Weekend Reading: Technology Leadership

In my new position as a coordinator for technology related professional development, leadership, and other odds and ends, I’ve been inundated with lots of great materials, both formally published, and informally documented, that speak to the need of greater technology integration. Many of the formal publications usually play more like an advertisement for the periodical’s sponsors (the 58 page October 2010 issue of Tech & Learning contains roughly 30 pages of actual content, many of which are gadget and software reviews). I’m not discounting the importance in maintaining commercial viability, but often when thumbing through a number of these types of publications, it’s difficult to discern articles that are legitimately written from a sense of journalistic curiosity.

Which is why I was a bit skeptical when starting in on the November 2010 issue of the District Administration. Someone within our school’s technology department recommended it to me, and had pointed out the article on Technology Leadership. While there appears to be a renewed wave of technology integration (based anecdotally on the number of laptop programs I’ve seen starting up here around Michigan), the article entitled A Call for Technology Leadership, is making a case not just for greater involvement from district leadership and the superintendent’s office in regards to technology, but rather a very hands-on “lead by example” approach to pushing technology within a school district.

ipad ans students
"Pamela Moran, the superintendent of Albemarle County (Va.) Schools, shows elementary students how to use an iPad in lessons. - District Administration" Ben's Thoughts: Great photo op, but slightly photoshopped, and very likely staged.

As I said before, sometimes the lack of authenticity in articles published in educational journals is a bit blatant (and I’ve been guilty of that myself), so getting past the photoshopped image to the left was a little difficult, but once past the completely staged photo opportunity, the article was a pretty good read about how CoSN, the Consortium for School Networking, has produced some good materials for helping a district create it’s own road map for technology integration. I know, I know, doesn’t that statement itself sound like a product placement? I’ll let you determine whether it is or not 🙂

CoSN’s call for greater tech leadership is broken up into 5 easy to follow imperatives, and I agree with them in principle, but the actual application of these 5 action steps is where it gets a bit dicey for me. For example, CoSN calls for district leadership to model the use of new communication technologies for the district (think Twitter and Facebook), and boosting the use of web 2.0 tools as key components for student and teacher learning. However, how likely is it that the superintendent of your school district serves as the chief curriculum and learning leader? Sure, many of them may play important roles in curriculum matters, but it’s usually a team of coordinators, assistant superintendents, building level admin, and teachers that do the heavy lifting for a district’s curriculum decisions. Considering that, other imperatives spelled out by CoSN for school superintendents such as providing PD and demanding a better balance of formal and performance based assessments seem again to be a better fit for a cross-curricular team rather than just the head of the school. Thankfully, Douglas Reeves, an educator who has worked with superintendents for years, called CoSN out on these imperatives, recognizing that while everyone wants the superintendent to be “in the thick” of everything to make sure he or she knows what’s going on, it’s more likely that a team made of admin and teachers will be making big decisions and leading the way for a district.

That’s not to say the superintendent should be discounted, as decisions made at the top, or at least decisions supported by the person at the top, are much easier to support district-wide. In fact, the intersection of technology and the real world that most superintendent’s, teachers, and other professionals experience is no different than the “intersection of content pedagogy and technology” quoted in the article that we need to ask our teachers to be doing. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter whether the superintendent is supportive of serious change in regards to fully infusing teaching, learning, and PD with technology, as the change NEEDS to happen, argued by several of the commenters in the article. The reality is that if the superintendent is “on-board”, or even better, is a passionate user of technology, then everything becomes much easier to change, implement, and connect on many levels.

While the image I reposted from the District Administrator is a bit staged, and looks a little silly, the superintendent in the picture, Pamela Moran has a lot of great quotes in the piece. Reflecting on assessment for one. Because even if you have a fully supportive and web 2.0 savvy leader, what good does it do if you have no effective way to assess the implementation of technology integration in the classroom? Rubrics are tossed out as a viable way to assess the progress of integration, assignments, and projects, but I’m afraid that’s not enough in this day and age. Hopefully, there’s a lot of good follow up with this piece, and for once, I’m really glad I picked through a journal like this to see what it had for me. I highly recommend the read, and some seriously reflective thought with a small group of individual’s in your school district. I’ll be doing the same coming up soon with my district’s technology advisory group.

If you have time this weekend, it’s worth a quick read, and if you’re a Diigo user, turn on your comments, notes, and annotations so you can comment on the ones I’ve left on the page.

