Who are our technology leaders? - Part 2
Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky. He also is the Founding Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), the nation’s only academic center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, and was a co-creator of the wildly popular video series, Did You Know? (Shift Happens). He has received numerous national awards for his technology leadership work, including recognitions from the cable industry, Phi Delta Kappa, and the National School Boards Association. In Spring 2011 he was a Visiting Canterbury Fellow at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Dr. McLeod blogs regularly about technology leadership issues at Dangerously Irrelevant and Mind Dump, and occasionally at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at scottmcleod.net.
In a previous post I noted that our technology leaders are rarely superintendents or principals, the individuals in formal positions of authority within school districts. So if our technology leaders are not our formal leaders, who are they?
Well, in larger districts we see chief technology officers or chief information officers who have many of the powers that we associate with formal leaders: decision-making, spending, personnel assignment, resource allocation, etc. These individuals often sit on the superintendents' cabinet and are integral members of the district leadership team. Sometimes this role is filled by an assistant or associate superintendent, who also may have responsibilities in other areas (e.g., curriculum, transportation).
In contrast, smaller districts have technology coordinators and, sometimes, district-level technology integrationists. These individuals often have few, if any, of the powers possessed by formal leaders.
In some small districts and/or individual schools, the de facto technology leaders are media specialists, building-level technology integrationists, and/or teachers.
Here's the bad news: with the exception of the assistant superintendents and/or those few principals or superintendents who are the technology leaders in their organizations, nearly all of the rest of these people probably have no leadership training. You don't need an administrative credential to be a teacher / media specialist / technology coordinator in most places - the tech coordinators / CTOs / CIOs may not even have an education degree.
There are reasons that we require leadership training for our formal leaders - they have to do with learning how to effectively facilitate change, provide appropriate support, mobilize stakeholder buy-in and involvement, operate within political and legal parameters, etc. One of the reasons that technology is marginalized and viewed as a non-essential component of most K-12 school systems is because the vast majority of our de facto technology leaders lack the background training and knowledge to effectively lead, advocate, make change, garner buy-in, and so on. All they have is whatever they've gained through the hard knocks of day-to-day experience and we all know how variable that can be.
Tech folks need more general leadership training and/or leaders need more technology-related leadership training. If we're serious about our digital future, we need to figure this out.