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Building K-12 Cyber Leaders

The Consortium for School Networking, or CoSN, released Wednesday an updated guide aimed at improving superintendents' technology leadership, echoing the sentiments of others in ed-tech that strong leadership is crucial to strong technology integration.

The revised version of the Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent Toolkit refreshes guidelines CoSN released in 2008 to "help superintendents build their knowledge and skills to become more effective, visionary technology leaders," says a release from the national ed-tech advocates.

CoSN's update provides superintendents with assessments to help evaluate how ready they and their administrators are to lead technology initiatives, and identifies five leadership priorities. I read them as suggesting an order of operations, but they could also stand independently.

The five themes are as follows:

1. Utilize technologies that allow yourself and other district administrators to strengthen leadership and communication.
2. Understand the technology demands of the modern workplace and basic citizenship.
3. Use technology not to change, but to expand the array of teaching methods made available to students.
4. Emphasize professional development to improve staff technology skills, even those of administrators and superintendents.
5. Monitor and adapt to emerging trends in technology, such as balanced assessments, and be willing to develop expertise in those areas.

While teachers and other faculty may lead piece-meal classroom integration regardless of district leadership, superintendents are crucial for fostering an environment that is receptive to technology integration, CoSN leaders said in the release.

"Technology leadership has to start at the top," said Chip Kimball, chairman of the advisory council for CoSN's Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent initiative and a superintendent in Washington state. "Technology leadership has to be an intentional undertaking with specific district-wide goals, and superintendents are in a position to lead the way in achieving this."

Based on what I have seen, many teachers and technology officers echo Kimball's claim and are quick to credit superintendents who have led their districts forward. Researchers are also noting superintendents' importance. In a meeting at the ISTE 2010 ed-tech conference last week, Blackboard K-12 President Jessie Woolley-Wilson said getting superintendents to think proactively, rather than reactively, about ed-tech was among the biggest challenges to expanding online learning.

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