Effective school technology implementation does not occur if there is not effective leadership in place to make it happen. It takes a lot of vision, passion, resources, and coordination, vision, to bring technology (or any new resource or practice) into an organization to make a positive impact on learning and teaching. The school leader is the key player in these areas. Leithwood and Riehl (2003) highlight the importance of school leadership by noting that it is second only to instruction from teachers when it comes to impacting student learning.
I’ll echo Todd Hurst’s thoughts that effective school technology leadership does not differ greatly from good school leadership. Leaders set a vision, share the vision, outline expectations, make goals, and then monitor performance toward that vision (Leithwood & Riehl, 2003). The work of Anderson and Baxter (2005) and Flanagan and Jacobsen (2003) also speak to the importance of the leader having a vision about the use of school technology.
The school leader must have a good understanding of best instructional practices and pay attention to their effect on student learning. The use of technology can be considered a best instructional practice, but tech use can’t be “business as usual with computers” (Bosco, 2003; p. 15). Flanagan and Jacobson (2003) share that, “Merely installing computers and networks in schools is insufficient for educational reform” (p. 125). We need to move past the focus on acquisition of resources, and put work into using those resources to have an impact on learning (Bosco, 2003). This type of instructional shift is where leadership really matters.
The provision of staff development has been identified as an important school leadership factor by Leithwood and Riehl (2003), and is also noted as key for the implementation of effective school technology programs. Bosco (2003) shares that professional development is essential for schools to move beyond the mere presence of computers, to effectively using them as a teaching and learning tool. Flanagan and Jacobsen (2003) show how student technology use progresses from productivity, to foundational knowledge, to the desired level of using technology for communication, problem solving, and decision making. Staff members will need to make these progressions themselves before they will be able to help students do the same. Professional development is the means to make this happen. Not only should school leaders make staff development available, they can also help these changes occur by modeling appropriate use of technology themselves (Anderson & Dexter, 2005).
Resource acquisition and alignment were identified as indicators of effective school leaders by Leithwood and Riehl (2003), and these skills are also important for school technology leaders. Bosco (2003) states that “creative leadership can find ways around the limitations of funding” (p. 18). I don’t sense an impending Golden Age for education where we have abundant money and time, so school leaders need to find ways to advocate and acquire needed resources for their students and staff.
The ability to develop community and collaborative efforts are key skills for school leaders (Leithwood & Riehl, 2003), and is also identified as a needed competency for effective technology leadership (Flanagan & Jacobsen, 2003). Building community and involving a variety of stakeholders can help secure resources, but these are also essential steps for understanding the variety of needs within a school community. Having this understanding will enable school leaders to address the digital divide found among students of different backgrounds.
Anderson and Dexter (2003) suggest that more research is needed to see how technology leadership fits with general school leadership. Their work found that there were lower levels of technology leadership in the elementary schools, and I’m curious to know why that is. Bosco (2003) shares “The strongest objection to ICT in schools is ideological not empirical” (p. 17). This statement leads me to think about the importance of political and persuasive skills for school leaders. Bosco (2003) also suggests that future research should investigate how technology can lead to more instructional time in addition to how it might effect student engagement. I also wonder about links between principal evaluation data and technology use in schools. In this era of increased educator and school accountability, educator evaluation processes across the country are starting to utilize more quantitative data, rooted in student achievement, to evaluate teachers and principals. It would be interesting to look at this numeric data in comparison to technology implementation.
Anderson, R.E. & Dexter, S. (2005, February). School technology leadership: An empirical investigation of prevalence and effect. Educational Administration Quarterly, 41, (1), 49-82.
Bosco, J. (2003, February). Toward a balanced appraisal of educational technology in U.S. schools and a recognition of seven leadership challenges. Paper presented at the Annual K-12 School Networking Conference of the Consortium for School Networking, Arlington, VA.
Flanagan, L. & Jacobsen, M. (2003). Technology leadership for the twenty-first century principal. Journal of Educational Administration, 41(2), 124-142.
Leithwood, K.A. & Riehl, C. (2003, January). What We Know about Successful School Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.dcbsimpson.com/randd-leithwood-successful-leadership.pdf