What Does Smart Leadership Look Like?

Dear Readers,

Welcome to Technology & Learning's June Leadership Guide 2004. Now in its 24th year, T&L remains, as ever, a resource serving K-12 educators in the business of managing, teaching, and training with technology. With this annual special end-of-year edition, we forego our regular monthly reviews and departments, to specifically focus on issues and solutions of concern to superintendents, technology coordinators, principals, and other school and district leaders. To that end, we are pleased to begin this month by reacquainting you with our advisory board and regular contributing editors ("22 We Count On"), whose collective expertise in the field represents an impressively high percentage of the current brain trust in the education technology industry. Among these 22 professionals you'll find authors, national-level advisors, journalists, techies, innovators, and well-known industry gurus-all educators-whose ongoing insights and opinions augment the eyes and ears of our regular editorial staff.

There is much to examine and reassess concerning education leadership in today's budget- and resource-challenged environment. What does leadership really look like in the year 2004? More to the point: what qualities are essential for effectively leading students into a future we can't yet clearly imagine?

For one: vision.

In such times of rapid technological evolution and global, economic, and political uncertainty, big picture awareness is key to a vision that charts the right course into the future. An awareness of the ever-present digital divide remains a major issue, for instance. An arguable 98 percent of schools may be hooked up to the Net, but what is the quality of student and educator experience online? Are teachers receiving the sustained, high-level training they need to be "highly qualified" in these technology-driven times? Are female students assuming leadership roles when it comes to technology? To what extent is the speed of Internet access driving another wedge into the gap? We know that customizing learning experiences to meet students' special needs is central to achievement. What virtual learning experiences are being made available for students needing opportunities and exposure beyond the district's abilities? How do emerging technologies fit into a district's strategic planning?

It is also crucial that leader awareness extend to security issues and their legal and ethical implications for schools. Without question, the technologies of the past 20 years have effected sweeping changes that cannot be ignored. Last winter, the FBI raided a middle school in Arizona for copyright violations. Around that same time, the social security numbers of an entire freshman class at the University of California were accidentally published on the Internet. Many schools are enforcing bans on cell phone-enabled digital cameras in locker rooms. And the unprecedented amount of digitized personal student data moving back and forth through a given district's firewalls is more vulnerable than ever to predators who have easy access to a range of free hacking tools online. Put simply, to be unaware today is to be liable.

Another aspect of awareness is an understanding of the responsibilities and issues facing staff in all job capacities under a leader's purview. Do classroom teachers have the tools and training to take advantage of efficient e-communication devices such as e-mail and class Web sites?

Is the principal equipped to select the most appropriate information management system to streamline the assessment and reporting required by NCLB? Does she understand how to manipulate data toward the end of improving student achievement? Is the district or site technology coordinator knowledgeable enough to make sound purchasing decisions about the best reading or math software for teachers?

This awareness that enables vision is a topic woven throughout our features and columns year-round. Beyond that, however, today's leaders must also possess more practical skills than ever before. And it is this practical side of leadership that we have chosen to specifically address in the following pages.

It always elicits a chuckle when we talk about the high-level leader who has his assistant print out his e-mail for reading. But this is not a joke, of course. It has been often the case that the higher up the leadership food chain in education, the less the skill with technology. But it's been quite a few years now since the technology department was housed in its self-contained closet down the hall. Unlike the old AV club, whose members often sported the proverbial tape on their glasses, today's technology is the province of every student and every educator. And it's up to the leaders to set the can-do tone when it comes to mastery of software, hardware and Internet uses that enhance all aspects of our roles.

In "Seven Time-Saving Tools," we bring you some of our readers' and advisors' top choices of technologies that help them save time and money, and generally make their daily professional lives easier. From tech administrator Kathy Schrock's unbelievable nine personal handheld devices (she's a self-confessed handheld junkie) and principal Kevin Lusk's closed-circuit security cameras to deputy CIO Richard Langford's interactive voice-response system, we present a mixture of must-haves from educators in a variety of roles.

Another very practical and essential aspect of leadership is effective management of the bottom line. In "Finding Funding: A Dozen Daring Ideas" author Gwen Solomon offers a range of new avenues into finding the funds you need for technology. Partnerships, cost-cutting infrastructure, online fundaising, and other creative solutions are explored, along with examples of schools and districts who've recently found success using their own imaginative approaches.

And finally, we look at the topic of communication ("E-Communication 101"), an undeniably important element of any leadership program. Communication may seem basic, yes, but wait. The current capabilities of e-communication are anything but basic. Webinars, e-newsletters, and e-publishing and presentations all newly empower stakeholders at every level by encouraging the timely and well-considered sharing of information. Along with the descriptions of these new methods are several sidebars of communication Quick Tips designed to be a handy reference for you and your staff.

We hope you'll find many of the numerous practical solutions in this issue appropriate for your particular professional needs or those of other leaders you know. As well, we hope you'll take away some inspiring ideas from our administrator Q&A profiles, which kick off each of our three Smart sections. In order to assist you as best we can in the future, we encourage your feedback on this special leadership issue. Please contact us at techlearning_editors@cmp.com and let us know your thoughts.

We wish you all a happy end of school year.

Susan McLester
Editor in Chief