The Importance of Good Leadership

Leadership in the 21st century can be a balancing act.  The superintendent has a tough job to do in trying to lead all of the schools in the district in one direction.  All of this has to be done without the individual leaders focusing on their wants and needs, instead they need to focus on what the group needs.  Trying to get all of the administrators on the same page in a district would not be an easy task.  Principals have their own problems with leadership.  Not only do they need to worry about leading the school in the right direction, while still focusing on what the districts direction is, but they are accountable to the staff, students and parents as well.  In Alberta schools principals are held accountable to the Principal Quality Practice Guideline. In order to meet all seven dimensions to a high level, I believe the leader would need to be able to walk on water. I’m not sure how any one individual could possess all the characteristics and skills necessary to meet all of these standards.  The expectations that are placed on leaders today can sometimes be unattainable.  In order for a leader to meet some of these high expectations proper professional development is needed.   This needs to come directly from the district level in order to build leaders from within.

 The vision held by the superintendent is meant to lead the district in a direction that will improve student learning. In 21st century schools this vision should have a technological focus in order to progress with societal changes.   In order for the schools and district as a whole to be successful, administrators, educators and students need to be willing to follow this vision.  Trying to get all of these groups to buy into this vision is not always an easy thing to do.  The superintendent and principal needs to reassure all involved that they have a role to play and that the vision is a shared, which means they have to have a say in the schools direction.    

 Technology is seen “as a means for professional learning, growth, collaboration and communications”(Super handoutsp.5).  A superintendent needs to be able to see the need for the integration of technology and how that could look in their district.  This message then needs to be passed on to school level administrators.  Not all superintendents possess the necessary vision to see the important role that technology can and will play in education.  In the Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent (n.d.) report they acknowledge that by allowing teachers to take risks and integrate technology it allows them to do their job more effectively.  “Successful ICT implementation is not about equipment or software but about influencing and empowering teachers” (Afshari et. al., 2009, p.244).  The superintendent and principals needs to allow educators to take risks without always focusing so much on accountability.  I’m not saying that being accountable is not important, but if that ends up being the focus, then teachers will not take the risks necessary to improve their pedagogical practices. 

 Leaders play an integral role in the learning environment in the school.  “Information technology will only be successfully implemented in schools if the principal actively supports it, learns as well, provides adequate professional development and supports his/her staff in the process of change”(Wilmore & Bentz, 2000, p.15).  This statement supports the ideas that leaders not only have to support their teachers, but that they also need to be willing to learn themselves.  Professional development programs can allow adminstrators to not only become better teachers, but better leaders as well. 

 References

Afshari, M., Baker, K.A., Luan, W.S., Samah, B.A., & Fooi, F.S. (2009). Technology and school leadership. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 18(2), 235-248.

Alberta Education. (2009). The principal quality practice guideline: Promoting successful school leadership in alberta. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/media/949129/principal-quality-practice-guideline-english-12feb09.pdf

Consortium for School Networking Initiatives (CoSN). (n.d.). Empowering the 21st century superintendent. Retrieved from http://www.cosn.org/Portals/7/docs/Superintendents/COSNSuptToolKit%20FINAL.PDF

Wilmore, D., & Betz, M. (2000). Information technology and schools: The principal’s role. Educational Technology and Society, 3(4), 12-19.

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What about 21st Centrury Learning for Teachers?

 When I think of the 21st century learner I see students that have the ability to learn on their own and to use the technology around them to aid them in this process.  How can we get to this point in our schools?  What can we do to help produce these types of learners? There appear to be many blocks along this path.  These blocks can be come from home, district, government, students and from within the school.  We have little control over what happens in the home or what the government decides they are going to do.  Our job is to do what we can within the school to best help the students learn.  As outlined by Friesen and Lock (2010), the teaching model needed for 21st century learners will “help build the capacity of educators”(p.6).  Beyond having the resources needed for a connected classroom it is necessary to provide support and training to enable educators to use this technology.

I have noticed over the years that there are those educators that love technology and those that loath it.  Those individuals that enjoy using technology will find ways to integrate the ICT outcomes into their practice, while those that struggle with technology will go to great lengths to avoid it.  Teachers that do not integrate ICT’s into their teaching practice generally have little knowledge of how to use the technology, are afraid of the technology and continue to see it as a passing fad. Presently training programs whether they are part of professional development or they are part of a university education program are scarce (Johnson, Adams & Haywood, 2011, p.5).  If education is going to change to meet the 21st century learners needs then there is going to be a need for “significant change in pedagogical practices”(Friesen & Lock, 2010, p.15).  If these changes are going to take place there will to need to be substantial effort put into teacher training, especially in regards to the integration of technology. 

Often professional development is a hit and miss proposition.  In order for it to be successful it needs to be well planned out not only at the school level, but the district level as well.  As pointed out in Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent (n.d.) “professional development is likely your biggest challenge in changing educational mindsets and practices and improving student achievement in your schools”(p.16).  Presently we expect a lot out of our teachers, but do not effectively provide the support and training they need in order to succeed.  Training is provided, usually in the form of a one day presentation and no time is given to work with the concepts after the fact. From my viewpoint this has not been effective.  I am not sure what type of a teacher education system would improve this, but I do know it has to be better than what exists now.  The Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent report suggests that the use of coaches, mentors, and master teachers would be an effective way to help support professional development from a district level (p.16).   In order for this type of a system to be successful these teachers would also need to understand how to effectively integrate ICT outcomes into their practice.  It is interesting to note that as educators we are expected to provide multiple ways for students to learn, this too should apply to teacher education as well.  If we want 21st century learning, then the modeling needs to begin with the teachers and leaders.

 

References

Consortium for School Networking Initiatives (CoSN). (n.d.). Empowering the 21st century superintendent:  5 themes & action steps for technology leadership. Retrieved from http://www.cosn.org/Portals/7/docs/Superintendents/COSNSuptToolKit%20FINAL.PDF

Friesen, S., & Lock, J.V. (2010). High performing districts in the application of 21st century learning technologies: Review of the research. Prepared for the College of Alberta School Superintendents.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Haywood, K. (2011). The ncm horizon report: 2011 K-12 edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

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