What Does Tech-Friendly School Leadership Look Like?

I’ve long held the belief that strong leadership at a school is the most important factor to a school doing great things with technology. Without strong leadership “driving the ship,” you’ll eventually hit bumpy waters and everyone will jump off board. I’ve often been asked, what factors go into a “tech friendly” Head of School? Here are the things that I’ve come across.

Sets the Vision

When it comes to any new project, school-related or not, vision is the key. Antoine de Saint Exupéry, who lived in the first half of the 20th century once said:

If you want to build a ship, don’t recruit people to gather wood, but give them a vision of the sea.

The Head of School is the one responsible with sharing the vision. It’s not about devices or gadgets — it’s about creating an incredible environment for students to learn using next generation tools. This boils down to being able to answer the “why” and not just the “what.”

Willingness to Fail

Let’s all be honest, failure isn’t fun. Failure with technology in front of a class of students is even less fun. Nothing is perfect, but being willing to try is the important thing. Heads of School who expect perfection are doomed to be disappointed. A tech-friendly Head of School recognizes that part of growing your skillset with technology is likely going to require some failures. We often learn best by seeing what doesn’t work. This can sometimes mean a new technology didn’t work from a technical perspective, but also that it didn’t work from an instructional standpoint.

Willingness to See Past the Device

Do I love the iPad? Sure. Do I love Chromebooks? Absolutely. Do I love the Surface Pro? Not as much. A tech-friendly Head of School is concerned with the vision and the journey, rather than just being focused on the devices. We often want to start with the device discussion, but, in reality, we must start with the goals and vision of the deployment. Is creativity among students your main goal? What about incredible collaboration tools? These are all things you must identify before choosing a device.

Willingness to Hire Great People (and Leave Them Alone)

This is probably the most important trait for a tech-friendly Head of School. The bottom line is that the Head of School is likely not going to be the expert of any one thing in the school, and that is a good thing. Their ultimate job is to set the vision, hire great people to accomplish that vision, and let them do it. If you are going to try to micro-manage storage sizes with your IT department, you are wasting your time. You hired them to be your experts. If you are going to micro-manage every aspect of your teacher’s lesson plans, you are not letting them do the job you hired them to do.

As we finish, I’m reminded of this quote by Steve Jobs:

I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1.Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream … A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.

Hire the best and get out of their way.

Bradley Chambers has been the Director of Information Technology at Brainerd Baptist School since 2009. At BBS, he manages a network of Apple and Chrome OS devices. He also writes at Tools & Toys. The Sweet Setup, and 9to5Mac.

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