Feb 03 2016

What to Look for in Your K–12 Technology Leadership

Effective leaders are those who take a comprehensive approach to technology integration, prioritizing training and infrastructure upgrades.

With the race for the presidency well under way, it seems like anyone and everyone is talking about what it means to be a good leader. Is it sticking to one’s principles, or knowing when to compromise? The answer, of course, lies somewhere in between.

K–12 technology leaders understand this balancing act well. Torn between tradition and innovation, they must be able to push their school districts forward without leaving anyone behind.

One-to-one programs are an excellent example of a technology initiative that requires extreme tact. That’s because device integration requires districts and schools to rework curricula, provide training and professional development and undergo infrastructure upgrades. With all those moving parts, the potential for resistance is great, and technology leaders need to know how to handle it.

Starting Out on the Right Foot

Recently, I took a look back at the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Ed-Tech Leaders,” and realized that a lot of the practices laid out in that 2012 infographic still apply today.

The best technology leaders are still those who adapt easily, collaborate with peers and actively seek buy-in from administrators, teachers, students and parents. They’re people who take the time to listen and respond earnestly to employee concerns.

I believe that ed tech leaders also need to adopt a holistic way of thinking. This means beginning each technology initiative with a series of questions: Why is the proposed tech solution a good fit? How will it positively impact learning outcomes or productivity? What’s the best way to incorporate the solution into everyday activities? These are the sorts of questions that not only increase buy-in but also reduce hiccups down the line.

Another facet of holistic thinking has to do with foresight and meticulous planning. In the one-to-one example, technology leaders would want to look beyond the devices they’re considering to the back-end technologies that would support impending spikes in bandwidth usage.

Deploying Power over Ethernet switches, network access controls and wizard-based access-point configuration tools helps schools get ahead of bottleneck, access and power issues. And when those pitfalls are avoided, it makes the transition much easier for everyone involved.

Training for One, Training for All

Another quality that sets K–12 technology leaders apart is the ability to elevate those around them. Prioritizing learning and certification opportunities is one great way to do that. After all, technical training helps teachers and administrators become more comfortable with device and software features they’ll need to use every day.

Professional development, on the other hand, shows educators how to engage students in new ways. As my colleague Eric Patnoudes writes, “[it] concentrates on the importance of sound pedagogical practices and how to leverage technology to provide learning opportunities that don’t otherwise exist.”

By providing both styles of training, ed tech leaders create a team with the skills and deep insights needed to make technology programs a success.

Reaching Out for a Helping Hand

A final important yet hidden component of effective leadership is a good support system. Considering how frequently and dramatically technology can change, it is unrealistic to expect any one person to act as its sole steward.

Instead, schools and districts should rely on a group of technology experts who can help keep track of the emerging technologies that will impact education. Through their advice, K–12 technology leaders can make more informed decisions and lead their flocks toward a brighter future.

This article is part of the “Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

George Doyle/Thinkstock