Feb 10 2023

TCEA 2023: Speakers Share Lessons on Collaboration and Trust at Convention

Educators and administrators are responsible for building the skills to support future-ready schools, presenters said at TCEA in San Antonio.

At TCEA 2023 in San Antonio, a conference heavily focused on sharing best practices for marrying pedagogy and technology, several speakers shared lessons on leadership. In between sessions on cybersecurity, physical security, immersive technology, device management, professional development and more, speakers emphasized that innovation doesn’t just come from the top down. It can come from any member of the K–12 community bold enough to lead.

Below are five leadership lessons from this year’s conference to implement today.

1. Leaders Take Every Opportunity to Model Interactive Teaching

Discussing how to create future-ready schools, Tom Murray, director of innovation for Future Ready Schools, noted that administrators and teachers are responsible for creating a culture of innovative teaching.

He said that some administrators are guilty of modeling professional development approaches that are as rigid as some outdated classroom instructional approaches. In some instances, the focus is more on the number of professional development hours (or seat time for students) than the quality of the learning. He added that no one — neither students nor teachers — enjoys one-directional presentations with no interactivity or collaboration. 

“Faculty meetings and in-service time are tremendous opportunities to model the instructional practices we’re looking for from staff,” he said. He added that both teachers and administrators could make a lasting impact by intentionally creating collaborative, passionate and engaging presentations.

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2. Leaders Use Urgency and Collaboration to Promote Transformation

Michael Hinojosa, former superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, shared a lesson he took from John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School. Kotter noted that transformation fails for two reasons: no sense of urgency or no guiding coalition to solve the problem.

This idea became more concrete for Hinojosa in March 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown, when many Dallas students lacked devices to complete schoolwork as well as the home internet access to power them.

Hinojosa said he urgently started building a coalition to meet the need. He invited other school districts, local colleges and universities, government agencies, businesses, nonprofits, and even sports teams together to provide free internet access to students.

WATCH: See how network upgrades connect students to immersive learning experiences.

3. Leaders Use Technology for Empowerment and Enhancement

While some educators are excited about the transformative nature of technology in education, others are worried that it could replace them. Still, several presenters said ed tech is not a substitute for teachers.

“Immersive technologies are great tools, but they’re not the only tool,” said Chris Klein, head of education at ClassVR. “There’s an old saying that I like sharing: ‘Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer deserves to be.’ Virtual reality is not supposed to replace your curriculum or replace teachers. It’s supposed to enhance teaching, inspire discussions and bridge gaps.”

4. Leaders Take Time to Build Trust Across Teams

A lack of trust among team members can make it difficult to achieve goals, said Eric Moreno, director of network infrastructure for Rockwall (Texas) Independent School District, and Rikki Smith, director of instructional technology and media services. Both discussed how to reduce silos among teams by growing trust.

“To me, trust is transparency,” Moreno said, noting that IT staffers can help build trust outside of the department by being intentional about how they communicate with nontechnical people. “I can use technical language with my team, but I feel like my job as a director is to build a bridge to other directors or administrators or faculty, to where they come away understanding what I’m talking about.” He added that being willing to admit when IT makes a mistake can also build trust. 

A side effect of building trust? “Trust is vital to having healthy conflict,” Smith said. “Without trust, you won’t get beyond surface-level conversations.”

RELATED: Learn how IT leaders can use strategic communication to support tech investments.

5. Leaders Use Crises as Opportunities to Learn and Grow

Finally, Bryan Krause, an education strategist at CDW Education, emphasized the importance of taking a holistic approach to school safety that encompasses prevention, physical security, cybersecurity and social-emotional learning.

Krause noted that even when terrible things happen in school environments, school leaders must always be prepared for the next crisis.

“Our responsibility is to learn from that and to continue to grow,” he said. “Each one of us, as educators, needs to get better around school safety, myself included. I try to learn every single day, and the way that I do that is by keeping up to date on school safety, learning the best way to keep kids safe.”

Join EdTech as we provide written coverage of TCEA 2023. Bookmark this page and follow us on Twitter @EdTech_K12.

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