Empower Digital Leaders
Technology InnovatorsWe have many great technology innovators in our international institution. A strategy to support them requires as a preliminary step to identify who these various actors are. Some have already been identified and organized:
- Tech ambassadors program established leaders
- Tech crew program for aspiring innovators
- Admin and leadership teams
- Users who are not yet tech ambassadors
- Onboarding users who are not in the tech crew
Tech Ambassadors ProgramWe initiated a thorough review of the main axis of our strategy to support and empower the learning leaders at Kaohsiung American School: the existing KAS Tech Ambassadors program. The following document details the origins of the program from its inception to its self-determined mission. It further examines the accomplishments and challenges that have been met leading to a reflective piece by Victor on its past 3 years. Tom develops the existing foundation into a the leadership platform it needs to become. The main component is to encourage collaboration within the group on a variety of levels and media.
InceptionThe Tech Ambassadors program is the logical place for us to start. It debuted in 2013 under the influence of Melinda Martin who was then working on her final project 2 for COETAIL: Going Bigger. Her goal was to tap into our own faculty to offer consistent professional development throughout the school year. Originally conceived as a series of weekly workshops called “Tech Tuesdays” organized by and for KAS professionals, her project’s main benefit was to identify, recognize and publicize who amongst us were the tech innovators. This team became known as the Tech Ambassadors.
We selected 10 users in our then team of 60, carefully picking the tech inclined amongst all departments. Although not all chosen necessarily identified as “geeks”, they all clearly demonstrated promising skills in terms of tech integration. Today the nucleus of the original group remains, and the ambassadors who left have been replaced. In the words of Diana Beabout, the Tech Ambassadors are the “lighthouses of KAS”.
MissionThe mission of the tech ambassadors as established by themselves in 2014 is to:
“Transform the environment through modeling the integration of technology. Promote and encourage the KAS community to share, explore and celebrate learning.”
Our original path to accomplish this mission was by conducting workshops throughout the year, actively curating the Knowledge Base -a series of self-help articles on all topics-, and coaching other users on technology. Beyond the official recognition as Tech Ambassador, we offered each the opportunity to attend one tech conference every two years and to spearhead all tech pilot programs throughout our institution.
AccomplishmentsThe first year was very strong. Their first speed geeking initiative helped recognized the worth of our faculty and the contributions of individual teachers. This format was presented to the board in a very successful mini-session. Tech Ambassadors workshops were offered every week throughout the year including during the 3 PD days scheduled in 2013-2014.
The Tech Ambassadors literally decoupled our efforts in term of PD. Beyond this strength, they are also an invaluable resource as the early adopters of pilot deployment in technology. Chromebooks, flat screen TVs, wireless document cameras, Apple TVs all get tested out in their trenches before being released to the rest of the campus. These initiatives makes the Tech Ambassadors feel special and really help in determining the future of technology rollouts. They were invaluable in assessing the technologies to be adopted on our new campus. The positive feedback on these has been immense since day one which I fully attribute to this team of beta testers.
A correlated development from the Tech Ambassadors are the regular unplugged meetings lead by our COETAIL graduates. Each monthly discussion opens with challenging readings and videos which prompt passionate debates in an informal context. Although the core group of unplugged attendees are Tech Ambassadors, the meetings are open to all and allow to extend our influence to the early majority (see Diffusion of Innovation Theory via Diana Beabout).
ChallengesIn its 3rd year now, the program has lived through some challenges and setbacks from which we continue to learn. The first of these took place last year when all PD days were requisitioned towards the move to our new campus. The impact of this scheduling change became very obvious by the end of our first quarter. We lost a lot of momentum and the new recruits were not exposed to the culture of technology integration we had developed previously. It was compounded by a request from the Tech Ambassadors to not have to present so many times throughout the year to allow a variety of approaches in their interventions:intervention in department meetings, blog posts, publications, KB articles, 1-on-1, screencasts. This translated into a decrease of workshop offerings during the first semester further reducing the visibility of our program. We eventually changed course to bring back weekly workshops in the second semester.
The variety of approaches is welcome but keeping track of each opportunity proved to be challenging. We setup a Google form to record each opportunity the Tech Ambassadors had to train another colleague but the form had little success despite regular reminders. At our meetings, it was clear that actions were taken but without any formal data collection, it was nearly impossible to evaluate our impact.
We have sat in too many wasted meetings where the power of all is entirely wasted on reading a list of announcements which deserved no more than an email. With this suspicious mindset, the Tech Ambassadors have met very few times -sometimes as little as 4- each year. We have now realized that it is better to improve the quality of the meetings than to not meet at all. Regular schedules have been set for the year and Tom and I are working on creating even more opportunities with the Tech Ambassadors.
We offered attendance to conferences and sent Tech Ambassadors to Learning 2, 21CLHK and Google Summits. Surprisingly not all Tech Ambassadors seized the opportunity. I consider this to be wasted chances and I hope we can gently nudge them to attend these super-charged professional development whirlpools in the future.
With a solid foundation of hardware, combined with a motivated staff, KAS is an institution ready for a coaching initiative. My challenge is to help start and guide that process.
How can we use the current foundation to help empower teachers?
Space and TimeTo build a culture of sharing, teachers need to be given space and time to discuss their ideas and practices with each other. Offline spaces combined with face-to-face opportunities to meet will give teachers a chance to share ideas, lessons, failures, and successes with each other. This can lead to more confidence with themselves, better relationships with their peers, and innovation within the community.
- Sharing space in the form of a website or blog
- Social media presence
- Discourse forum
I founded Tekiota (http://tekiota.com/ ) to share how-to's and tech tips, and each newsletter also includes a “Tip of the Hat”, an award that recognizes colleagues for extraordinary work.Moving forward, Tom is interested in also creating a shared space where outstanding practices can be shared with the whole community. There are many possible uses for this including: sharing exemplar processes, sharing outstanding work, notes and recaps from meetings, and technology tips for users. I imagine this to be started by the coach initially, gradually including other innovators to contribute as they can.
Twitter and Social Media
For real-time information, social media is great for sharing experiences, practices, and technology integration. Twitter and Instagram are used by all to make learning visible using the hashtag #KAStw.