Sunday, June 5, 2011

Steps Toward Becoming a Technology Leader: Advice to School Administrators

“Change is a subtle thing. Change is sneaky. Although most of us are aware that something has changed in our lives, it is often very difficult to put our finger on exactly what has happened, how things have changed, or why things are different.”
Ted McCain and Ian Jukes, Windows on the Future

McCain and Jukes wrote that statement ten years ago, and the change they spoke of then is still raging today. Yet, we still have educational leaders and policymakers stuck in the old 20th century paradigms of learning. They still envision learning as knowledge to be memorized and classrooms where the teacher is the sage who imparts knowledge to the students. In other words they walk into classrooms with 20th century teaching expectations. Testing policies do nothing but reinforce those antiquated expectations.

It's past time to move into the 21st century, and the excuse-making needs to cease. As McCain and Jukes said, "It is a complete myth that change takes time.It is making the decision to change that really takes time." School leaders who are still waiting to make the decision to change are left behind. What then is a school leader to do in order to become a technology leader? Here's some steps to take to start that transformation.

  • Be a tech consumer and user. You can't lead others as a technology leader if you aren't a user and consumer. Make it a habit to experiment and try new technologies. Get an iPad, smart phone, and any other tech device and learn how to use them. Lead by example.
  • Learn how to talk the "tech language." You don't need to know everything, but you need to know the cutting edge terminology. For example, you need to know what a wiki, cloud computing, and a flash mob is. You learn these terms by becoming a member of the tech community rather than delegating it someone else.
  • Prepare yourself for messy innovation in the classroom. If you have 20th century classroom expectations, ditch them. The 21st century classroom can look messy, so you won't always see orderliness and desks in rows. You're going to see learning that isn't always compatible to the traditional idea of lesson plan.
  • Be a tech ambassador for the whole community. Proclaim loudly to all who'll listen how your teachers are engaging kids with 21st century technology. Invite them into your schools. Let them see firsthand how your teachers employ technology in the classroom. Bragging and boasting is perfectly acceptable in this case.
  • Show your staff the money. When your teachers want to try a new technology, find the money. Don't dampen their spirit of innovation by saying we just don't have the money. Compromise, bargain and enlist others to make it happen. Leaders can find the resources to make it happen.
If you honestly want to be a technology leader, you must let go of all 20th century paradigms about education.  It's way past time to leave those 20th century classroom expectations behind.


    1. I agree that current school practices have not changed in decades (maybe even centuries). However, the student-centered instruction you desire has little to do with technology. Instead, it has to do with the attitude/knowledge with which teachers enter the classroom. There have been student centered classrooms for millenia (Socrates) and certainly before the internet revolution. While we should use modern tech in our teaching, let's not assume using such tech changes anything about the pedagogy.

      Lastly, I'll add to your first suggestion. "Be a *critical* tech consumer and user". If we are just using technology to be "cutting edge", we will let the technology dictate our beliefs instead of letting our beliefs dictate our decisions. This shift happens quickly and subtly. We must guard against it.

    2. I must respectfully disagree. Modern technology has the potential to transform pedagogy, and because of the nature of 21st century students, we can't afford to teach the same old way they have been. The student centered instruction I suggest has everything to do with technology. I would agree that student centered learning has been around for centuries, but in American schools it has rarely been implemented. Technology has the potential to transform the way individuals teach by giving teachers the tools that can make learning more student centered. Thanks for the comment post.