Leadership & Advocacy Introduction

Leadership is a difficult concept to define in education technology. A U.S. Supreme Court Justice once said of pornography, "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." So it is with education technology - one looks for results. The specifics of how state and district leaders are able to accomplish innovative projects will vary due to the idiosyncrasies of the situation. Leaders do not necessarily have to come up with an idea and implement it all by themselves. Instead, leaders may plant an idea that a governor or superintendent adopts and owns. It may be nothing more than suggesting that something a neighboring district did may be good for their own district, with a little twist.

There are some commonalities among the successful leaders in education technology. They tend to be flexible and a little disrespectful of the status quo. They take risks, but they also know the politics of the situation and know how the game is played. Timing in leadership is as important as the ideas being proposed. One cannot always anticipate the perfect time to introduce or, more important, push an idea. As a result, one of the best attributes of a leader is being lucky. And luck is only what you make of it.

This is a particularly important and tough time for leaders. Dedicated funding for education technology, particularly at the state level, has declined. Some educational technology departments at both the state and local levels have been decimated by budget cuts. Regional education service centers, which are a major supporter of technology, have also seen cuts. These budget cuts, coupled with the flexibility within the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), require even more adaptable and creative leadership to accomplish the successful integration of technology into the classroom. Leaders are being held even more accountable for their technology expenditures, and policy-makers are asking for results in the form of positive changes in student achievement.

Leadership at the state level includes many types of activities, and is oftentimes a day-to-day, job-embedded effort that permeates all facets of a state director's day, including communicating to districts, communities, legislators and colleagues. Leadership also includes specific activities and strategies such as holding a legislative day, implementing motivational activities for district and teacher staff, or grassroots promotional pursuits. The states highlighted in this section - both in the next few pages and online - display the personal and project-oriented approaches to leadership that state directors must use each day in order to implement NCLB, as well as to improve student learning through technology.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.