It’s July 12, 2009 and Leadership Day 2009 is here. As I set out write this post in response to Dr. McLeod’s call to arms, I found myself going back to review a School Leadership eLearning module that was developed by many talented individuals from e-Read Ohio at The University of Akron, where I serve as the Web Services Manager. One part of the module focuses specifically on the Role of the Principal and a number of quotes from that section seem particularly relevant today as I am pondering what technology leadership should look like and what role technology plays in a school vision.
Towards A Shared Vision
Vision is a brief, concise, and inspirational statement of what an organization intends to become and to achieve at some point in the future. It is a reflection of the goals that an organization must have before it sets out to reach them. It describes objectives for the future, without identifying the means that will be used to achieve those desired ends. “Vision involves a set of beliefs about how people should act, and interact, to make manifest some idealized future state” (Strange & Mumford, 2005).
The successful leader facilitates an understanding of the beliefs that guide the goals and shape the vision of the school. A shared vision provides an environment for change and is critical to building the foundation and implementing a school improvement plan.
Principals must explore their beliefs and work with their staff to create a vision for their students. This collaborative process requires self-reflection and an examination of core values. Only with clear thinking and careful planning can a principal move a school community forward. Principals remain the key players both before and after the school adopts a new direction.
A vision for creating a healthy school culture should be a collaborative activity among teachers, students, parents, staff, and the principal (e-Read Ohio, 2009).
True technology leadership comes from this compelling vision. An effective vision must draw in commitment and acceptance of change, and offers a potential for anyone to grow and develop with the shared vision. But how do successful leaders develop their vision and what attributes help identify an effective vision? Professional journals, research and literature are replete with examples of the essential role of vision to organizational leadership. An examination of the voluminous literature available reveals that whether an organization is a business or an educational institution, effective leaders rely on focus to help shape their outlook, communication and culture to solicit buy-in from other stakeholders, and perseverance and responsiveness to attain their vision.
I believe firmly that technology must be embedded ubiquitously into the overall vision for a school. To have a separate vision for technology alone indicates to me that a district just doesn’t get it. Technology is no longer an add-on. Technology is a way of life. After giving a presentation, many educational leaders and teachers often come up and ask me, “where do you find the time to stay up on all this technology?” My reply is simple and consistent. It’s not about time; it’s about your life. How do I stay up with technology? Easy, I live technology; I don’t add it on as an unrelated component to the rest of my life. I make it a key player in my lifestyle and use it where it fits.
Extending the Learning Environment
If you really want to change education and make it better, change the way people think and learn, then as a school leader you have to start by changing your life. Once technology becomes a ubiquitous part of your life, it’s not about time anymore. The time I have to stay up on everything is my life. For example, a few weeks ago, my wife and I took or 3 boys to an Akron Aeros minor league baseball game. It was great fun for our kids, good family time together, but more importantly a time for me to extend my own learning environment.
While we were at the ballpark, I was playing with my BlackBerry Storm and Qik. During that time, I learned a number of new things about Qik, I was able to shoot a couple cool videos and even caught a really cute moment on video of our 2-year old son Aiden saying “baseball” for the first time. Additionally, I read 3 or 4 blog posts and online articles that I pulled off my Twitter feed. In effect, I extended my learning environment to the baseball stadium without interrupting, disrupting or interfering with my life. To me that is normal. To my wife and kids, that is just another day in the life of their dad and husband. The technology is there, but we don’t even notice it any longer.
Principals are blinded by their own vision when they must manipulate the teachers and the school culture to conform to it. A more useful approach is to create a shared vision that allows for collaborative school cultures (e-Read Ohio, 2009).
I think this quote is very important to keep in mind when a principal begins to develop their approach to technology use in the school environment. Technology cannot be force-fed to individual school stakeholders; rather it must become integrated and woven into the underlying fabric and fiber that makes up “school.” As educational leaders, we must make technology an intricate and unseen part of the daily life of school. The question with technology is no longer “should we be using it?” In fact, the question is not even “how should we be using it?” You see, there is no question about technology anymore. For our students, technology is their way of life. Scott Meech‘s tagline sums it up quite nicely. “Technology in education isn’t the future, it’s the present,” he proclaims. I whole-heartedly concur.
As we reflect on Leadership Day 2009, I’d encourage all educational leaders to re-examine their approach to technology. Is it an add-on or is it ingrained into the core processes of your life? The successful 21st century educational leader is one who realizes that technology can be used to enhance, engage, and invigorate stakeholders to become active contributors to the creation and implementation of a shared vision. Rather than treating technology as an add-on, today’s educational leaders must embrace technology fully and integrate it into their way of life. Modeling ubiquitous technology usage for students, staff and community is the first step towards extending learning environments beyond classroom walls and an important indicator of true technology leadership.
Strange, J. & Mumford, M. (2005). The origins of vision: Effects of reflection, models, and analysis. The Leadership Quarterly, 16, 121-148.