The Top 10 Great Things Technology Leaders Do

7/1/2008 5:00:00 AM

from Educators' eZine

In public schools, we are continually asked to do more with less. Without complete information of the educational process, most taxpayers want positive results without increased taxes. That is why, at our school, we feel it is essential to create a leadership community.

Your leadership success increases exponentially by the number of leaders you create within your organization. Teachers, as well as administrators, must accept their roles as leaders to properly integrate technology. Then and only then can long-term success be realized. In times of education bashing and dwindling resources, we must acknowledge that our most valuable assets are our human resources and allow our students to build our future in a positive direction in a technological, global society.

1. Raise the Bar
"Expect a lot from yourself or no one else will."

If you don't, who will? You must expect nothing less than your best work. If you are satisfied with run of the mill technology integration, you will get it every time. Aim for excellence, and you will be surprised what you can accomplish through proper planning, experience, and your own professional development.

For me, "Raising the Bar" is the prelude to all the great things that leaders do. Granted, everything you do is not off the charts, but your goal should be to create the best. If you are an educator, you see it all the time. Teachers, parents, and students sometimes do "just enough". We are preparing our students for jobs that may not yet exist but one thing is for sure, they will need technology skills for the rest of the 21st century.

By raising the bar for yourself, you raise the bar for everyone. And, professional development will be a common thread that connects all of your best technology integrating teachers. It carries over into everything you do. High standards and commitment are catchy. Work hard, be successful, have fun.

When it comes to the integration of technology, I've seen a lot of school administrators that could "talk the talk" but they do not "walk the walk". They expect the people around them to accomplish results that they are not committed to themselves.

Because we continually "Raise the Bar" at our school, our professional development opportunities led to the creation of a Master of Art in Instructional Technology cohort. Twelve of our teachers received advance degrees on our campus, (for free). We created a partnership with a local college that benefitted all of us.

2. Set Goals
"Without you, the world would not be as productive."

It works! And you might think goal setting is common sense, but most people do not do it. Do you write down your goals? I always had goals, but sometimes they would get away from me, or they would be postponed. Once I started to write them down, my chances of achievement were greatly increased, and I became more successful. Many school technology leaders do not know where they are going. So, how are they going to get there? More importantly, you need to know where you are. An important component of technology professional development and a technology plan is to develop a vision, mission, and goals.

At our school, we benchmarked our teachers then lined up our professional development with our goals. This allowed us to schedule certain types of professional development and allocate resources to accommodate this part of the plan. Eventually, we created a high number of turnkey trainers which allowed us to decrease the amount of money we were spending on the training component of technology integration. Your taxpayers and board of education members are thrilled to hear that you will spend less money in the long run.

3. Never Ask Anyone To Do Something You Would Not Do
"Positive culture is synonymous with positive leadership."

Some people have positional power, and they are great at designation. Those people hoard the power. A high-ranking position does not make you a leader; it makes you a person in a high-ranking position. Hey, there's enough leadership for everyone. Great leaders share the power through empowerment (that's a later point). Negative leaders always have to be the center of attention or designation.

Great leaders are not afraid to get their hands dirty. Don't be scared to chip in. As principal of our school, I've done just about every job. I have salted icy sidewalks, cleaned up dog poop, washed cafeteria tables, and painted walls. Granted, some people insist my time is mostly effective in other areas, but when you need something done, people are more willing to get it done if they see you getting it done for them. The same rings true in any organization.

It is important as a technology leader that you take the time to go through the training you expect from the people around you. You do not have to be an expert in all areas of technology integration but do not be afraid to facilitate learning with teachers as well as the students. After you make a commitment, do your own research to stay ahead of the learning curve. You will be surprised at the positive response the people around you will give when you take the time to do what you ask of them.

4. Lead by Example
"Be the change you want to see in the world."

I used to hear people say, "Do as I say not as I do." I'm sure someone's dad said that to them at some point, but as a leader, always demonstrate the behavior you want the people around you to emulate. Whether it's your colleagues, students, relatives, or children, be the person you want to see around you.

When I speak to teachers about technology integration, I let them know that not only does everyone have the potential to be a technology leader; the easiest way to lead is by example. One of the most frequent questions I hear is, "How do you get the older teachers that are late technology adopters to integrate technology?" Or, "How do you get them to see the advantages of technology integration?" Instead of getting them to see what you see, you have to see what they see.

You must have the empathy to anticipate the barriers that late adopters may encounter. In larger groups, some teachers may be reluctant to ask question because they do not want to be embarrassed. Or they do not want a negative perception. If you think about it, this mirrors the same way students feel when they do not grasp a concept. They feel dumb. It is up to you to differentiate for adults as well as students.

Your professional development plan should include options for teachers to break down common barriers of support, time, and isolation. We use a combination of professional development to give teachers alternatives. Whether it's email support, peer mentoring, or technology showcases, we make the material relevant and easily accessible.

As a building principal, when it came to technology integration, it was important that I modeled the behavior I wanted the teachers to emulate. It was important that if I promoted interactive webpages, that I developed one and kept it updated. Likewise, a review of the literature and our own action research allowed us to make gains that were aligned with our mission and goals.

5. Create a Team
"If people are not connected to your organization, they'll be connected to something else."

As an educator, some of the things you do outside of the classroom translates into the most important strategies inside the classroom. The same types of experiences can ring true for any workplace. There have been several technology conferences where we presented different components of technology integration. Usually, some of our best ideas have come from the brainstorming we did on our return trips. The productivity was attributed to an exciting team-building experience away from our campus.

Likewise, in order to fine-tune the process of technology integration, you must use every available human resource to your advantage. For example, when new adopters take the step to understand the proper integration of technology, we put them on a team of people that can help them make the transition to this new tool.

