Strengthen District Leadership and Communications
We need to read enough to know what's right and wrong. It is very important to know a good deal about technology ... what's the latest thinking about how to access information, best model for putting technology into the classroom, what's available ... what role new technologies such as iPods and Blackberries play ... what smaller devices are on their way. The superintendent needs to have enough knowledge to ask the right questions and to pick a good CTO.
— Dr. Annette Griffin, Superintendent, Carrollton – Farmers Branch Independent School District, Carrollton, TX
- District leaders set vision and tone for districts
- District leaders understand, advocate and model change
- Communications is critical for fostering community support
As superintendent, you should consider yourself the model-in-chief in your district, taking every opportunity to showcase innovative technology in your work with your staff and community. Your own willingness to put yourself on the line and take risks will alleviate some of the resistance and fear that are typical with new technology.
Leading a school district and dealing with day-to-day responsibilities is demanding work that can leave superintendents isolated. Technology can help you stay in touch with the wider world and gain perspectives that can make you a more effective leader. It allows you to
- network with your peers through multimedia presentations, online conferences and forums, chat programs, instant messaging and blogs
- benchmark with other school systems in your state, the nation and abroad
- learn about research, best practices and technology innovations
- support new or struggling principals, teachers or other educators with coaching or mentoring
Integrating technology into district leadership, management and operations will empower people to do their jobs more efficient and effectively. Information, content and resource management systems can help you, your leadership team and school staff
- collect data,
- report findings,
- analyze and benchmark trends,
- access information quickly, and
- manage and secure sensitive data.
Technology solutions are also indispensable for data-driven decision making at the district, school and classroom levels.
Superintendents know that community involvement and support are critical as well. Technology can help districts reach out to key constituencies, including teachers, parents and students. Web sites, broadcast e-mails and recorded phone messages, for example, can deliver timely information and alerts.
More sophisticated technology can expand the one-way communications into a sustained dialogue – and also transform home-school relationships. Web-based learning management networks and software applications, for example, can give parents and students one-stop access to
- classroom activities
- homework assignments
- traditional and multimedia content
- grades and other student records
- extracurricular activities and more
Parents can be much more meaningfully involved in monitoring their children's progress – and intervening with teachers, if necessary. Students can have anytime, anywhere access to schoolwork and collaborative tools – and online "drop boxes" for turning in assignments.
To be an effective technology leader, you must model innovative uses of technology and empower educators, parents, students and the community with technology solutions. Embracing technology yourself will illustrate your commitment to changing the culture of education in your district. And a chief technology officer or chief information officer who reports to the superintendent can help districts keep technology front and center and manage the critical components of the district’s technology strategy.
Action Steps for Superintendents and District Leadership Teams
- Reflect on your own use of technology and explore new ways to use technology to improve your knowledge, skills, personal productivity and leadership effectiveness.
- Commit to attending at least one regional, state or national conference focused on technology use in education every year.
- Collaborate as a leadership team to identify and implement technology-based approaches to communicating, interacting and engaging with students, parents and your community. Videoconferencing technologies, for example, are easy-to-use, effective tools for communications and collaboration.
- Revise annual performance goals to include actions steps for developing technology skills; keeping current with technology; identifying opportunities to test technology systems to strengthen administrative functions or improve student learning; and model uses of hardware, software and compelling learning environments for the school community, including teachers and other staff members, students and parents.
- Understand the value of technology in terms of its costs and benefits.
- Develop and deploy coaches to improve every facet of district technology leadership.
Getting Up to Speed
Horizon Report: 2012 K–12 Edition
. New Media Consortium, 2012.
Davis, M. R. “The Knowledge Gap.”
Education Week’s Digital Directions, Jan. 23, 2008.
Honig, M.L., et al., 2010. Central Office Transformation for District-wide Teaching and Learning Improvement. The Wallace Foundation.
Kaestner, R., & Salpeter, J. “Weathering the Storm.”
(Executive Summary). CoSN Compendium, 2010.
National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) and Performance Indicators for Administrators, Teachers and Students from the International Society for Technology in Education
CoSN's Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO
CoSN’s Value of Investment Leadership Initiative
Bonk, C. J. The World Is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education. Jossey-Bass, 2009.
Hall, D. The Technology Directors Guide to Leadership. International Society for Technology in Education, 2008.
Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Johnson, C. W. Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. McGraw Hill, 2008.
Jacobs, H.H. Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development, 2010.
National Educational Technology Trends: 2010. Innovation Through State Leadership
. State Educational Technology Directors Association, 2010.
Wagner, T. The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need—And What We Can Do About It. Basic Books, 2008.