The Profile of a 1:1 Technology Leader

This past spring I completed my dissertation and earned my Doctorate degree.  My research centered around developing a profile of the leader of a successful 1:1 technology initiative.  I had the great fortune to work with 24 different principals from around the country that all lead Apple Distinguished Schools.  It was a wonderful experience because at the time, I too was the leader of an Apple Distinguished School. Through my research I was able to create the beginnings of a profile that I believe districts and leadership development programs should consider.  The profile consists of five parts:  Facilitator of the Vision, Master of Communication, Coordinator of Support, Cultivator of Culture, and Focus on Improvement. 

Facilitator of the Vision – Leaders have to realize the disruptive nature of the type of change that technology creates.  Change related to technology is emotional for many educators.  A leader has to be skilled at inspiring their teachers and exposing them to problems and environments that get them to look at NEW solutions (2nd order change).  The creation of the vision needs to be created by a team that is empowered to share, challenge, and debate a new normal for their school.  It is the skilled leader that can direct and facilitate these types of conversations and shape them into a vision.

Master of Communication – The principal CANNOT be the sole communicator.  The skilled leader is one that creates situations through book studies, curriculum redesign, discussions, etc. where the staff realizes the vision for the use of technology.  When the staff realizes or stumbles upon the vision, they then can see their personal place in the process.  Leaders also need to be very strategic in the staff the select to help communicate the vision.  Resistant teachers need to see trusted colleagues communicate and belief in the vision.

Coordinator of Support – The most successful leaders are those that have extended their own leadership influence by purposely developing teacher leaders.  Teacher leaders often carry more weight and value with a staff and ARE the front line of support.  Needs assessments are instruments that are used REGULARLY in a successful 1:1 school.  Teachers need to see that their immediate needs are being met through PD or through protected time for collaboration.  Teachers also need feedback.  If a leader is going to “require” the use of technology, then they have to be prepared to provide examples of excellence and feedback to those who need it.

Cultivator of Culture – Culture cannot be left out of the equation.  Technology change will create turbulence like a staff has never seen.  The leader has to create an atmosphere where teachers feel safe to take risks, share ideas, and experiment without fear of failure.  School leaders have to build in a web of support through coaching, mentoring, and professional development that will catch people when they fall.  The leader also has to understand how to balance coaching and accountability.  The move to 1:1 is a marathon, not a sprint.  The staff will go through stages of development all at different time, therefore the leader has to differentiate for the staff just as a teacher would in the classroom.

Focus on Improvement – Many 1:1’s around the country can’t produce any data.  The mere rolling out of a device for every kid gave kids some cool tools, but didn’t result in improved performance.  It is imperative that a successful 1:1 technology leader ties the use of technology to performance from the very beginning.  It is up to the school/district to decide what those metrics will be.  When a school or district goes 1:1 it is an example of tremendous courage on the part of the Superintendent and the school board.  There needs to be a return on their investment!  Staff must be evaluated based on their use of technology and the leader has to “keep score.”  It’s not a “gotcha” game, but it’s about fiscal accountability and more importantly accountability to do all we can for our kids.

This is obviously just a snippet of my research and I hope for any of you leaders out there that it sparks some thinking or gives you some ideas.