Talking about ICT leadership in education #edchat #edtech

Education, as a system, has been modelled on an industrial, chain-of-command organizational structure. If we were to draw the system as a triangle of power, it would position the School Act and government policy at the top of the triangle, and then chains of command would be revealed through multiple streams: political, professional, and community-based interests.

The political chain of command starts at the Minister of Education at the provincial level. The Minister of Education is an elected representative at the provincial level appointed by the Premier of the Province. At the district level, the School Board is comprised of elected community representatives. The School Board is charged with the task of overseeing the implementation and management of the school budget as delineated at the provincial level. Between the provincial and local elected positions there is a chain of paid bureaucrats who contribute to provincial educational policy initiatives as they are informed by the School Act. The School Board is responsible for administrating human resources in the district, including teachers. This responsibility includes ongoing professional development for teachers.

The professional chain of command is an interleaving of institutional interests, which overlap with political structures. There is the professional accreditation body, which grants teaching licenses and oversees licensing concerns – this body ensures the School Act is instituted in the professional development of teachers. The preparation of teachers for the profession of teaching is done by accredited universities, in British Columbia there are seven teacher education programs. The chain of command for teacher education programs starts at the university level, with the governance of university policy and programs.

The Faculty of Education is a subset within the University structure, and the Dean of the Faculty of Education oversees the operations of the Faculty of Education. Within the Faculty of Education there are several departments, each with their own Department Head. There are also program centres, working in affiliation with numbers of departments and under the auspices of the Faculty.

The Teacher Education Program draws instructional support from the various departments in the Faculty of Education under the direction of an Associate Dean. Within the Teacher Education Program, each department contributes Tenure Faculty, Sessional and Adjunct Professors, Seconded Instructors, and Graduate Students to teach the courses of the Teacher Education Program. Teacher Candidates are accepted into teacher education with a Bachelors degree from other academic disciplines, or they may complete their undergraduate program within the Faculty of Education and acquire the credentials to gradate from the Teacher Education Program. Upon graduation, they are accredited to teach within the provincial school system.

The community chain of command is organized by a system of Parent Advisory Councils. The chain of command for Parent Advisory Councils flows from the Ministry of Education, with policies delineating Parent Advisory Council activities in relation to the policies delineating professional and political activities. Each school has its own Parent Advisory Council, comprised of the parents of students in the school. Each district has a Parent Advisory Council, comprised of parent representatives from the school-based PACs. The province Parent Advisory Council is comprised of representatives from the district-based Parent Advisory Councils.

Although there are efforts to base top-down policy initiatives on input from the grass-roots level, there remains a distinct separation between the realities of day to day teaching as experienced by teachers, students, and parents, and the policies initiated at the top of these chains of command.

Because of this historic separation, teachers have grown cynical toward politically motivated, or bureaucratic policy initiatives. In the case of teachers with decades of professional experience, this cynicism can be manifested as resistance or opposition to directives from outside their direct social circles. Teachers have developed cultural practices that have proven to be highly resistant and resilient to change in practice.

The intrusion of ICT into educational life has been perceived by teachers to be another form of top-down chain of command decision making that is out of touch with their daily reality of teaching. They have not been involved in the decisions that rationalized this intrusion. They were not prepared to change their teaching practice to incorporate ICT for teaching and learning. They adopted the same cynical response that has hardened them to pay anything more than lip service to the next ‘big idea’ emanating down the chain of command from political appointees.

Teachers have not been prepared to lead ICT incorporation in educational institutions because they have not had a chance to develop their own philosophical, curricular, pedagogical, nor technological perspectives and practices. They have not had a chance to consider the significance of our ubiquitous use of ICT outside of educational institutions. They have not had a chance to consider the significance of incorporating ICT within the life of educational institutions.

These are cognitive, cultural, and technological concerns that teachers need to address to simply stay current with global developments associated with human involvements with ICT. There is another significant problem, though, that educators are failing to address. Without ICT leadership from educators, we have no societal response to guide our uses of ICT. The cognitive, cultural, and technological development of our citizens is being left to informal, ad hoc clusters of people engaged in using digital technologies. We are seeing how our involvements with ICT in human society are changing the course of human history for good and ill. We have no systems in place to guide the formation of civil, socially just, environmentally sound, responses to these changes. I argue teachers, rather than being at the end of a chain of command with respect to ICT in education, need to be at the forefront of developing our cognitive, cultural, and technological development.

Teachers have the unique position in society of engaging in formative relationships with each successive generation of citizens from their earliest days. We should be preparing teachers to be leaders in the field, not only to take full advantage of the ways students’ academic success can be enriched, enhanced, and enabled, but also so that our future generations have the cognitive, cultural, and technological skills to ensure our uses of ICT are amplified in human society for the good of all concerned.

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