What Does Smart Leadership Look Like?

Article excerpt

Dear Readers,

Welcome to Technology & Learning's June Leadership Guide 2004. Now in its 24th year, T&L remains, as ever, a resource serving K-12 educators in the business of managing, teaching, and training with technology. With this annual special end-of-year edition, we forego our regular monthly reviews and departments, to specifically focus on issues and solutions of concern to superintendents, technology coordinators, principals, and other school and district leaders. To that end, we are pleased to begin this month by reacquainting you with our advisory board and regular contributing editors ("22 We Count On," page 10), whose collective expertise in the field represents an impressively high percentage of the current brain trust in the education technology industry. Among these 22 professionals you'll find authors, national-level advisors, journalists, techies, innovators, and well-known industry gurus--all educators--whose ongoing insights and opinions augment the eyes and ears of our regular editorial staff.

There is much to examine and reassess concerning education leadership in today's budget- and resource-challenged environment. What does leadership really look like in the year 2004? More to the point: what qualities are essential for effectively leading students into a future we can't yet clearly imagine?

For one: vision.

In such times of rapid technological evolution and global, economic, and political uncertainty, big picture awareness is key to a vision that charts the right course into the future. An awareness of the ever present digital divide remains a major issue, for instance. An arguable 98 percent of schools may be hooked up to the Net, but what is the quality of student and educator experience online? Are teachers receiving the sustained, high-level training they need to be "highly qualified" in these technology-driven times? Are female students assuming leadership roles when it comes to technology? To what extent is the speed of Internet access driving another wedge into the gap? We know that customizing learning experiences to meet students' special needs is central to achievement. What virtual learning experiences are being made available for students needing opportunities and exposure beyond the district's abilities? How do emerging technologies fit into a district's strategic planning?

It is also crucial that leader awareness extend to security issues and their legal and ethical implications for schools. Without question, the technologies of the past 20 years have effected sweeping changes that cannot be ignored. Last winter, the FBI raided a middle school in Arizona for copyright violations. Around that same time, the social security numbers of an entire freshman class at the University of California were accidentally published on the Internet. Many schools are enforcing bans on cell phone--enabled digital cameras in locker rooms. And the unprecedented amount of digitized personal student data moving back and forth through a given district's firewalls is more vulnerable than ever to predators who have easy access to a range of free hacking tools online. Put simply, to be unaware today is to be liable.

Another aspect of awareness is an understanding of the responsibilities and issues facing staff in all job capacities under a leader's purview. Do classroom teachers have the tools and training to take advantage of efficient e-communication devices such as e-mail and class Web sites? Is the principal equipped to select the most appropriate information management system to streamline the assessment and reporting required by NCLB? …