Sunday, March 6, 2011

Leaders Have to be 21st Century Learners

Do school leaders need technology skills to perform their duties? Absolutely not. Their jobs are about leading and directing students and adults and managing a public organization.

However, do school leaders lack key skills if they are not technologically proficient. Absolutely.

Two Western Illinois University professors, John Closen and Rene Noppe presented at the National Conference on Education in Denver in February 2011. Their data suggests that a gap exists between what most superintendents perceive is needed for themselves in terms of technology skills compared to how this perception is affecting school organizations. The basic skills for a superintendent are generally believed to be
 word processing, powerpoints, spreadsheets, and data bases. A survey of sitting superintendents indicates most believe technology skills are not important to their jobs. Most startling, according to their data, one in five superintendents never use modern technology to communicate with their public.

In contrast, a doctoral dissertation by Nancy Viscuso Hudanch (2002) found “the superintendent’s technological perceptions, practice (personal use) play an integral role in the technology implementation of his/her district.”

School leaders need to recognize that technology is not a fad. It is the future awaiting our students. Moreover, it does not slow down; it accelerates. After a school has come close to catching up (because no one ever truly catches up), the work continues because the change wrought by the advancements continues. School leaders who are not utilizing modern technology, who are not modeling technology skills, and who are not learning about emerging technologies are doing a disservice to their students.

Unfortunately, if you are reading this, you probably are not someone who needs to hear this message. You are looking for new sources of information and new insights. You are modeling what it means to be a 21st Century Learner. Therefore, your duty must be greater. You must challenge the status quo, set an example for your colleagues, and make your school the kind that others must emulate. That is how we will eventually serve all the students.

You have work to do. And thank you for all you do.


  1. In British Columbia we are beginning to see a change with the way district leaders embrace social media and new technologies. While the biggest growth in blogs and Twitter and other social tools is coming from school principals, we are seeing more Superintendents dabbling in the social media. I find that technology skills are absolutely crucial to my job - and I couldn't connect with my community without them.

    We absolutely have to be leaders in modelling the way with digital tools as a way to connect to students, staff and parents.

  2. Chris, I appreciate your comment. Obviously you are a school leader who "gets it."

    I am disappointed by the research that suggests school leaders are not using social media or high tech communications tools. I see these things as parts of the future classroom.

    However, frankly, I didn't "get it" myself until a little over a year ago. I'd been doing a good job for many years. I saw the change, but I thought it was something for the students with the interest to use. But I want to see my school become a 21st Century school. I attended a conference and focused on tech topics. The speakers repeatedly said that leaders need to lead by example. We will never get our schools there until we embrace the future ourselves.