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edtech integration needs leadership and vision

Drew Mayhills, Technology Innovation Coordinator at Shenton College, discusses educational leadership, technology and preparing students for a world beyond school.

Throughout the early stages of your career did you feel like you were properly prepared to take on leadership roles?

I started teaching English in a secondary state school at the end of 2011, although I have loved learning for as long as I can remember. Since that time, I have been fortunate enough to work across a variety of contexts – in public schools, private schools, tertiary education, disability-care and inclusivity education. Prior to my current role at Shenton College, I taught refugees in an immigration detention-centre. I think the most appropriate preparation for a leadership role in any industry is a strong foundation in the job itself. The first time I heard someone say that ‘you don’t need a title to be a leader,’ those words deeply resonated with me. I am grateful to have had several extraordinary mentors who started apprenticing me in leadership long before I even knew I could potentially be a leader.

In what way has the Leading Teachers Colloquium prepared you for the challenges of the modern school?

The Leading Teachers Colloquium has been transformative for me in terms of broadening my understandings of the challenges facing contemporary schools. I have come to better appreciate the systemic complexities of schools as organisations and also benefited greatly from practical advice on how to improve the quality of my relationships with individuals working in school settings. 

The inspiring camaraderie among the participants of the Leading Teachers Colloquium speaks to the quality of the experience: truly, they are a powerful reminder that in schools, the sum is much greater than its parts.

As Technology Innovation Coordinator, what would you say are the biggest hurdles to schools accessing quality education technology resources?

In my view, the biggest hurdles schools face are issues relating to leadership and vision.

That Shenton College recognised the need to create the role of Technology Innovation Coordinator is indicative of a progressive leadership culture that realised that simply investing in new technologies was not enough. 

My role is to ‘connect the dots’ through contributing to the ICT vision outlined by Senior Leadership, to collaborate with our incredible Technology Services staff and, ultimately, to empower our classroom teachers to be innovative in their teaching practice. This is not the case in all schools. Typically, leadership in educational technology is driven by administrative staff who are primarily based outside the classroom. 

One of the best parts about my role is that I still get to spend a significant part of my time in the classroom. This ensures that I get to do something I love – teach students through innovative pedagogies – while also evaluating the impact of new technologies and practices. I find great reward in then being able to share my expertise with colleagues through professional learning and coaching.

Virtual reality in the classroom at Shenton College

Virtual reality in the classroom at Shenton College

Any tips for how to integrate technology seamlessly into a curriculum?

In my experience, the meaningful integration of technology into a curriculum is rarely seamless. Getting that integration right – and ensuring that the learning is always privileged over the technology – is complex, and there are many factors to consider.

When technology integration appears to be occurring without a hitch, what you are really observing is years of hard work spent in the pursuit of mastery. Even the best-laid plans can go awry – and this creates powerful opportunities for growth and reflection. I have found it is really helpful to open up conversations with teaching staff by asking them, ‘What do you want the students to take away from this learning experience? What are the outcomes you are looking to achieve in this lesson? If we could do anything you wanted to teach this content, what would you want to do?’ When we open the conversation that way, I have found that the decisions we make from a technological standpoint are far more likely to be in service of the learning. The teachers tell me the what, it is my job to facilitate the how – and through that process, we strengthen our shared sense of why. It is a deeply collaborative process.

How do you see schools in the future using technology as opposed to how they do now?

I think the answer to that depends largely on how seriously school leaders take their responsibility for preparing young people for their lives beyond school. The responsibility of a school goes beyond getting a young person through Year 12 – we are collectively responsible for setting the life trajectories of many. I accept that it is a challenge for leaders to adequately plan the education of young people when many of those individuals will likely pursue careers that do not even exist yet. 

Increasingly, the research suggests that thoughtfully implemented educational technologies can lead to greater educational outcomes – both academic and pastoral – for staff and students alike. This is an area that we need to explore further, and explore critically through research. Irrespective of what the future presents, it is incumbent on schools – on school leaders and teachers – to develop students who have the capacity to thrive in an ever-changing world.

Drew Mayhills is Technology Innovation Coordinator at Shenton College in Perth. Drew completed the Leading Teachers Colloquium.

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