EdTech and Leadership
The fuel that feeds the flame
Educational technology is central to the construction of a modern program of learning, argues Matt Harris. To be properly implemented and sustained over time it must have the committed support of a transformational leadership team.
Why EdTech is important
Educational technology (EdTech) is a movement developing rapidly to meet contemporary learning needs. It takes the traditional view of paper and pencil learning, with an “expert” talking at the front of a room, and flips it on its head. EdTech brings learning into the modern, information-based world.
It uses new tools to build skills, competencies and attitudes in learners rather than delivering information to be regurgitated. It prepares young people for living and working in our connected society in ways that 20th century schooling cannot deliver.
Why it isn’t being implemented
However it is difficult for schools to implement EdTech fully as it challenges long-held beliefs about the accepted roles schools play in student development. It also questions basic assumptions teachers and administrators have about learning because of their own experiences as students.
EdTech programs in schools are no longer something “nice to have”, serving “emerging needs”. They are essential. The use of Educational Technology in schools has really become a requirement that students and their parents expect to be in place. We need to embrace it.
What is needed
To create a successful and sustainable EdTech program in a school three key element have to be in place:
- Engaged teachers, and
- Transformational leadership.
EdTech programs without proper resourcing will of course be difficult to implement, but once a properly thought through commitment is made by the school, resourcing issues can be addressed. It’s a question of allocating the budget to provide the technology, personnel and time to put an effective program in place.
An engaged – and trained – teaching faculty is also vital. Classrooms are where the rubber hits the road as teachers deliver the program to which the school has committed. They need to facilitate the right kind of learning: without their enthusiastic commitment, EdTech will run into many barriers or become forced and autocratic.
But leadership is what really brings EdTech to life and, more importantly, keeps it alive. Leaders who want an effective program ensure that the ethos and operations of the school support EdTech, both during its development phase and then for its continued growth. School boards, heads of school, division principals, and middle leaders, will make things possible by demonstrating support for a program in their communication, time allocation, planning, and budgeting.
When you enter a school with a leadership team committed to improving learning with technology, you’ll feel it. EdTech will show up in newsletters, on the school website, and in the mission and vision. Leadership will speak about EdTech with enthusiasm and clarity of purpose, easily articulating the school’s long term commitment to the program.
Leaders will ensure that EdTech has become part of the school’s DNA, not just an add-on.
Leadership needs to be transformational, insuring the resources are in place and that staff are engaged. It will provide teachers with time and training to build their skills, while responding to the pedagogic shifts found in modern education. Leaders will insist on robust strategic planning and specific indicators of success, ensuring that programs are both started and sustained – for example by allocating money to buy devices this year, then including an annual line item to replace those devices as they become obsolete.
Sustainability in a changed culture
And sustainability is one of the biggest issues. The Leadership Team can build a strategic plan, hire personnel, buy equipment, and offer professional development. But, as Michael Fullan argues “change is a process, not an event”. You cannot just place a check mark next to EdTech and consider it accomplished once you have set course. Implementing EdTech is a long game. Technology changes, the ways it can improve learning changes, and the need for resourcing and professional development never goes away. Devices get old and bandwidth needs to be increased.
Truly transformative leadership will ensure that EdTech enters the school’s culture and be “part of the way we do things here” in the words of Brian Caldwell and Jim Spinks. There will also be clear signs that things have changed organically. Assessment of and for learning will always include an EdTech element. Teachers will have EdTech targets. Budgeting will include fixed annual funds for depreciation, the replacement of old, and addition of, new equipment. Most importantly, when the school conducts a strategic self-analysis, for an external audit or accreditation, it will delve deeply into its EdTech provision, looking at its impact on learning and student progress.
And the greatest of these is leadership
If a school can’t commit to EdTech from the top it will never develop a meaningful or lasting program, regardless of how much time and money is invested. And, as a result, it will find itself falling behind its competitors, the expectations of parents, and the needs of students living in the 21st century.
A cultural shift arising from transformational leadership, however, can pave the way to effective and relevant learning for the whole school community – students, teachers and parents alike.
Founder of International EdTech
For more ideas about change and transformational leadership, see:
Michael Fullan, The New Meaning of Educational Change, Fifth Edition
Brian Caldwell, Jim Spinks, et al. The Self-Managing School , Leading the Self-Managing School and subsequent titles