How much technology does a school need and how does a school leader ensure that the right technology is in place? Well, those are a couple of tough questions but since administrators are paid to make the tough decisions, allow me to offer a few thoughts on the process. As I mentioned yesterday, my motto that I pass on to my graduate students in the school principalship program here at Central Michigan University is “technology cannot be stopped and youth will be served.” As we all know, it is a never ending challenge to stay on top of technology developments, even just a “slice of the pie,” such as those that impact teaching and learning. No one person can do it, let alone a principal who has myriad other duties. But, again, that’s part of what we are paid to do, so how does one tackle this issue? Here are a few ideas.
1) Cozy up to your technology director. Like a lot of other aspects of leadership, trust and delegation are going to be key. A tech director should be a bountiful source of information that you can filter through your leadership lens and apply to your school.
2) Remember that newest is seldom best in a school setting. The “latest” technology (e.g., Vista) is going to cost more and not be compatible with a lot of your current hardware and software. That is something of a blessing in that dollars are so tight to begin with, at least here is one reason to hold off on buying new hardware & software.
3) Even though we may delegate some of the work in this area to others there is no excuse not to stay on top of it. Resources that are helpful include: The International Society for Technology in Education; my local favorite, the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning; and, of course my national favorite, School Tech Leadership.
Tomorrow I will talk about personal productivity in technology for school leaders.
I’d like to add one thing:
Support innovation even if you don’t completely know about the particular technology involved.
If a school has an open, creative and supportive climate, then innovative teachers can run with ideas, which they will then share with other teachers.
It seems to me that too often in schools–we have teachers willing to innovate and create but they aren’t trusted professionally enough to give them the freedom to do so, and are treated paternalistically by the organization.
A true leader supports innovation, asks how they can help, and helps remove obstacles as only an administrator can.
Students can be a source to help identify the latest tools and often know what’s free or low-cost. I’ve done some work with Julie Evans on the Speak Up Day survey and it seems like a great way to gauge the desires of your community as well as their expectations about technology.
Scott, I would add that technology rarely works across the entire environment. Certain tools work for certain teachers. Allow things to grow incrementally with interest from those teachers. Perhaps it will spread, but likely it will not. No need to buy 47 Smartboards if 4 will do.
Every now and there is the killer app. The laptop might be one of those, but again, let interest (student and teacher) help guide implementation.