Tech-ing the Next Step: Part 1 - School Leaders

When Keeping Up Isn't Enough: Using Tech to Future-Proof Our Schools

As we embark on this journey towards understanding how technology is set to transform the world of education, we begin by taking a closer look at one of education’s most essential yet often overlooked stakeholders - school leaders.

In 2004, a landmark report by Wallace Foundation - backed by decades of research - found that “school leadership is second only to teaching among in-school influences on student success”. 

An influence of this scale comes with immense responsibilities. The smallest of decisions made at the school leadership level can have a big, meaningful impact on a school and the future of its students for years to come. 

That is why at pivotal points, such as now - when education intersecting with technology has already become the new reality - these decisions carry even more weight than usual. Time is also a crucial factor, as technological tools update at breakneck speed while older tech-based learning systems go obsolete in increasingly shorter periods.

With all that in mind, it is vital that school leaders move away from outdated strategies centered around “keeping up with the times”, and instead intently work towards future-proofing their schools. Here are five fundamental guidelines that can be helpful along the way:

  1. Setting clear pedagogical goals

Racing against rapidly-evolving technology is a near-impossible feat, which in turn makes planning ahead a tricky business. That is why perhaps the most effective method for school leaders to stay on top of their school’s tech requirements might be to set distinct pedagogy-based goals first and then work backward. 

By identifying the school’s pain points and essential objectives, leaders can then work towards finding tech solutions that help them clearly address those specific shortcomings and efficiently meet their goals. It also helps ensure that the school system isn’t force-fitting the latest education technologies onto the existing structure, unknowingly resolving non-essential issues at the cost of high-priority objectives.

2. Developing and fostering an innovation mindset

As technology opens up avenues in education that were previously unthinkable, keeping an innovation mindset towards these new developments can be an invaluable asset. An open-minded view, and taking on the mantle of ‘technology leadership’, can help school leaders make bolder, timelier and more insightful decisions for their school’s future.

But more importantly, this mindset can help inspire confidence across the entire school structure, encouraging educators, students and parents to not just tolerate but actively lean towards embracing technology in the classrooms.

3. Investing in technology - the sustainable way

While an innovation mindset can certainly open up the mind to technological possibilities, it also needs to be tempered with an awareness of impact and consequences. After all, investing in and incorporating technology into a school is worthwhile only if it has the potential to be sustainable for everyone involved.

For school leaders, this can mean evaluating considerations such as these through both a short-term and long-term lens:

  • Tackling issues of data privacy and protection for students.

  • Ensuring adequate guidance, training and ongoing support for educators and other staff members. 

  • Handling implementation and infrastructural challenges across the board.

4. Making informed decisions

The farther away one moves from the classroom, the harder it can be to have a relevant understanding of its needs and challenges. Which is why when it comes to the specifics of technological use, school leaders can take into account direct inputs from a classroom’s closest participants - its teachers and students.

In the Finnish education system, for instance, there is an emphasis on democratizing this process as much as possible. Educators, in particular, are encouraged to decide for themselves how and what forms of tech tools they would like to see integrated into their classrooms, based on their individual teaching styles. Considerations like these not only make decision-making easier for school leadership but also offer the best shot at optimizing the learning experience.

5. Anticipating and embracing challenges

Amidst all of these considerations, perhaps the most valuable quality that a school leader can exercise at this unprecedented time is patience. When trying to match pace with technology, lags are inevitable and knowledge gaps abound. So the key might just be to stay informed enough to expect certain challenges, accept them as a part of the process, and stay on course. 

For a school to be truly future-proofed, it is essential to move forward ‘with’ instead of ‘against’ technology and to work closely with everyone involved in this movement, from education tech providers to educators, parents and the students themselves.

Our technology blog series ‘Tech-ing the Next Step’ is written based on insight gathered from interviews with some of our education team members: Stephen Cox (Chief Education Officer), Christopher Petrie (Director of Digital Learning), and Laura Luomanen-Jaakkola (Director of Professional Development).


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