Addressing EdTech at the Principal Level
We talk a lot about the edtech
challenges at the classroom
and district levels. But what
about our principals? At the
recent SchoolCIO Leadership
Summit, we asked district
administrators how important this building leader
is in the success of a technology initiative. The
answer was universal: without the support of a
principal, the initiative will not be as successful.
The majority polled also agreed that principals
need more support to realize initiatives, most
importantly through staff PD, but also by offering
principals more autonomy and involvement in the
conversation as initiatives are being planned.
These answers inspired T&L to launch this
new column specifically for principals, in print
and online. It is our hope that we can begin
a conversation to find out what edtech looks
like from the principal’s office, and how we
can bring peers together to build a supportive
community to help navigate sometimes tricky
We start the conversation with a question:
What are the most common edtech challenges
that are ignored at the principal level? Here are
Eric Sheninger. Principal,
New Milford High School,
Bergen County, NJ:
“The biggest challenge is that the majority
of principals don’t have the professional
development needed to prepare them to lead
with tech. They need to know how to effectively
integrate tech to support teaching and learning.
There is no program that focuses on the principalship—
that building-level perspective needed
to give them the tools and strategies to initiate
sustainable change and transformation.
“Another challenge is the fact that many
schools and districts have not embraced social
media as a viable tool to communicate, to
enhance learning, and to grow professionally.
Schools need to embrace social media to help the
principal and the school move forward.
“Of course, the biggest challenge is finances.
So, if a principal has to make decisions, he’s going
to look for where he can get the biggest bang for
their buck. Technology is an after-thought. It’s
seen as too costly up front, and requires upkeep
and sustainability. They think their money is
better spent elsewhere, such as for Common
Core initiatives. They need the leadership
training that shows them the longer-term
benefits technology can offer.
“Principals have to promote a culture where
they empower their staff to use technology.
I’ve given my staff autonomy and encourage
them to take risks. If I observe a lesson and
the technology isn’t working, I don’t hold that
against the teacher. Failure is not a bad word.”
Principal, St. Therese
Chinese Catholic School,
Chicago, IL (2012 T&L Leader
of the Year Winner):
Whether it is a corporate or educational
setting, the vision of the school should be the
driver, not the technology itself. Administrators,
teachers and parents need to be involved in that
vision, along with the technology support team
of the district or school. Limited resources, time
constraints, and the ever-changing tech field,
coupled with competitive educational markets, can
make even the most seasoned principal shorten
the necessary steps in implementing a technology
plan. Therefore, I believe it is important to
continually revisit the following questions:
• What do we really need? What are those
costs and what is needed for on-going
• How would our current tech
infrastructure need upgrading to support
• What are the key priorities?
• What is a reasonable timeline to realize
key priorities and objectives?
• What are our resources? Can they
complement one another? What is the
best, cost-effective solution?
• What are viable options that are costeffective
that may also help us reach our
• What kind of professional development
will be needed to support these areas of
• What safeguards need to be in place to
protect our children, our teachers and
any sensitive data?
Finally, right before we launch any new aspect
of technology, I literally challenge our technology
coordinator and staff to think like a savvy 10-yearold.
Could that child re-configure what we have
built and/or get him/herself into trouble?