Tech Tips for Campus Leaders

2/15/2008 5:00:00 AM

from Technology & Learning

How to save time and stay on top of new technologies.

The complexity of an academic dean's job means that time is at a premium. Yet most campus leaders also realize that they need to lead their institutions into the technology-suffused 21st century. Here are some technology-related activities that deans can integrate into their busy schedules quickly and fairly easily.

Commit to learning two new tools a year. Modeling by leaders is a critical influence on instructor technology usage. Start with tools that are relatively simple but also powerful.

For example, use a digital camera to capture activities in the college or use a wiki to collaboratively create a campus policy document. You can also serve as a visible model of lifelong learning by discussing successes and failures both publicly and frequently. Send strong signals to stakeholders about the importance of digital technologies in the academic enterprise by integrating the tools into presentations and discussions. Encourage department heads and faculty to also learn two tools a year, and celebrate those who do.

Watch a few online presentations. A good list of online presentations related to technology, education, and change is available at http://tinyurl.com/2ed5py. Share the presentations with faculty, alumni, and students. Begin building some shared knowledge and understanding among stakeholders about the changes and challenges that lie ahead.

Have a quarterly meeting with a group of technology-savvy instructors. Have them highlight interesting technology integration efforts that are occurring in their departments. Ask them for ideas about possible college initiatives and about the professional, cultural, and technical supports that your staff needs to better integrate digital technologies into their teaching, research, and outreach.

Subscribe to a handful of blogs. Have the college IT staff set up a free online RSS aggregator and load it with a few select blogs, including those from Education Week, LeaderTalk, and the various educational leadership associations (see http://tinyurl.com/32ot8q). Dedicate a 30-to 60-minute time slot once a week to check the aggregator and read some posts. Powerful learning and helpful information are guaranteed, so share with others.

Ask the college IT personnel some key questions. The list at http://tinyurl.com/3dhvdf is a good starting point. Insist that the IT staff use non-technical language. Discuss key college successes and challenges related to technology implementation and integration.

Sponsor some awards or contests. Best Student Podcast, Best Instructor Wiki, Most Creative Use of a Blog by Faculty and Students, and so on. Have a Digital Technologies Award Day, invite local lawmakers and alumni, celebrate the year's accomplishments, and publicize widely.

Connect with local schools. Instructional technology faculties in colleges of education need access to teachers and students for research and to ensure curricular relevancy. Create mutually beneficial partnerships to exchange information, expertise, support, and practical tips.

None of these suggested activities requires much time, money, or expertise. While it may seem difficult to keep up with ever-changing technologies, deans can lead the way with a few simple activities that will have an immediate payoff in terms of organizational culture and public visibility.

Scott McLeod is director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE) at the University of Minnesota. He can be reached at www.scottmcleod.net or www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org.

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