Are Ed Leadership programs still leading? [guest post]

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All the talk of technology integration into the curriculum, blended learning environments, and the explosion of online learning has me thinking: How are universities preparing leaders for an increasingly technological world?

On July 4, 2007 on this very site, Scott wrote, “School districts, state departments, the federal government, corporations, and foundations have spent a lot of time, money, and energy on the technology needs of students and teachers. We have seen very little concurrent activity on the behalf of administrators, despite the fact that if the leaders don’t get it, it isn’t going to happen.

The die was cast at least three and a half years ago (truthfully… long before that).  Surely Ed. Leadership programs nationwide have been preparing digital age leaders to carry the torch back to their school/district and empower their staff to integrate technology. If not, why? Certainly, finance, law, organizational theory, and human resource courses are the foundation of programs across the country.  Isn’t technology as relevant in 2011 as these courses?

Leaders have limited time and increasingly limited resources. Pre-service and practicing leaders should be learning to use technology to create solutions to problems such lack of time, lack of communication, and the sense of isolation that they feel as they try to address the needs of teachers, parents, district staff, and students.

  • Are leaders using mobile devices to get into classes and address e-mail on the go or are they still tucked away in their office sifting through hundreds of e-mails?
  • Are leaders cheaply, quickly, and easily using the school website to inform and promote the school or is it outdated, cluttered, and otherwise useless?
  • Have leaders begun building Professional Learning Networks to stay informed about effective strategies and of the changing face of education or are they isolated in their schools speaking with a few other administrators about what they read in the paper and in few professional journals?
  • Are administrators conducting walkthroughs using mobile devices such as iPods/iPads and using surveys built for free on Google docs or are they paying for software (or, worse yet, still using paper and pencil)?
  • Are backpacks still being loaded up with letters for parents (fundraisers, PTO reminders, monthly newsletters, etc.) or are leaders using software to create school calendars that parents and staff can sync to their own personal calendars?  Are school messages going out on Facebook and Twitter (I’ve heard those sites have a few members).

These questions just scratch the surface of the training we should be providing. Universities have been known to support, lead, innovate, and get students to think critically. In order to continue to fulfill these responsibilities for school leaders, covering technology in one class isn’t sufficient. So I revisit my original question: How are universities preparing leaders for an increasingly technological world in 2011? Which programs are the most successful at meeting this challenge? Who “came out swinging” as we were called to do so long ago?

Jason LaFrance is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Georgia Southern University. Previously he served as an Assistant Principal at an Apple Distinguished School and Positive Behavior Support Model School in Florida. His research focuses on technological innovation in leadership preparation and practice. He can be reached at www.jasonlafrance.com.

13 Responses to “Are Ed Leadership programs still leading? [guest post]”

  1. And in reality we have only scratched the surface to bring about change in K-12 and higher education! Thanks for pushing my thinking!
    Bill

  2. Reform? Transformation? The whole idea of education has been swept away over the last twenty years and schools are dead institutions standing, waiting for just the right gust of wind to blow them over.

    There never have been very many flexible leaders in our schools and no amount of work addressing the bullet points above will afford the control our school managers are so desperate to exert. The only way out is through. And the only way through is with our parents and students and our communities from the bottom up. It is our abdication to school leaders that has led us to this horrific mess.

    I know this sounds very harsh, but we can’t trust our children to leaders who think they can manage the near chaos that is the learning ecosystem we now live in. We need leaders who feel comfortable working with emerging systems whatever, wherever and however they present themselves. To think that schools of education can ‘produce’ these flexible and adaptive folks is pollyannish at best and blindspot nuts at worst.

  3. Terry,
    Thanks for your response. I respectfully disagree that schools are dead institutions although I do feel the winds of change blowing. The custodial role of schools alone necessitates that brick and mortar schools will continue to exist, although I believe a drastic transformation is underway. These changes will reflect the needs of society (thus the growth of blended programs, online learning, etc.).

    The chaos that you mention as the learning ecosystem is reflective of the issues we face as a society. Personal responsibility has never been more sorely needed. Today we see parents and communities working together to start charter schools and they become…school leaders (facing the same challenges). Leaders in any setting (who happen to be parents and community members along with the many other hats they wear)certainly benefit from programs that provide theoretical perspectives to support sound decision making in real world settings.

