Hit the books: Superintendents go back to school to sharpen tech savvy

Hit the books: Superintendents go back to school to sharpen tech savvy

Superintendent Technology Leadership Academy participants have time to network and learn from other edtech experts.With the help of an Enhancing Education Through Technology grant, Marla Davenport, director of learning and technology for TIES, a St. Paul-based nonprofit consortium of 36 Minnesota school districts, helped create a Superintendent Technology Leadership Academy (STLA) using CoSN’s “Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent” curriculum, built around five themes with a day-long meeting per theme.

“In our first cohort,” says Davenport. “22 superintendents brought administrative teams of two to five people—which included technology directors, curriculum directors, principals, district media personnel, and communications directors— through the 18-month- to two-year program.”

Mornings at STLA are reserved for private counseling and needs assessment with superintendents and their teams.

“Each afternoon, we bring in national speakers via video and also make time for discussions and planning, so the district can look at each theme and how they can employ technology to solve some of the problems they have in their district,” says Davenport. “They then head home and report back with their progress at the next meeting, giving them 2-3 months before we go on to the next theme.”

Davenport believes this long-term approach works well. “Superintendents and their teams are so busy. The time alone to think these different strategies through is important. We hear over and over again, ‘We never have time to sit down and focus on these things.’”

Divide and Conquer

The TIES staff meets with the superintendent alone, and also meets with the superintendent’s administration team separately. This helps to ensure they are getting honest feedback from both sides.

“Superintendents are really conscious about their public persona and the need to appear that they are on top of things, so for them to go to a workshop can be uncomfortable,” says Davenport. “We give them the opportunity to learn from everyone else, but yet still have time to interact with their administration team and talk about these topics with a sense of command and understanding.”

Each STLA district team has a coach at TIES that checks in periodically and offers additional staff development.

“We told the superintendents to think of these coaches as their personal trainer. If they want them to come and personally show them how to do something, they could do so without the world needing to know about that additional training.”

The “Walk Around” Workaround

Different team members might envision different opportunities to incorporate tech into their district.

“We had our staff offer a technology ‘walk around.’ We very informally set up stations around the room for participants to walk around and see the different tech options.”

For a theme like ‘How to Communicate Better in your District,’ Adobe Connect, Skype and different types of communications tools might be used while ‘Tech Use in the Classroom,’ could showcase iPads and iPods or the latest software available online.

“We offered hands on demonstrations to let them learn about the tools and get to know them, so they could make better decisions about what might work for them,” says Davenport.

“Our audience has always primarily been technology coordinators and teachers,” says Davenport. “But since we’ve been doing the STLA, this past year we had 100 superintendents and 400 principals attend.” Sharing tech training at all levels can give these schools a true 21st century edge.

Online PD options

Argosy University, www.argosyonline.info
Atomic Learning, www.atomiclearning.com
Custom Guide, www.customguide.com
Drexel University, www.drexel.com
Full Sail University, www.fullsail.edu
Knowledge Delivery Systems, www.kdsi.org
LearnKey, www.learnkey.com
Nova Southeastern University, www.nova.edu
PBS Teacherline, www.pbs.org/teacherline
PD 360, www.schoolimprovement.com
Pearson, www.pearsonpd.com
Solution Tree, www.solution-tree.com
Walden University Online, degrees.waldenu.edu

Sascha Zuger

Sascha has nearly two decades of experience as a freelance journalist writing for national magazines, including The Washington Post, LA Times, Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic Traveler, and others. She writes about education, travel and culinary topics.