Establishing A True Tech North

A school leaders’ guide to tech alignment. 

GUEST COLUMN | by Dr. Mary Hemphill

POP KUKOONRAT

In an era characterized by unprecedented access to technology, school leaders are tasked with the critical responsibility of ensuring that their educational institutions have a clear and cohesive vision for integrating technology. This vision encompasses not only the expectations and guidelines for tech use but also the strategies for assessment and training, both for students and teachers. 

With tech fatigue on the rise for both student and teacher leaders, EdWeek Research Center conducted a study and found that 79% of the teachers surveyed felt they and their teacher colleagues were tired of all the tech use they have experienced over the past two years. With more edtech and digital tools available now more than ever, it is incumbent upon school leaders to think strategically about how to augment the technological talents of student leaders and teacher leaders in schools while aligning those technologies and tech initiatives with the school’s overall strategic academic goals. 

‘…it is incumbent upon school leaders to think strategically about how to augment the technological talents of student leaders and teacher leaders in schools while aligning those technologies and tech initiatives with the school’s overall strategic academic goals.’

Bill George introduced the concept of a “True North” in 2007, and his leadership research offered that authentic leaders are guided by their True North, allowing them to stay true to themselves and effectively lead others. He described the True North as “your inner sense, or your calling, of what you want to accomplish in life. It’s a combination of your values, your beliefs, and your purpose. It keeps you on a straight track that’s true for you. And it’s different for every single person. There’s no two people for whom True North is the same.” Just as True North is unique to each individual, so too is every school leader’s True Tech North, tailored to their specific educational context, goals, and the needs of their students and community. It serves as a personalized roadmap, steering them toward their vision of technology integration in education, a distinct and meaningful path for each leader. 

Aligning Your Tech Vision with Your Ed Mission

The True Tech North for school leaders is the guiding beacon that aligns their technological vision with their educational mission. It encompasses their deeply held values, their aspirations for leveraging technology to enhance learning, and their commitment to preparing students for the digital age. Just as every individual’s True North is unique, so too is every school leader’s True Tech North, reflecting their distinct educational context, goals, and the needs of their students and community.” 

For school leaders, establishing their True Tech North involves defining a strategic technological direction that ensures all stakeholders, including students, teachers, and parents, have a shared understanding of the prioritized, taught, and assessed technologies within the school environment. To begin the process of establishing one’s True Tech North, school leaders can engage critical stakeholders, district-level leadership, and their school community 

1. Defining Clear Expectations and Guidelines:
School leaders must articulate clear expectations and guidelines for the use of technology in the educational setting. This includes establishing policies for responsible tech use, digital citizenship, and ethical considerations. For example, creating a comprehensive acceptable use policy (AUP) that outlines the responsible use of technology, cybersecurity protocols, and guidelines for online behavior can provide a clear framework for students and teachers. 

2. Prioritizing Tech Integration in the Curriculum:
Integrating technology into the curriculum should be a deliberate and prioritized effort. School leaders can work with curriculum coordinators and instructional coaches to identify specific learning objectives and standards that can be enhanced through the use of technology. For instance, incorporating coding and robotics into the science curriculum or utilizing digital storytelling tools for language arts can align tech use with specific learning outcomes. 

3. Assessing Tech Proficiency and Integration:
Assessment of tech proficiency should be integrated into the overall assessment framework of the school. This can involve incorporating technology-related competencies into student assessments and teacher evaluations. For example, students’ ability to effectively use digital research tools, create multimedia presentations, or collaborate using online platforms can be assessed as part of their academic performance. 

4. Providing Ongoing Professional Development:
School leaders should prioritize ongoing professional development to ensure that teachers are equipped with the necessary skills to effectively integrate technology into their instructional practices. This can involve offering workshops, coaching sessions, and access to online resources that focus on tech-enhanced pedagogy, digital tools, and best practices for tech integration. 

5. Creating a Visible Tech Culture:
School leaders can create a visible tech culture within the school environment by showcasing tech-infused projects, student work, and innovative teaching practices. This can involve establishing tech showcases, digital exhibitions, or tech-themed events that highlight the impact of technology on teaching and learning. 

A Cohesive, Impactful Vision for Tech Integration 

Establishing your “True Tech North” requires a comprehensive approach that aligns tech expectations, use, guidelines, and assessment. By defining clear expectations, prioritizing tech integration in the curriculum, assessing tech proficiency, providing ongoing professional development, and creating a visible tech culture, school leaders can ensure that their educational institutions have a cohesive and impactful vision for technology integration. 

Establishing a True Tech North ultimately empowers both student leaders and teacher leaders to thrive in a tech-rich educational landscape! 

Dr. Mary Hemphill is CEO & Founder of The Limitless Leader. Through her former roles as North Carolina’s first state director of Computer Science, Director of Academics, and Chief Academic Officer, Mary has successfully worked alongside leaders at every level to leverage support and leadership around strategic initiatives and programming as well as helping leaders navigate change management. Most recently, Mary was named one of EdTech Digest’s Top 100 Influencers for 2023-2024. Across K-12, higher education, and workforce learning, Mary joins a dynamic cohort of industry leaders that are making an incredible impact on the world.

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