School principals today are facing many challenges like business leaders around the world. Their students are part of a digital generation and have new expectations when it comes to learning in the classroom. The constant rise of digital technologies in society continues to have a profound effect on their social life as they blog and tweet making them well-versed in using technological skills. Learning in the classroom must involve the use of ICT tools and resources that students are familiar with as this is the reality evident in classrooms around the world.
As learning has changed, so has teachers and school principals need to demonstrate educational leadership from their position. In a time of constant change, leadership under these conditions is more difficult and more necessary than ever before. Educational leaders need to understand this and accept change, as they know that the world their students live in is and will continue to be different to their world of the past. Learning today involves placing greater emphasis on student autonomy in the selection of ICT tools and resources and indeed on active learning. Creation, communication and participation are the key to successful learning today and in the future as teachers strive to facilitate ideal practices in society that will promote lifelong learning.
Integrating technology in the classroom is not straightforward. Planning for new technologies involves an understanding of the issues involved. As educational leaders, school principals need to set the tone and develop policies that will improve student attainment levels in ICT capability and increase the school’s economic performance in ICT. Solomon and Schrum (2007) state if they want to make change happen then it is essential that a vision for the future must be present and embedded strongly within these policies.
Educational leaders like school principals must have a vision for success and ensure that this vision is shared amongst their staff. The big picture must be seen by everyone. Web 2.0 provides many a great opportunity for the sharing of ideals across a school environment. For example, many technology visionaries in schools today use blogs for the following reasons –
- Sharing news and events;
- Progress monitoring;
- Status alerts;
- Public relations;
- Community building;
- Customer relations;
- Creating ‘customer evangelists’;
- Thought leadership;
- Advocacy and;
- Replacing the school website.
School principals share many characteristics with business leaders in terms of the personal and analytical skills required today. According to Microsoft, educational leaders require six qualities to lead their school successfully in the 21st century which include:
- Individual excellence;
- Organisation skills;
- Results (goal orientated);
- Strategies skills and;
- Operating skills.
School principals as educational leaders in the 21st century must use these qualities to lead their school to success. Effective technology leadership means being able to facilitate that vision of technology integration throughout their school and mobilise teachers into putting resources and effort in this vision. While some may prefer a school principal to be tech-savvy, it does not fully entail what is necessary. We all know that it is impossible to be fully ICT capable! It will never happen. However, more training and exposure to technology and integration practices is required along with developing an understanding of what it is to provide effective technology support for primary teachers. It is also imperative that they learn what constitutes as effective ICT usage in the classroom and facilitate its effectiveness schoolwide. Lastly, the ICT integration must be measured for its performance so to be able to drive more changes throughout their school.