Schachter, R. (2010, November). A call for technology leadership. District Administration, Retrieved from http://www.districtadministration.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=2645&p=1#0

image: 3D Team Leadership –  thegoldguys.blogspot.com


  1. Pam Moran is not fake although the picture does look off. She’s serious and backs up what she says. She’s pretty active on Twitter as well at http://twitter.com/#!/pammoran I’ve talked to her at a few VA things.

    I agree that rubrics are just a start (important in terms of making things clear etc. but a start nonetheless). We moved from rubrics being the basis for self-assessment and are actively using the rubric to gather division wide data using external teams. Next up are 21st century assessments for students based on the same framework. Progress but lots and lots of hard work.

    1. The picture really is unfortunate, as it appears to be staged, and the image in the iPad has been placed there via digital means (understandable as you wouldn’t be able to see what was on the screen at that angle anyways). I guess there’s actually a bit more pent up frustration when I think about photos like that. They seem to play into the whole “hey look, it’s new and shiney!” mindset that new technology will always be better in terms of education.

      As I said in the post, Pam does have a lot of great quotes, and I’m glad that they captured more of her than just the staged photo-op.

      In terms of assessment, we’ve barely left the starting blocks in my district. I don’t have the “authority” to decide how assessing teachers should take place (not that I want it), and many administrators in the district are uncertain about placing another level of assessment on the teachers, especially regarding technology, so I’ve started simply by introducing them to the NETS for students. Once I can get everyone on board with that (will probably take a year or two), I can move towards the NETS for Teachers and Administrators to better focus on how technology is being delivered and utilized. A bit backwards, as I would love to start from the top down, but as I’m still technically a teacher, I have to do what I can within the parameters of my job, and the comfort level of the district.

  2. Our school district in Siloam Springs, Arkansas does a great job of incorporating technology into the classroom. We recently built a new school with a new library and added technology. I know there is so much more room for technology improvement, however, we do very well with the expense budget that we have.

    Every student has the opportunity to use computer technology in the form of Dell, Apple, and other brands. We even have mini laptop computers that are available for loan out to some students. The mini laptops are even used in some classes to do assignments.

    Teachers even have the opportunity for technology training with certain types of technology and software programs. Paraprofessionals and other personnel have these same opportunities. Some of these training sessions are required for teachers who receive professional training hour credit for the sessions.

    Assessment is a big issue at our school as well. Each year teachers are burdened with new standards and curriculum to live up to. I am sure technology is a part of that. The problem is the school may soon face requirements of technology assessments of students. I am sure this is already being talked about in our district. Many schools probably already face this huge challenge.

    I think technology assessment should be a big part of curriculum. Yet, I feel that this assessment should be brought about gradually. Teachers, students, and other personnel should have amble time and opportunity to become proficient in any new technologies required.

    1. So when we start gradually assessing the use of technology, do we look at how learners are using the tools and functions that are hidden within those applications? (i.e. Johnny knows how to correctly format his title page). Or do we look at how the tool is being used to effectively demonstrate learning and growth in other areas (for example, writing and discussing persuasively in an effective manner through blogging and commenting)?

    2. At the high school level we look at (how the tool is being used to effectively demonstrate learning and growth in other areas (for example, writing and discussing persuasively in an effective manner through blogging and commenting). Of course, this is at the present time and level. I assume that life and technology will get even more complicated and sophisticated in the near future. Gradually, we will absorb the new technology and an increase in standards and assessment will occur.

      I think the actual knowing of what the technology involves and how it does what it does will come at a higher lever. This makes me wonder if maybe a technology level might be appropriate before college might be appropriate to assess students for technology credentials.

      1. We’ve hit a point of so much testing, assessments, and focusing on teacher performance as related to student performance that to ask our teachers to also assess for technological prowess would probably be met with lots of grumbling. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be a good idea, but I think we’d still have a lot of students at the adoption level, and would find it very hard to get past it.

        I like the idea of looking at how it’s being used effectively within other areas, rather than focusing on the tools itself.

      2. Yes, I agree that testing tends to go overboard. Teachers already have so many other things to assess and little time to do it. Teachers have other obligations and meetings to attend as well. I really don’t know how they find the time to do what they do now with all the policies, standards, and rules they have to follow.

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