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Tech Educator Profile: Scott McLeod

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As the director of the nation's only center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, Scott McLeod has made a name for himself as the "go to" guy when it comes to helping cultivate technology-savvy school leaders.

In his current role, McLeod serves as the director for the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership and Education (CASTLE), an Ames, I.A.-based consortium of large research universities that help supply K-12 administrators and faculty with the tools they need to be successful educators in today's tech-laden world.

A professor for nine years, McLeod teaches the educational administration courses that prepare principals and superintendents. "We fill a pretty important role here in terms of advocacy and resources for the K-12 sector," said McLeod, who points out that many of the recipients of such efforts are reluctant to embrace technology. "The people who are charged with preparing kids for the digital, global future are some of the least knowledgeable about what that [actually] means."

Determined to help change that, McLeod said he takes a long-term, fundamental approach to the task at hand, based on the premise that substantive change never "bubbles up" from the bottom. "We know that if the leaders don't get it, then nothing will happen," said McLeod. "The schools have to prepare kids to live and work in this new world that's fused in with technology and interconnected globally, thanks to the Internet."

The problem, lamented McLeod, is that many schools are still based on a 1950s paradigm that "just doesn't cut it" anymore. "If schools are going to prepare kids for this uncertain future," said McLeod, "then things have got to change. The people who will make that change are the leaders."

Also helping to facilitate that change is CASTLE, which runs a graduate program that educational leaders can leverage to familiarize themselves with technology and improve their leadership skills. Created by CASTLE, the program is also provided to other universities, which are using it for their own professional development.

CASTLE also offers training and technology resources (many of which are offered online at no charge), and uses both advocacy and publicity to "get the word out," said McLeod. "We do everything we can, and on all fronts."

But CASTLE is just one center, said McLeod, in a pool of 125,000 schools and 15,000 school districts nationwide, all of which could benefit from the organization's efforts to some degree. At a recent educational conference, for example, McLeod said he spoke to a group of folks charged with K-12 technology at the state level, telling them that they needed to pay more attention to administrators.

"They need to spend one-third of their professional development funds on leaders, and not just on the teachers," said McLeod. "Shifts like that will make a difference."

McLeod points to the Edina Public Schools District in Minnesota as one that's making strides in training its administrators on the fine points of technology. "They had me come up there in August for an all-day presentation for their staff," said McLeod. "They've since caught the bug and are moving in a proactive direction when it comes to technology."

Many other school districts prefer the reactive approach, said McLeod, who added that too many of them spend time trying to put out today's fires without thinking much about the future. Part of the problem can be blamed on generational issues, he added, since many of today's leaders have "been successful their entire lives without needing technology." As a result, there's little urgency to get trained or up to speed on the latest and greatest software and hardware, let alone learn how to convey its use to students.

Going forward, McLeod said he expects parents to play an advocate role for groups like CASTLE. "Parents are going to start asking what schools are doing to prepare their children for the 21st century," said McLeod. "So far, schools have been insulated from that pressure, but that's definitely going to change as technology continues to evolve."

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at bridgetmc@earthlink.net.

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