States need to step up

One of the most important issues in K-12 technology right now is the lack of engagement of administrators who are in formal positions of authority. For example, you can go to any educational technology conference in the country - NECC, CoSN, NSBA T+L, any state or regional conference - and the percentage of administrators in attendance is usually abysmally low. As I said in my previous post, without significant involvement by the individuals who have the power to make decisions, set organizational priorities, spend money, assign personnel, coordinate activities, initiate staff training, etc., the long-term prospects of technology in schools remain extremely dismal. Schools' marginalization of technology as a non-essential activity, in contrast to every other sector of society, occurs because their leaders allow and facilitate it.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation State Challenge Grants for Leadership Development have been the only large-scale administrator technology training initiative to date. These grants were a good start. They were wildly successful from a coverage perspective - 75% to 100% of administrators in every state received some kind of technology training (as well as some participation incentive like a laptop or handheld computer). Many, if not most, of the participants came away from their training not only more knowledgeable but also energized about the potential and promise of technology. Unfortunately...

  1. The depth of administrators' involvement was very shallow. In nearly every state, administrators received a maximum of three to six days of training, typically over the course of a single year.
  • Even assuming that individual participants became better technology leaders over the long term as a result of the program (a big assumption despite what the final evaluation said), a tremendous number of those participants have retired or will do so soon (see, e.g., reports from NAESP and Because participation in the program was usually limited to practicing principals and/or superintendents, educators who represented the future pipeline of school administrators (e.g., assistant principals, technology coordinators, media specialists, teachers) received none of the Gates training.
  • Few states did anything to build upon the momentum gained by the Gates grants. Most states stopped providing large-scale technology-related training opportunities for administrators once the foundation monies disappeared.
  • As a result, the $250 million initiative (half from the foundation, half from the states) made a big splash, got some good media attention, and then fizzled out in terms of long-term sustainability and impact.

    It is time for our states to step up. Every state wants to graduate students who can be part of the creative, digital workforce of the future. One way to ensure that this happens is to quit relying primarily on school districts to train administrators in the technology arena because it is quite clear that they're not doing so. We have a few notable school districts that are providing substantive technology-related training opportunities for their administrators (see, e.g., the ISTE / Chicago Public Schools' Principal Technology Leadership Institutes). Most school districts are not, however, and we all will pay the price of states' reliance on the variable patchwork of district-level initiatives.

    SETDA, where is your programming for principals and superintendents (both current and future)? CoSN? ISTE? Corporations? Educational leadership associations (NSBA, AASA, NASSP, NAESP)? Others? Where's the recognition that administrators, not students or teachers, hold the keys to making this technology stuff happen successfully? Does anyone not believe that technology is only going to become even more important than it already is?

    LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

    Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

    Getty Images
    Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

    No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

    Keep reading Show less

    4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

    In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

    (Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
    Politics & Current Affairs
    • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
    • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
    • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
    Keep reading Show less

    Why avoiding logical fallacies is an everyday superpower

    10 of the most sandbagging, red-herring, and effective logical fallacies.

    Photo credit: Miguel Henriques on Unsplash
    Personal Growth
    • Many an otherwise-worthwhile argument has been derailed by logical fallacies.
    • Sometimes these fallacies are deliberate tricks, and sometimes just bad reasoning.
    • Avoiding these traps makes disgreeing so much better.
    Keep reading Show less

    Why I wear my life on my skin

    For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

    • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
    • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
    • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
    Keep reading Show less