Marc's Rants


Adapted from an article that originally appeared in Thrust for Educational Leadership, May-June 2000.

The Role of the Principal as a Technology Leader

High tech companies have been complaining recently that as many as three out of ten available high tech jobs remain vacant because not enough people graduating from college are qualified to fill them.

Too few college graduates, they say, have enough hard science and mathematics training to work in even entry-level high tech jobs. And high tech companies, claiming hardship because of the resultant labor shortage, have convinced a reluctant Congress to temporarily increase from 65,000 to 115,000 the number of H1-B visas issued to foreign nationals, enabling more non-citizens to legally work in U.S. high technology industries.

The reasons for the reported labor shortage are complex, but at least two things are clear:

  1. Students attending college are not enrolled in high tech programs because they don't feel high tech careers can be rewarding; and
  2. Students entering college, even if they are interested, are under-prepared for the rigorous mathematics and science courses required of high technology majors.

Equally sure are:

  1. Technology is one of the fastest-growing segments of California's (and the world's) economy, and a driving force in the expansion of other segments;
  2. Careers in high tech are among the highest paying; and
  3. Even careers without any prominent high tech dimension require an understanding of how technology can simplify and streamline business, academic, social, and governmental processes.

These are certainly pragmatic reasons for devoting more resources to student development of high tech skills. Less practical, but equally important, is the need to be sure that California's students are maximizing their potential as individuals.

Teachers in the classroom can help develop hands-on technology and critical thinking skills among their students. Parents can help encourage their children to work hard, become life-long learners, and prepare for good careers. But what can we, as k-12 educational leaders, do to increase student interest in and preparation for high tech careers - especially when we are struggling for improved student success with basic literacy and numeracy, let alone implementing the latest round of education reforms?

Start with a good example

Educational leaders must set the example in technology usage. They must demonstrate to students and staff around them that technology tools can benefit them in their everyday working lives - in other words, computers are good for more than playing Quake or Detective Barbie.

For the principal at a school site, this means using technology tools - daily. Here's a self-assessment to measure how good an example you set:

+ 5 points You have a computer in your office (5 bonus points if you know how to use it to modify a spreadsheet).
+ 5 points Every supervisor and office employee has unrestricted access to a computer for on-the-job use (-10 points if you don't have one of your own).
+ 5 points Your office computer is the first thing you turn on when you arrive in the morning.
+ 5 points Your e-mail address is on your business cards (5 bonus points if you've memorized it, too).
+ 10 points You check your e-mail daily (5 bonus points for checking hourly).
+ 5 points You reply to e-mail (when it requires a response - and it usually does) within one business day.
+ 5 points You can type with more than two fingers at a time.
+ 5 points Your school site Web page has been updated within the last month (5 bonus points if it's been updated within the last week and -20 points if it hasn't been updated within the last 12).
+ 5 points Between staff meetings when you want to distribute a general announcement, the first method you think of is e-mail (5 bonus points if you use the school Web page, too).
+ 5 points Within the last twelve months you have either read a "how to" computer book or received at least eight hours of computer training (10 bonus points for having done both).
+ 5 points You keep your personal contacts and calendar on your computer.
+ 5 points You think that using a computer has made you more productive.
+ 5 points You have provided opportunities for hands-on technology training to all instructional and support staff within the last school year.
+ 5 points All teachers at your school site who want them have at least one computer in their classrooms (-10 points if you don't have one of your own).
+ 5 points When you have a question about new educational theory, practice, procedure, policy, or legislation, you check the Internet for information (5 bonus points if you usually start with ACSA Online).
+ 5 points Your office computer is the last thing you turn off when you leave at night.

Self-assessment rating scale:

0-25 points - Throw away your hammer, chisel, and stone tablets!

26-50 points - There may be hope for you yet.

51-75 points - You're on the right track.

76-100 points - You're a credit to your profession.

101+ points - You're an alpha geek!

Finish with evangelism

Part of setting an example through daily use is making a point of encouraging those around you to use the best tools for their jobs.

Good ways to promote the use of technology among your staff and community include:

  • Dropping the name of your favorite Web portal in a staff meeting,
  • Mentioning that you found a particularly useful tidbit on the Internet, and
  • Asking people to send you information via e-mail.

Emphasize to those around you that you use and understand the educational and business technology available to you. Provide training opportunities to your staff, and take advantage of them yourself.

Make a dent in the high tech labor shortage. And help produce a generation of tech-savvy students.

Marc Elliot Hall is ACSA's Webmaster. He's accountable to you at (916)444-3216 or via e-mail.