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An Argument for Digital Leadership

Had to “pitch” my ideas for an ed. tech. leadership institute here at VCU today to the university officials who schmooze the corporate and philanthropic folks.  I pitch to them, they pitch to the money.

Anyway, I spent much time last night figuring out the logic of my argument.  Here’s what I came up with: 

  • DIGITAL KIDS: Our nation’s youth have been described as “digital natives;” with their iPods, cell phones, and Internet-connected computers, they live in a digital, cyberworld.

  • ANALOG SCHOOLS:  Educational technology policymakers tout the fact that the student-to-computer ratio in our nation’s public schools now stands at 3.8:1.  Yet, a 2003 Department of Commerce study ranked 55 industries with respect to information technology (IT)-intensity; education ranked dead last.

  • OVERSOLD AND UNDERUSED:  Even within this industry that is the least IT-intensive, an enormous digital divide exists between the degree to which schools have built a technological infrastructure and the degree to which educators are using those resources to advance teaching and learning.  To use a line from a popular movie, schools have built IT (though less so than other industries), but educators have not come.

  • THE WORLD IS FLAT; OUR SCHOOLS ARE BOXY: This access vs. use divide potentially renders our public schools irrelevant to the digital natives they serve; student engagement, an important predictor of student learning, is imperiled by analog schools.  Furthermore, as the United States continues to lag behind other countries in math and science achievement, analog schools and the access vs. use divide pose a serious threat to our position in an increasingly technologically driven global economy.

  • TEACHER-CENTRISM:  This lack of technology integration comes despite enormous investments in software, hardware and especially professional development for teachers.  In fact, nearly all of the research and (professional) development in the field of educational technology is exclusively focused on the teachers.  For example, of the 125 concurrent sessions at the 2007 annual conference of the Virginia Society for Technology in Education (VSTE), only 11 were dedicated to the leadership strand.  Of those, only 1 (one!) had any form of the verb “to lead” in the title; the word “principal” does not appear anywhere in the 84-page program.  The educational technology research base is equally teacher-centric.

  • THE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE:  Decades of research point to the centrality of leadership to school change/reform/improvement.  Yet, increasing empirical evidence suggests that leadership in and for technology in education is diffuse, ill-defined and most often foist upon educators with no formal leadership or power.  Distributed leadership does not mean delegated leadership.

From there, I went on to talk about how we can meet the leadership challenges.  I think the meeting went pretty well (my pitch was in the strike zone?).  But, I’d love to hear your feedback (hello…are you out there?…) on my logically-reasoned pitch.

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