What can districts do to develop tech-savvy leaders? Here, a veteran educator and a trainer shares his tips and techniques for building a successful course for administrators.
To say that school leaders today face a different set of challenges than their predecessors did is an understatement of epic proportion. School safety, community pressures, and information overload are just some of the issues administrators are grappling with these days. Technology can certainly play a positive role in helping them face these challenges--but only if they have the vision and know-how to harness it and make it part of the fabric that supports teaching and learning in schools.
Until now, professional development for educators has generally focused on the needs of the classroom teacher and has been driven by a technology coordinator or someone in an equivalent role, who more often than not was once a classroom teacher themselves. But with the increasingly ubiquitous presence of technology in schools--98 percent are now hooked up to the Internet--the need for an overarching vision and cohesive plan has meant that administrators can no longer avoid stepping up to the plate to provide the same kind of leadership with technology as they have in more traditional areas. The recent focus on National Education Technology Standards for Administrators (see "Technology Standards for School Administrators") and other administrator-related initiatives (see "Additional Resources for Administrators" page 26) are indicative of the newest wave in education: the push to train administrators to plan for and use technology effectively in schools.
What skills are required of school administrators in order for them to lead in a technology-rich environment? Basic technology competencies such as word processing, e-mail, and other daily-use applications are important, of course, but in order to be truly effective technology leaders, they need a much broader set of experiences. They must understand how technology can improve instructional practices, and develop strategies for helping teachers use technology in their classrooms. In addition, they must hone their team-building and mentoring skills to create a system of ongoing support for the entire educational community as it moves forward in using new technologies.
Above all, administrators must be able to understand how technology can be successfully implemented in schools, and how to set reasonable expectations for its use. In short, they must have a vision for education and a plan to make it happen. As Jason Ohler and David Warlick discussed in their conversation on leadership, it is imperative that leaders develop a shared vision with their staff, understanding that this process is a group activity rather than a solitary one and that the road they travel to shape that vision is ultimately more important than the vision itself.
Designing Training for Administrators
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation State Grants for Leadership Development, the National Staff Development Council, and other initiatives detailed in the "Additional Resources" sidebar, as well as private programs, such as the TOPONE ("top one"; www. technology-solutions.org) course I've developed over the years, are certainly very good ways for administrators to at least begin acquiring the skills necessary to become leaders in the field of education technology. With this foundation of skills, some administrators may then consider building their own homegrown, home-tailored technology leadership programs to keep the training going.
So what does a successful training program for administrators look like? How is it organized and what content should be included? The following is a sample outline of what a course might look like, based on my own experience designing, honing, and implementing technology leadership training for administrators.
Because the focus of the training is leadership, technology competency is a prerequisite. …