What does school leadership look like in the digital age? This was the question tackled by two officials from Michigan's Macomb Intermediate School District — Dr. Jennifer Parker, an instructional technology and school data consultant, and Rhonda Provoast, a consultant and retired school leader — during an afternoon session at the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando, Florida, this week.
Parker's work to equip school and district leaders with everything they need to know to be "tech-ready administrators" began in 2008, when she was "bumped out" of a job as a media specialist because positions were cut in her former school's library media center. She then pioneered the 21 Things Project with fellow instructional technology specialists Melissa White, Carolyn McCarthy and the late Frank Miracola to share free ed tech resources with teachers in the same way they would have in a school's library media center.
Beginning with 21Things4Teachers, they eventually expanded the project to cover students and administrators. And with each group, the site's resources and accompanying lesson plans align with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for educators, students and education leaders.
What it means to be a digital-age leader
The 21 Things 4 Administrators digital leadership framework adopts ISTE's 2018 Standards for Ed Leaders: equity and citizenship advocate, visionary planner, empowering leader, systems designer and connected learner.
Equity and citizen advocate
According to the ISTE website, an equity and citizenship advocate makes sure all students have access to skilled teachers who use tech to meet their learning needs; that they have access to necessary technology and connectivity that enables their participation in engaging learning opportunities; that they model digital citizenship in their evaluation of online resources and their engagement in civil discourse; and that they work to teach students the importance of ethical and legal internet use.
To make that happen, school leaders can consider initiatives including hiring processes, professional development, school infrastructure and staff expectations and evaluations. They can also begin modeling ethical social media use and the benefits of finding professional learning networks.
Ed tech leaders engage all stakeholders in the development and adoption of a shared vision for student success; build on that vision by collaborating on a strategic plan detailing how tech and other resources will be used; evaluate progress and adjust where necessary; keep everyone in the loop; and share the lessons learned, best practices and challenges of the experience, according to ISTE.
“We felt that those were pretty big challenges to you, as a visionary planner, to meet that standard,” Parker said.
Tech-ready administrators distribute leadership and responsibility to teacher leaders; make efforts to personalize learning; ensure educators are confident in themselves and their students with meeting the standards; support a culture that allows time and space for innovation and collaboration; and aid educators in their use of tech to meet students academic and social-emotional needs.
"If you’re going to be an empowering leader, you kind of need to know what the tech trends are," Parker added, recommending the annual Deloitte Tech Trends report as one way to "get off the struggle bus."
Tech-ready leaders work constantly to ensure teams and systems are in place to support technology in the strategic plan. They must lead teams to put robust infrastructure and devices in place; align resources for effective use; verify that it's scalable for future demand; establish and enforce effective privacy and cybersecurity policies, and build partnerships to support the strategic vision.
This tech-ready administrator promotes continuous, ongoing professional development by setting goals to stay up-to-date with the latest tech that could enter the classroom; participating regularly in professional learning networks; and using tech to engage in reflective practices supporting personal and professional growth, according to the ISTE standards.
Beyond these capstones, Povoast and Parker suggested adopting the "5-E Model" of engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate, in addition to using the substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition (SAMR) model.