Mica Brown

iMET Web Site Master of Arts in Education: Educational Technology
from California State University, Sacramento

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Technology Leadership

Review of the Literature


For education, technology is no longer the domain of the few. Technology is now an integral part of learning and the ability to learn and use technology is quickly becoming a skill required of all students to ensure their success in the workforce. Of the 54 jobs projected to have the highest numerical growth between 2000 and 2005, only eight do not require technological fluency (Thornburg, 1997). This need for technologically skilled workers is forcing education, and therefore educators to become proficient at using technology in their instructional methodology and integrating technology into their curriculum. Recognizing the importance of technology skills, schools are using staff development resources to train current teachers to become more proficient at using technology in their classrooms (Burke, 2000) . The development of these skills are dependent on the training and support teachers receive from the district, technology proficient staff, technology trainers, and participation in other professional development programs.

A misconception about technology leadership is that a technology leader is someone who is proficient with technology tools alone. This paper will discuss the importance of technology leaders becoming familiar with technology goals and standards in education, the benefits of technology integrated into education, effective technology staff development programs, and the importance of leadership qualities for implementing technology in education.

Technology goals and standards

In January of 1996, President Clinton stated technology goals for education: “In our schools, every classroom in America must be connected to the information superhighway with computers, good software and well-trained teachers” (1996). The Technology Literacy Challenge project identifies four goals to achieve the vision of all students as technologically literate:

1.      All teachers receive the training and support necessary to help students learn to use computers and the information super highway.

2.      All teachers and students will have modern multimedia computers in their classrooms.

3.       Every classroom will be connected to the information superhighway

4.      Effective software and on-line learning resources will be an integral part of every school’s curriculum (Riley, 1996, p. 2).

The International Technology Education Association (ITEA) stated in the article, Technology For All Americans: A Rationale and Structure for the Study of Technology, that to help achieve technological literacy for the nation, standards should be developed based on the universal skills of technology (1996). These standards include technological literacy, a shared vision of expectations, an established qualitative and quantitative expectation of excellence, and integrating technology learning into other fields of study for all students from kindergarten through twelfth grade (ITEA, 1996). Standards need to be set high enough for students to be able to achieve and prosper within our technological society. These standards also require that technology be integrated into the curriculum of each subject area (ITEA, 1996).

In order to incorporate technology standards into existing curriculum, most schools and districts use technology proficient staff as trainers. These trainers are expected to train and then lead teachers toward using and integrating technology into their curriculum (Casson, 2001) . Programs of this nature rely heavily on the current belief that technology-proficient trainers are also technology-proficient leaders.

This paper will review models of technology integration and then look at learning models that have been successful in technology integration. Next it will review staff development models and look at the roles of different learning models within the context of staff development.  This research paper will conclude by examining the importance of these models and their relationship to technology leaders in education.

Benefits of Technology Integration

A technology leader must be familiar with the benefits of technology integrated into the education environment and its impact on student achievement. The article Making Technology Happen, Casson and her colleagues made the following observation regarding technology, leadership, and how technology impacts student achievement. 

One of the more heartening observations we made in our data collection, which is supported by a larger research and practitioner literature, is that poor or rural, isolated schools can become leading edge. While monetary resources are essential for acquiring educational technologies, effective implementation has more to do with leadership and organizational change. By effectively using educational technologies, schools, whatever their demographics, can operate in the 21st century (Casson, 2001) .

Thus, Casson infers that acquiring technology and providing training is not enough (Casson, 2001) . Leadership must also be provided to assure implementation and the organizational change to support it. Organizational change means district decisions that understand the needs of technology in instruction, not just the placement of technology in the classroom. It also means that school administration provide teachers the time, support, and training to learn technology. And finally, organizational change means teachers must be encouraged to embrace the change that technology brings (McKenzie, 1999). A technology leader must understand the strategies and skills to make organizational change happen over time.

One program that has addressed the issues of technology integration over time is the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT). This program found through its studies that students and teachers respond favorably to the integration of technology into the curriculum (Sandholtz-Haymore, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997). The ACOT program was developed and supported by Apple Computers to integrate technology into classrooms across America. The teachers who participated in these programs found that integrating technology encouraged innovative ideas with tools that help their students’ learning and motivation. These teachers witnessed first-hand technology’s positive impact on student knowledge acquisition and retention (Sandholtz-Haymore, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997).

Sprague cites an additional benefit of using technology is that students can and will navigate their own learning (1996).  Students gain valuable technological knowledge from their experiences with technology. This technological knowledge can be combined with the skills of how to apply information, use ideas in new ways, evaluate information, and extrapolate or go beyond basic information will give students the ability to navigate their own learning (Sprague, 1996).

Howard Gardner has suggested that although technology reinforces learning, many adults, especially teachers, are very intimidated when students are put in charge of their own learning (Weiss, 2000) . It may be that many educators fear that technology will undermine their authority and perhaps replace them at some point. In truth, technology is the toool for enhancing educational experiences and will never replace face to face student/teacher interaction. Gardner remind us that educators all need to look at technology as a tool, neither positive nor negative (Weiss, 2000). Technology leaders need to look at technology in this manner and provide the strategies needed by the teacher to overcome their fear of technology, which will give teachers the confidence to integrate technology into their curriculum.

Although technology can provide many benefits it is not without its demands on teachers and facilities. In order for change to happen, teachers need to become agents of change. Barriers they need to overcome are time constraints, support, and the fear of change. Without support from their peers and/or administrators teachers can become frustrated because of the overwhelming demands put upon them. Therefore, those who do not receive support tend to revert back to their tried and true directed-teaching methods and success is minimal at best (Hancock, 1997, p.60) .

