadership, leader development and pedagogy. Upon arriving in Toronto I travelled to the host school and met the other members of the team. When I received my nametag I noticed that everything was correct, except for one thing, my title. It read:
Principal of Technology
Quickly, as not to mislead anybody, I disclosed that I was in fact a Principal of Rundle Academy and even though I knew a little about technology, I certainly was not a principal of technology. In fact, to this day I have never heard of anybody who actually has had this role. Thankfully the group was dynamic, flexible and understanding and we each used our talents over the course of the next 4 days to give this school some great feedback on all aspects of their program. We finished the accreditation visit and I actively participated in the areas of school leadership, pedagogy and some technology. By the end of our visit my teammates saw clearly I was not a Principal of informational technology, I was a Principal of a school who had some background in technology. Never the less, in the CAIS community this title had some legs and before I could get out ahead of it, it got out ahead of me.
Before I knew it, I received a call from the Heads of Technology at Bishop Strachan School and Upper Canada College asking if I would be willing to help organize a national 'IT Leaders Conference.' This time, I had the benefit of knowing where they were coming from and what their misconceptions might be. To avoid any further confusion I disclosed that I was a school principal, not a principal of IT. At first, they were confused. As this confusion passed they, and I, saw the possibilities that came with having a Principal of school involved in the planning of an IT Leaders conference. Over the course of the next 18 months a team of 6 of us went on to plan Canada's first IT Leaders Conference for Independent Schools. In attendance were 100 of Canada's top technology minds and, as result of this confusion, a few school leaders as well!
As I took in the conference, I found I was asking myself, "Should the school leader have a seat at these types of conferences?" My answer each and every time is a resounding “yes.” What I learned over my time is that technology leaders are agreeing that it is not about the 'technology,' it's about 'how technology can support and improve teaching and student learning.' One keynote at the conference, Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura presented on a model that artfully demonstrated the connection between content, pedagogy and technology (see model below). What was most remarkable about the entire presentation to the IT Leaders of Canada was that was not about technology, it was about teaching and learning.
As Dr. Puentedura ended the conference he stated, "The higher we climb on the SAMR ladder (a hierarchical model for learning- see model below), the less and less important technology becomes." Maybe the most remarkable part of this statement is that 1) he said it to technology experts who often believe technology can solve all world problems and 2) the technology leaders overwhelmingly endorsed his comment and support his approach.
When I think about our larger school community, it is easy to transpose the above diagrams onto overall school success.
"We need to use technology, not for technology sake but for sake of teaching and learning."
If we agree on this statement, a leadership conference that has only technologists and technology leaders would work in isolation, that specialized group would not have the cross pollination of divers opinions and therefore would be considering technology in isolation.
To resolve this conflict I think we need to continue to approach learning with a design thinking model in mind. Design thinking is the kind of thinking which happens best when a group of people with diverse backgrounds comes together to solve mutually beneficial problems. Then, when the idea of design thinking is transposed onto educational technology, it is would be easy to see the importance of education and technology leaders,coming together to improve the overall learning of our students.
As incoming Headmaster of Rundle College, it is my hope that I will never be mistaken for the Headmaster of Technology. However if this mistake is made, I will embrace it and know that it is an invitation that might lead to future, unforeseen, opportunities.
To avoid future confusion, perhaps we can all agree on:
Jason B. Rogers
Headmaster of Rundle College
Leader of Learning Teams