Push Teachers to Keep Pace With Tech Use, Audience Urged

Daniel Frazier 
 Daniel Frazier is superintendent in Litchfield,
 Minn.
by Keren Yi

The digital era has challenged traditional ideas on classroom structure and teachers’ roles in guiding students.

Yet, paradoxically, teachers have become complacent about mastering technology, leaving it to their students to figure out and navigate.

Daniel Frazier, superintendent at Litchfield, Minn., delivered that message in his AASA conference session, Leading by Example: Modeling for Staff the Use of Tech. He called it a problem that school leaders would do well to eliminate.

“The key [to education] is critical thinking and problem solving,” Frazier said. In Bloom’s taxonomy of the learning pyramid, schools too often focus only on the two lowest rungs of the taxonomy -- understanding and remembering. The four higher rungs (creating, evaluating, analyzing and applying, in order of highest to lowest) in the six-level pyramid should be more of a focus.

“If we’re going to solve the education problem, we have to focus on critical thinking and problem solving. [To temper criticism,] we need to take a pro-active approach and point out how we’re changing education and making it better,” Frazier said.

Although technology does not have to be a part of this approach, it supplements the new approach well by giving students leadership figures who are willing and able to navigate the digital world that students themselves are so comfortable with.

“There’s no more powerful way to show leadership than through example,” Frazier said. A few years ago, he contended, “I didn’t get the Twitter or the Facebook. I didn’t get why people would update with pictures of their food. I didn’t get it. I said, ‘I think I’m going to let the younger generations solve that.’ But at a previous AASA conference, he heard speakers resoundingly call for leading through example. And I don’t know why I had to have someone tell me something that I should have already known myself.”

In the digital era, teachers are strongly recommended to not just encourage students to be involved in digital media, but also to actively take part themselves, in the knowledge that their example leads students.

“We need to be sharing news,” he said. “We need to be posting information to school websites.” Frazier encourages creating blogs, Facebook pages for school districts and taking part in other authentic ways to get involved.

“We want teachers who will keep learning, keep reading and keep current,” Frazier continued. “We want teachers who will search out new ideas and ways to share information.”

The means by which a teacher can stay connected can be surprisingly simple, ranging from being aware of and subscribing to RSS feeds, keeping on track with school updates through digital means and using Google docs.

“It’s a matter of priorities,” Frazier argued. “We have to reallocate our resources to make sure we’re carrying out the 21st- century message.”

Three speakers participated in the session through prerecorded videos. They were: Pam Moran, superintendent of Albemarle County, Va., Public Schools; Bradford Saron, superintendant of Cashton, Wis., Public Schools; and Eric Williams, superintendent of York County, Va., Public Schools.

“A related process in modeling [behavior for students] is encouraging others to model,” Williams said in his video stream. Ideally, other teachers should be encouraged by the examples of teachers actively becoming involved in digital technology and should follow their lead, he said.

(Keren Yi, a junior at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, is an intern on AASA’s Conference Daily Online).

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