Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

A Matter of Principals: Administrators Have Much to Gain from Learning How Technology Can Be Used Effectively in Education, but Often Are Left out of Professional Development Programs. Two Initiatives Are Intent on Remedying That

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

A Matter of Principals: Administrators Have Much to Gain from Learning How Technology Can Be Used Effectively in Education, but Often Are Left out of Professional Development Programs. Two Initiatives Are Intent on Remedying That

Article excerpt

SCOTT MCLEOD SAYS the great sin in the way professional development is provided in this country is one of omission. On his blog, McLeod, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University and the coordinator of the department's Educational Administration Program. writes. "Most of our school leaders have received no training whatsoever when it comes to 21st-century schooling.

It is not totally their fault, he says. Few higher ed programs for administrators even have a course dealing with digital technology, and if they do. the course generally covers basic software, not leadership. Neither school districts nor professional organizations offer workshops in the area either. As a result, no movement can be made toward 21st-learning environments: When leaders are clueless about technology and the impact it can have in classrooms, they are powerless to change their school or district into one that provides tech-enabled instruction for students.

Asked if there is any hope. McLeod, who also serves as director of the University Continuing Education Association's (UCEA) Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE) at Iowa State. the nation's only facility dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, points to programs under way at Chicago Public Schools and in the state of Maine that both provide ongoing and structured opportunities for principals to learn and share experiences and support each other. "They have different approaches for different purposes." McLeod says, "but both are trying to help principals understand the power of technology so that their schools can move into the 21st century."

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Chicago: Informed Decision-Making

As Shawn Jackson, principal of Chicago Public Schools' K-8 Spencer Elementary Technology Academy says, "There is a lot of professional development for teachers, but they were leaving us principals out."

Five years ago, Gerald Beimler, the district's director of IMPACT (Instructional Management Program and Academic Communication Tool) training in the Office of Information and Technology Services eLearning, set out to remedy that as one of the first undertakings of the then newly formed department. He wanted to bring principals together to provide them an overview of what technology can do for their schools.

More than 100 of Chicago's approximately 650 principals took Beimler and his group up on the offer of a two-day workshop, and at the end of the workshop, the principals said they wanted some professional development for themselves. Thus, the Principal Technology Leadership Institute was born.

"We want principals to develop a vision for technology integration in their school building, use multiple measures of data to drive decision-making, and improve their technology skills and knowledge," Beimler says, outlining PTLI's goals. He also hopes that through attending the institute, principals will familiarize themselves with the national educational technology standards set forth by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)--all the while getting some local academic credit for their participation. The principals meet quarterly for face-to-face sessions and are assigned to small study groups to complete their homework. Some study groups meet in person, but a few are incorporating online tools for their meetings.

Chicago Public Schools developed the content jointly with ISTE and continues to use ISTE's tech-savvy "eMentors" as cohort leaders who conduct the face-to-face meetings and monitor the online responses. "Our e-learning people host face-to-face homework sessions and study halls to assist participants in creating and posting things like the vision statements they create," Beimler says.

As assigned to do by the institute, the principal conducts a walk-through of his building to assess the extent to which technologies are being used and what they are being used for. …

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