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- Are leaders cheaply, quickly, and easily using the school website to inform and promote the school or is it outdated, cluttered, and otherwise useless?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.