Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Empowerment: A Dirty Word or Needed?

EMPOWERMENT. The word itself sounds ominous and risky. In a session today I led on "Creating Technology Expectations for your Educators" I realized I kept saying the word "empower" often. Empower your innovators, empower your tech coaches, empower your students. But what does empowerment look like? What's that really saying? I think it means words like "trust," "freedom," "support," and "rights." To empower someone in their role means all those things. It means believing they have the skill set needed to be in control of whatever it is you've entrusted them to do.

As a technology coordinator, to be empowered means that my school district trusts my knowledge of edtech to make wise choices for my school in regards to technology integration. It means they trust me to create avenues of learning that meet teacher and student needs regarding educational technology. As a technology coordinator I have been entrusted (or empowered_ with the task of being both a visionary leader as well as supporting the faculty, staff, and students in educational technology integration at our school but I do not make these decisions in a vacuum. 

So many of my cohorts are expected to support but they are not given the empowerment of visionary leadership. It is part of my job to immerse myself in current edtech trends and have the knowledge of future edtech trends. Recently, a really amazing instructional technologist in Tennessee has left the instructional technology realm partially because she was weary from "the fight."

Empowerment is a big deal. It can be grassroots empowerment where coworkers view you as knowledgeable and seek you out or it can be top down where administration empowers an individual to make decisions and create opportunities. A lucky group of educators feels they are empowered in both directions. I've had that opportunity. It's a great warm fuzzy of truly feeling accepted for your worth. It's the sweet spot that comes and goes like most sweet spots do.

Empowerment is a word that the ISTE standards speak into over and over again. Student Standard #1 is "Empowered Learner," the first heading for the proposed Teacher Standards is "Empowered Educator," under the heading "Excellence in Professional Practice" in the ISTE Administrator Standards it says "promote an environment of professional learning and innovation that empowers educators..." Oddly, or not so oddly in my eyes, the ISTE Standards for Coaches does not mention the word empower once. I believe that is because it is assumed because the first standard is "Visionary Leadership." 

I don't think empowerment means a constructivist theory in terms of free reign. I think empowerment means within boundaries. I think the issue with technology integration is it is so all encompassing in all parts of education that it feels intrusive. And that intrusiveness has come quickly into the educational arena. It is my hope that balances can be found before more great educators get too weary to fight the good fight. 

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