We use our computer teacher to team plan and to team teach with our classroom teachers. Rather than teach remotely in a computer laboratory, she helps teach the technology standards together with the other subject area curriculum.

We use our library/media specialist the same way. Not only is her webpage a resource for the entire school district, but she connects resources to other teachers' web pages. She also team plans and team-teaches.

6. Think Outside the Box
-John Lennon

Education is one of the few careers where we are allowed to be as creative as we want. No one will ever come to you and say. "Stop being so creative." If they do, get a job in a different school. Those teachers that inspired me always took creative risks. This same philosophy should be encouraged in all organizations. You should be empowered (next section), and you should empower the people around you to promote imagination. You can inspire a new generation by doing the same thing.

This is such an important component to technology integration. The great teachers that integrate technology in a seamless manner are always looking for ways to improve the teaching and learning process. These teachers use technology to take their students to places that other tools cannot.

If you are properly integrating technology, the curriculum drives the technology. Likewise, you are satisfying technology standards across the curriculum rather than remotely in a computer laboratory. When you examine your curriculum, ask the question, "What can I do differently with technology that will bring the students to higher and different levels of learning?" What technology tools do the students already use and why?

7. Empower
"Encourage others to be leaders."

Empowerment can make quantum leaps in anyone's ability to be a leader. Many people cannot share power especially if they are in an authoritative position. Positional leadership does not readily translate into anyone's ability to lead. Rather it is a position that can be abused or mishandled by many.

Take a look in any classroom or boardroom facilitators? If they do, chances are the other people are engaged, and they are taken to higher levels. The teacher or other executive must allow the students or participants to become a component of learning and leading. So, share the wealth. Share the power.

Some people are under the impression that there can only be one leader in the classroom, the building, the business, the school, the district. I guaranty you those schools or organizations operate at lower capacity than those organizations that understand the value of creating leaders through empowerment.

As an administrator, you need to use your human resources to their full potential. Go out to the classrooms and see what is taking place in the areas of technology integration. Follow up these visits with authentic conversation.

In the classroom, let your students become active learners rather than passive listeners. Do not discourage their input. Allow your students to be facilitators for other students in the acquisition of technology skills. This will create an environment of engagement.

8. Have Integrity
"Your measure of character is what you say or do when no one is looking."

What would you say was the number one effective quality of a leader? Integrity should be near the top of your list. We all go through experiences that change the way we look at the world. Unfortunately, our children do not have the experiences or sometimes the skills to deal with difficult situations where and when great character is essential. It is up to the adults in their lives to relay the experiences younger people need to reach their potential. This same concept is true when we integrate effective technology into the classroom curriculum.

Everyone should agree that as we integrate technology, we must model behavior. We should also reinforce ethical technology use. From an acceptable-use policy to plagiarism, we need to reinforce and demonstrate proper use. As we do this, do not forget that some of the younger students may be naive about certain ethical concepts. As the students progress in their academic careers, it must be written in your school's honor code. Likewise, this behavior must be modeled and illustrated by teachers.

9. Treat People Better Than You Want To Be Treated
"Find a job you like and you add five days to every week."
-H. Jackson Brown Jr.

I like to feel good. Who doesn't like to feel good? What makes you feel good? A lot of what makes you feel good makes others feel good, too unless you are one of those miserable people that never should have gotten out of bed this morning. I made up my mind when I accepted the job as a teacher that I was going to be the kind of teacher I wanted as a student. When I became a principal, I made up my mind I was going to be the kind of principal that I wanted when I was a student, when I was a teacher, and when I was a vice principal.

So why should this be any different when it comes to technology integration? Some people are waiting for technology integration to fall out of the sky. I don't think it will happen. Share your ideas and expertise, it can make all the difference in the world to someone who feels isolated and without support. When one of us succeeds in education, we need to pass on the wealth. Sharing ideas can turn that one person in a positive direction that may not have been successful.

10. Have Fun
"Inspire them, and they will learn."

This has to be one of my personal favorites because I have worked in places that were fun, and I've worked in places that were no fun. I have experienced learning that was fun and learning that was painfully boring. I think we all have experienced both. I can guarantee you this: If you are having fun where you work and learn, you will be more anxious to get there. You might even be more reluctant to leave. You will be more loyal, and you will go above and beyond what is expected. Collegiality and engagement will flow like clear, cool mountain spring water.

Technology integration is a wonderful tool that can naturally differentiate instruction in multiple, fun ways. I have seen many students "tricked" into learning that was fun and engaging. If teaching is fun, enjoyable learning is sure to follow.

I remember a student with a learning disability that would always be reluctant to speak in his mainstreamed social studies class. Once his teacher found the student's niche in a technology-integrated project, the boy thrived.

He was a baseball fanatic. He was allowed to choose a topic from the years encompassing World War II. He naturally chose baseball. He excelled and moved to the right of the grading rubric. Because the learning was fun, it became differentiated and engaging. This student was proud and confident when he stood in front of the class to present the information in a multimedia format that was researched on the Internet using primary source documents. Having fun in the classroom is a simple thing that can make a big difference when you integrate technology.


Your chances of successful technology integration will increase as the number of leaders in your organization increases. Teachers from other schools have commented that their barrier to successful technology integration is dependent on new leadership. I tell them to be the leadership they want around them. Even in times when we are asked to do more with less, I have seen our teachers apply for grants and successfully be a change agent by raising the bar and setting goals. If you are putting something off until tomorrow, tomorrow will never come.

From the book 50 Great Things Leaders Do: Let's Get Fired Up!

Rudnesky, Frank. 50 Great Things Leaders Do: Let's Get Fired Up!, 2007.

Email: Frank Rudnesky, Ed. D.

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