ABC – Always Build Capacity

by Jean Tower


Remember that scene in Glengarry Glen Ross (a 1992 film written by David Mamet) when Alec Baldwin’s character, Blake, berates the other sales people? He flips over a blackboard which has two sets of letters on it: ABC, and AIDA, and says, “A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing! Always be closing!”

I have an ABC mantra that I like to keep in mind in my work, but it isn’t Always Be Closing. For me, ABC is Always Build Capacity. As instructional technology leaders, facilitators, and supporters, we have to remember to always be building capacity.

When a teacher (or administrator or student…) asks for help on something, if we simply do it for them, we are not building capacity. Instead we are building a culture in which technology is magic and only the technologists can wield that magic and others are helpless and dependent, disengaged, bystanders and spectators.

When we take every opportunity to build capacity, the culture can be so different. It becomes (or can become)an energized and collaborative hotbed of innovation, with lots of local experts. Colleagues learn from each other and from students and from their personal learning networks. Change happens at a faster rate, and now the tech department is challenged to keep up rather than acting as the keeper of the magic.

Always Build Capacity, in action, does not have to be daunting for the tech novices. We can demonstrate “how to” first, then do it again step by step, then coach the educator through it. We can support this with online tutorials and screencasts so the skill isn’t lost the next time they need to use it. For many, an effective model of professional development is to present on a topic for five to ten minutes and then to give teachers a series of challenges to work through. Meeting the challenges boosts the learning and teachers tend to own it more quickly. It is capacity-building!

In schools where there are a good number of early adopters, Always Build Capacity spreads more quickly. There are lots of experts to help other grow. In schools where the culture has not encouraged teachers to own their own technology and goals for learning technology, it may be a little slower to get started, but identifying the tug boats and empowering them can be a catalyst.

How do you embody Always Build Capacity in your school or district?

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