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A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

ISTE NETS*A Part 1: Visionary Leadership

After two sets of articles on the National Educational Technology Standards for both students and teachers, we embark on my most ambitious series yet: the standards for administrators.  I have been a student most of my life, and I have been a teacher for almost twenty years.  I am not, have never been, and probably will never be an administrator.  I have, however, worked with many different administrators over the decades, and I think they cover a wide spectrum in terms of their effectiveness and leadership.  It is only in recent years, though, that I have really paid close attention to school administrators as users of technology and as leaders in its implementation by staff and students.

This is the first in a series of five articles on ISTE’s NETS*A.

1. Visionary Leadership

Educational Administrators inspire and lead development and implementation of a shared vision for comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformation throughout the organization. Educational Administrators:

    1. inspire and facilitate among all stakeholders a shared vision of purposeful change that maximizes use of digital-age resources to meet and exceed learning goals, support effective instructional practice, and maximize performance of district and school leaders.
    2. engage in an ongoing process to develop, implement, and communicate technology-infused strategic plans aligned with a shared vision.
    3. advocate on local, state and national levels for policies, programs, and funding to support implementation of a technology-infused vision and strategic plan.

excerpted from http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-administrators/nets-for-administrators-sandards.aspx

BinocularsAs a classroom teacher, when I talk about administrators, I am usually discussing principals and assistant principals.  However, I have also worked in schools small enough to afford me a more personal relationship with the superintendent – a person I see almost every day face-to-face.  For example, today I sat and ate lunch with our school superintendent and discussed the peaches and figs he was eating.  We also talked about his grandkids.  It’s just like that where I work.  On the other hand, I have worked in a district with seventeen schools where I may have met the superintendent once, in passing, in the two years I was in that district.  Some teachers NEVER meet or have a conversation with the person who oversees their districts.  Yet these individuals still play a powerful leadership role.  All eyes should be watching them and listening carefully to the messages they put out there.  And of course, I am most concerned with their messages regarding technology.

It’s not enough to be a leader, or even an effective leader.  Superintendents, principals, and assistant principals have a responsibility also to be visionaries.  We live in a time when technology cannot be an exception to the sphere of their visionary influence.  Administrators need to become aware of what tools are available, how they can best be implemented, and how to evaluate their effectiveness toward the ultimate goal of meeting the learning needs of students.  This certainly does not mean that administrators need to know everything about technology; what it does mean is that they must hire the right people to keep them up-to-date.  They cannot tolerate those who block the flow of information among any of the stakeholders in the district or school system: parents, students, teachers, support staff, administrators, and the community.

This means that mandates from on high that all teachers shall receive (fill in the name of the tech tool du jour here) and begin incorporating it immediately (with or without training or even warning) must be squelched.  How many interactive white boards, document cameras, student response systems, LCD projectors, and other fantastic tools sit collecting dust around the nation while educators continue to receive the blame for the poor performance of students on standardized tests?  Who asked the teachers if they wanted, needed, or could even use the equipment foisted upon them?  When did they get the chance to build up a desire for such tools by being allowed to become excited about teaching their students real content that matters rather than how to bubble in test answers?

Dear teachers....Administrators can fix this gaping wound in education by seeking out those who are passionate about integrating technology and encouraging them to share with their peers and colleagues in an atmosphere of mutual respect.  Too often, teachers face roadblocks to integrating technology, worrying that their job security rests on student performance on standardized tests.  Too often, excellent educators are hamstrung by pacing guides and strict adherence to scripted “teaching,” stifling any creativity or excitement they might otherwise inject into their classrooms.  Maybe a teacher has a wonderful, supportive principal, but he or she can’t proceed with excellent teaching due to restrictions placed on the school’s leader by those at the district level.  Or perhaps there’s an amazing superintendent who can’t prod comfortable school site leaders to change anything in a positive direction.

It takes a special kind of administrative force to break through all these typical obstacles found in schools and districts across our nation.  Truly groundbreaking education reform is not built on pacing guides and standardized tests.  It takes a grass roots effort led by enthusiastic visionaries who can inspire a revolution through superior technology.  Since administrators are generally the highest paid school employees, it’s time to hold them all to the highest standard of visionary leadership, especially when it comes to technology integration.  Focusing on what is (and what isn’t) rather than what can be holds everyone back and hurts students most of all.  Who’s the visionary leader where you work?

Binoculars image from Flickr user M0Rt3s, some rights reserved, Creative Commons.

“Dear teachers” image from Flickr user Scott McLeod, some rights reserved, Creative Commons.

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