Technology and the School Leader

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Meera Balachandran

Fusion Club, Delhi

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School Leaders have an important role to play in every aspect of the institution’s image, ambience and overall appeal. Leadership can be sometimes defined as just ‘influence’.

The concept of emotional intelligence then gets linked up with the leader’s ability to influence. The ability to understand and build relationships, the understanding of the dynamics of change, capacity building and catering to stakeholder demands are all part of leadership today.

In order to ensure the preparedness for the 21st century as workers and citizens, school leaders need to advocate for the infusion of the critical skills into education and provide the tools and resources to help facilitate and drive change. It is in this context that technology plays a very crucial part in education today and every leader needs to recognise this. Wiring schools, providing technology hardware and software and ensuring abundant classroom use will definitely help teachers and students to change existing patterns of teaching and learning but this is not enough. Technology integration must be planned. It is a well accepted fact that any change is not easily accepted and therefore must be accompanied with social change that reduces resistance. Innovation of any type can only take place within a social system. ‘Fundamental changes would need to be made in how schools are organised, how time is allocated,
and how teachers are prepared’ – Rogers, 1995.

If we were to look at an organisation that is, a school, it is very often made up of virtual communities, students, parents,  teachers, senior leaders, policy makers, content specialists, technology mentors (a recent happening) and administrators. In order to let technology ‘happen’ we need to study the involvement of all these players. Their acceptance is crucial to the success of any technology integration model.

Professional development for teachers has taken place in large numbers, and it may be ascertained that technology has empowered the teacher as a user but the change in classroom transactions has not been as evident as it should have been. School leaders must recognise the power behind technology plans for the organisation and must involve the teacher as a learner, an adapter, a co-learner and a reflector. Let us see what the implications of such a model are. This model is based on the tested model ‘Technology Innovation Challenge’ (Sherry, 1998).

Teacher as a Learner

This would mean access to technology, in-service sessions at regular intervals, peer exchange, working towards aligning technology with the curriculum.

Teacher as an Adapter

In this stage, teachers experiment with technology, try it out in the classroom, share success and failure with their peers. Leaders need to help by mentoring such new users by technology savvy personnel.

Teacher as a Co-learner

This is often the neglected stage as most teachers after the initial training wait for directions to integrate it with the curriculum rather than attempt to do it oneself. In this stage the teacher should focus on curriculum integration, working in groups, using assessment ideas, even getting the students involved as informal technical assistants would go a long way in this important step. It would also mean involving policy makers so that larger plans could be drawn up for implementation.

Teacher as an Affirmer or Rejector

If the teacher is given administrative support and other incentives like recognition and praise, then it is almost certain that the teacher would begin to create new ways of integrating technology in a more sustainable manner. This would mean, observing and assessing the impact on the student learning outcomes, and also disseminating exemplary student work.

Teacher as a Leader

In a technology integration plan, this becomes a very important stage. Experienced teachers if supported by the school leaders and administration could be used to conduct workshops, peer coach, network in house discussions, collect data, share improvements and teach new members. In this process, technology integration gets validated and above all the skills also become portable to other institutions. They begin to take a systemic view of education technology and see it as a part of the organisation.

If leaders need to ensure sustainability of technology integration, we need to find out what is necessary to be in place in the organisation. Some of the things that come to the forefront are –

a) Convergence of resources –
This implies the level at which the professional development has taken place and its diffusion. If it is at the highest level and the standards are very good, it is likely to move down to the lower levels, provided these teachers are supported administratively by the leaders. If it is not supported then it will remain as pockets of excellence within the institution and will not really have an impact on the general learning outcomes.

a) Mutuality
If the school administration recognises an exemplary teacher by giving him or her time off for further professional training then he or she in turn would try to ensure that the student learning output has been raised by technology. In this case ‘best practices’ are seen as successful and are therefore diffused through the system..

b) Extensiveness
Any educational innovation if confined to only a small area of a school will not impact the whole system. While these pockets of innovation are very important, to have an impact on the systems of the institution, it must be supported so that the key factors in this case, the integration of technology permeate the whole system. This is also necessary to counteract the effect of a very good teacher leaving the school and taking the learning of the innovation – thus, leaving the organisation with no support.

c) Sustaining Momentum
In order to sustain this whole movement it is necessary to ensure that all the teachers in all the classrooms are involved, all the administrators support and are aware of the change and all the stakeholders support the movement.

e-Learning is definitely already shaping learning in the classroom of today. It has its impact on both pre-service and in-service education. It has and will always have its impact on all student outcomes as schools prepare students for the 21st century. ‘Educators now more than ever can take an active role in co-producing knowledge, shaping the structure of their own learning experiences, and influencing producers of e-learning to develop programs, products and services that are responsive to the needs of educators and their students’ – (NSDC/NICI – 2001). While teachers will always be the key deliverers in any technology related programme, the ultimate recognition to this whole process of technology integration will depend to a large extent on the school leader. His or her recognition of the potential of technology in education will shape the young to better face the 21st century with the right skills

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