  4. Sady, I think educational leadership programs are not developing leaders who understand the role of technology in teaching, learning and leadership. The problem is that programs are grounded in a view of education that hasn’t changed for decades. Until the paradigm of education on which these programs have been developed changes, we’ll continue to get more of the same lackluster leaders coming from ed leadership programs, unless ed leadership students take it upon themselves to understand the new reality in education. I’ve seen a limited, out-dated view of education in action in “highly regarded” programs from my own personal experience, and I also see it in programs colleagues currently attend. The cost of this? As you say, “If the leaders don’t get it, it isn’t going to happen.” As a result, a vision for an updated paradigm of education isn’t even on the radar for most school leaders.

    • Thanks for the comment Randy. I believe that your experiences are common although I believe that change is coming (albeit slowly and late) as a function of the natural interests of new faculty members and the wide need for support in this area…or maybe I am an eternal optimist. It’s hard to imagine this disconnect continuing infinitely.

  5. Jason,

    I will graduate with my M.Ed. in Educational Leadership in a month and sadly the use of technology for an administrator was not covered. One of my professors thought Facebook was horrible for anyone to use in the schools. We did the typical coursework with leadership theory, supervision, finance, law, etc.

    A question for you: I will be pursuing either my Ed.S or a doctorate in educational leadership. Do you recommend any programs for me to look at? The program will have to be mostly online due to my location and family.

    • Tom,
      Congratulations on earning your M.Ed.! The professor who felt that Facebook is bad is certainly not alone. Scott had recently touched on that in a blog here on the site, http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2011/10/districts-are-still-fearful-of-teachers-communicating-with-students-using-facebook.html.

      Picking a program is an important and complex decision. All programs are not created equally and only looking at online programs will limit your choices. You might look at the University of West Georgia. http://www.westga.edu/eddsi/

      I can’t guarantee if that will meet your needs and have no personal experience with the program. I am just aware of it and have spoken with some of their faculty at some research conferences (good people).

      In Georgia you need a performance based Ed.S for initial leadership certification. You should check the requirements in your state before looking at a program. If you plan on moving into higher ed. you should also speak to faculty members at places where you might like to work to see how they perceive the institution you are considering.

    • Hi Tom,

      Our School Tech Leadership courses should be ready to go at U Kentucky by Fall 2012: grad certificate, Master’s, or Ph.D., all online. Contact my CASTLE co-director Dr. Jayson Richardson, jayson.richardson@uky.edu, to get your name added to our list of interested people!

  6. Arguing for the custodial view of schools is alone evidence of the failure of educational leadership in particular and schools in general. That our leaders have allowed these institutions to become daycare shows me they are unfit to manage much less lead.

    There are a few places that are working to make the status quo work, but they are the few on the beach with clasped hands waiting for the wave that is sweeping forth. OK, that is hyperbolic. the failure I see is slow motion as in frog-in-a-slowly-heating-pot-of-water slow.

    This site is titled ”Dangerously Irrelevant”. Those two words describe the status quo. They also describe your words
    ‘Leaders in any setting (who happen to be parents and community members along with the many other hats they wear)certainly benefit from programs that provide theoretical perspectives to support sound decision making in real world settings.” Wake up to the empty resonance in this sentence. For whom doth this bell toll? It tolleth for thee.

  7. on this very site, Scott wrote, “School districts, state departments, the federal government, corporations, and foundations have spent a lot of time, money, and energy on the technology needs of students and teachers. We have seen very little concurrent activity on the behalf of administrators, despite the fact that if the leaders don’t get it, it isn’t going to happen.”

  8. Even if we agree that “best interests of the child” is the gold standard for deciding these questions, there is disagreement about how that test is to be applied. How does this “best interests” test interact with the rights of individual adults to establish and/or maintain nurturing relationships with the child and to make decisions that promote their own goals for a happy and productive life?

  9. It is obvious that the leadership in charge of improving our educational system has a lot more work to do to satisfy the demands of today’s’ technology needs. Much has been invested in technology to prepare students as they are ready for the world that awaits them. However, too much remains to be done to respond to technology skills that Educational Leadership programs are not able to provide.

    Our educational leaders have too much to do to figure how to improve a broken system. Technology skills will be left up to the students to

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