It is well established in the literature that district and school based leaders play a critical role in amplifying educational technology (Chang et al., 2008; Jacobsen, 2006; McGarr & Kearney, 2009, Reeves, 2009). Moreover, various essential conditions for school leaders that may serve to foster successful innovation leading to 21st century learning have been identified by researchers (Chang et al., 2008; Ely, 1990; Jacobsen, 2006; Shuldman, 2004; Yee, 2001; Zhao et al., 2002). While reviewing current literature of essential conditions suggested for educational technology leadership for 21st century learning, four prevailing themes emerged. The antecedents for educational technology leadership include: (1) vision, (2) professional learning, (3) context of support, and (4) supervision. The four recurring themes are not intended to be a comprehensive or ordered list. The themes are interrelated antecedents for educational technology leadership which were apparent across recent studies that identified essential conditions for 21st century learning involving superintendents, principals and teachers in K-12 school districts.
Effective technology leadership requires leaders to develop and articulate a vision for innovation and change (Chang, et al., 2008; Hew & Brush, 2007; Wagner, 2003; Yu & Durrington, 2006). Hew and Brush (2007) claimed developing a shared vision is “an avenue to coherently communicate how technology can be used, as well as a place to begin, a goal to achieve, and a guide along the way” (p.234). Principals’ interpersonal and communication skills are necessary for technology leadership (Chang et al., 2008) and are certainly valuable skills in articulating vision and in working towards building a shared vision in a community.
The Change Leadership Group at Harvard’s graduate school of education focuses on systemic improvements in schools and districts. The group identified constructing a widely shared vision as one of the interdependent “Seven Disciplines for Strengthening Instruction”, considered central to instructional improvement efforts (Wagner, 2003). Shared vision is focussed on “rigorous expectations, the quality of student engagement, and effective strategies for personalizing learning for all students” (Wagner, 2003, p. 28, 30).
Professional learning can serve to influence attitudes as well as build knowledge and skills pertinent to 21st century learning. There are a number of corroborative references in the literature that suggest school leaders require opportunities for increased awareness of their roles relative to educational technology (Deryakulu & Olkun, 2009; Flanagan & Jacobsen, 2003; McGarr & Kearney, 2009). In addition, McGarr and Kearney (2009) suggested alternative models for professional support are needed for principals and could include networking with other similar-sized schools and encouraging collaboration between schools to nurture professional dialogue and time for reflection regarding the possibilities of teaching and learning with technology.
Yee (2001) described a principal undertaking “adventurous learning” as a leader learning alongside the teachers and students. It is important for principals to participate in professional learning involving educational technology to understand the instructional changes required for teaching and learning with technology. Fullan (2008) argued fostering continuous job-embedded learning as one of the secrets of change to ensure learning at work is part of daily work for everyone including leaders at all levels of the organization. Likewise, Wagner (2003) described professional learning as “primarily on-site, intensive, collaborative, and job-embedded, and is designed and led by educators who model the best teaching and learning practices.” Reeves (2009) presented a narrative of a principal transforming an informational staff meeting into a professional learning experience for teachers and leaders:
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I have provided our usual administrative announcements in e-mail and written form, so we will devote the rest of our meeting to the following learning activity ….” (Reeves, 2009, p.66).
Chang et al. (2008) defined a technology leader as “one who leads the school in improvement or restructuring, and uses emerging technologies as the core resources for educational change” (p.241). One of the results in Yee’s (2001) investigation of Canadian, U.S. and New Zealand principals’ experiences in technology-rich schools found that principals need to develop personal competency and would value professional learning opportunities. Dawson and Rakes (2003) conducted an exploratory study with K-12 principals and found those involved in long term technology-curriculum integration training significantly influenced the level of technology use at the school.
Context of Support
Fostering adoption of instructional improvements for 21st century learning requires attention to context. Zhao et al. (2002) defined context as the (1) human infrastructure, (2) technological infrastructure and (3) social support. First, human infrastructure, refers to the people in the organization providing support for the innovation and includes on-site support as well as off-site experts that can be accessed (Jacobsen, 2006). Second, technological infrastructure is another aspect that continues to provide challenges for schools and districts and requires leaders to “develop robust conceptions of technology in education,” and allocate appropriate resources to impact student learning (Shuldman, 2004, p. 338). Third, social support among colleagues is best described by Fullan (2008) as leaders fostering “purposeful peer interaction,” which is another one of his secrets of change (p.12).
Supervision includes ongoing monitoring and research to promote investment in educational innovations. Wagner (2003) used the term supervision to describe monitoring that is frequent, rigorous, and focused on the improvement of instruction. He also stressed supervision is “conducted by people who know what good instruction looks like” (Wagner, 2003, p.28, 30). Similarly, Yee (2001) used the terms “constant monitoring” to describe an ongoing process of maintaining accountability. The Galileo Educational Network Association (GENA) is an excellent example of a professional development and research organization focussing on supporting all levels of the educational system at once. GENA professionals work with educators and leaders in providing current research and supervision of innovations to promote continuous learning and growth (Jacobsen, 2006).
It is also evident in the literature that transparent and frequent use of data to assess student’s learning and to identify effective instructional practices is warranted (Wagner, 2003; Fullan, 2008). Another secret of change described by Fullan (2008) is transparency, defined as a “clear and continuous display of results, and clear and continuous access to practice (what is being done to get the results)” (p.14). Furthermore, Fullan (2008) pointed out that systems learn on a continuous basis and systems learn from themselves which also supports the notion of internal involvement in ongoing supervision and research to support innovation for 21st century learning.
Four prevailing themes emerged from reviewing current literature and were discussed as interrelated antecedents for educational technology leadership: (1) vision, (2) professional learning, (3) contexts for support, and (4) supervision. Overall, there has been little research on the design, development, utilization, management or ongoing evaluation of professional learning programs incorporating essential conditions for district and school based leaders. In order to prepare current and future leaders for cultivating 21st century learning, it is recommended future study and research focus on professional learning for educational technology leadership.
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