Technology leaders understand the importance of long-term support for teachers and how this support also benefits student learning. Additionally it is important to know how technology relates to and enhances models of learning.

Learning Models

The methodology used to integrate technology into learning is knowledge that technology leaders need in order to successfully lead teachers to use technology in their curriculum. There are several learning models that apply to the integration of technology into the learning environment. A brief review of technological learning, distributed learning, Problem-Based learning, and collaborative learning follows.

Technological learning

Teachers need training and support to better understand how technology is relevant to the process of learning.  Gardner advises parents and teachers to look at technology as a tool that can be utilized to enhance learning through many different modalities (1990). Humans seek input either by actions, facial expression or body language. The human minds is unique in the way it continuously updates and alters new information. Technology also gives humans the ability to address multiple ways of knowing and learning (Gardner, 1990) . After a teacher has gained the knowledge of using technology as a tool to enhance student learning, they will need to know how to gain access to the resources available to them. Distributed learning is a way for teachers to take advantage and discover these resources.

Distributed Learning

A new model of learning that is highly dependent on the use of technology is Distributed Learning. Technology leaders can take advantage of distributed learning for training, communication, and helping teachers integrate distributed learning into the curriculum. Distributed learning uses a wide range of information technologies to provide learning opportunities beyond the bounds of the traditional classroom. The use of online classes is a good example of distributed learning. Other examples of distributed learning technologies include the use of the World Wide Web, email, video conferencing, groupware, simulations, newsgroups, distribution lists, chat rooms, MOO’s, and instructional software. A distributed learning environment facilitates a learner-centered educational paradigm and promotes active learning. Distributed learning supports a "pull" model of education in which a person engages in learning activities at his or her own pace and at a self-selected time (California State University Center for Distributed Learning, 2001).

Problem-based learning

According to Dewey, “Knowledge and ideas emerge only from situations in which the learners had to draw them out of experiences that had meaning and importance to them” (Dewey, 1916). Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is a constructivist-based method that provides students with real-world problems, which allow those students to develop a deeper understanding of their new knowledge. Through PBL, technology becomes an integration tool to help students solve real life problems (U.S. Department of Education, 1996) .

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional methodology that uses an authentic challenge as a context for teachers and students to learn problem solving and to promote lifelong learning (Barrows, 1980) . PBL supports problem definition, problem investigation, problem solving and presentation of solutions using real world problems (Boud 1991). PBL is based on real world problems, builds in cooperative group learning, encourages scaffolding through a process of collaboration between students, teachers, and outside guests, and is innovative, interactive, and media rich as compared to the traditional instructional delivery method that had produced limited results (Boud, 1991). Many of the teachers in the ACOT studies indicated that their teaching methodology evolved from direct instruction to a constructivist PBL methodology (Sandholtz-Haymore, Ringstaff, & Dwyer). One of PBL’s essential strategies for students and teachers is collaboration with others.

Collaborative learning

For a technology leader, collaborative learning can be of benefit to students and teachers alike. Collaboration using PBL provides opportunities for learners to see others solve problems. The creation of collaborative knowledge-building communities within the classroom increases student engagement, motivation, and performance on standardized tests of academic skills (Sherry, 1999). By working together on an authentic problem, learners are more likely to tackle the problem as a group rather than as individuals. Support for PBL also comes from Johnson and Johnson’s research demonstrating that collaborative learning produces higher achievement and productivity levels than non-collaborative learning (1998).

Teachers who use collaborative teams with technology to approach the different subject areas in new and innovative ways in their classrooms are successful in reaching their students and promoting more extensive learning .The least successful teachers were those who tried to fit the collaborative technologies into their traditional teacher-directed approach (Sandholtz-Haymore, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997).

Once a technology leader is familiar with the benefits of using technology in the learning environment, they will need the knowledge to design and implement effective staff development programs for teachers to learn and use technology in their curriculum. A variety of staff development models are relevant to teachers learning and integrating technology into their curriculum.

Staff Development

Staff development is the process of training teachers, whether it is learning instructional methodology or learning how to use technology in their classroom. Technology leaders are responsible for developing effective staff development programs that train teachers to learn, use, and integrate technology. This is why it is important for a technology leader to have the leadership skills and knowledge to motivate teachers

“to become pioneers, inventors and shapers of the new culture rather than the transmitters of the old? First, we must acknowledge that such a metamorphosis is as profound as the change from caterpillar to butterfly… Adaptation requires major readjustments and realignments. It requires immersion, to support such fundamental change, schools need to apply a different model of adult learning from the one which has perched on the back of staff development for decades” (McKenzie, 1991. p 1) .

McKenzie’s model for staff development suggests that staff developers must offer immersion and transformation to inspire teachers to invent. His model also suggests that staff development should be experience-based, with learning resulting from doing and exploring to hook the curiosity, wonder or passion of teachers. Staff development should also respond to a teacher’s appetite, concerns and interests, feelings, fears. It also needs to address the anxieties of the learners, engage the perspective of teachers, appeal to learners at a variety of developmental stages, and be properly funded (1991. p. 3).

Several researchers found in their research on technology and staff development that teachers go through stages in developing expertise with technology and the Internet. An example of a research project that looked at these developmental stages was The Boulder Valley Internet Project. This research was based upon developing an integrated technology adoption and diffusion model (Sherry, Lawyer-Brook, & Black, 1997). Teachers start a cyclic process of evolving from learners to adopters of educational technology, to collaborators with their students, and finally, to the reaffirmation or rejection of the use of technologies to enhance teaching and learning. Teachers in the final reaffirmation or rejection stage evaluated whether the model was compatible with their vision and worth the time and effort to continue (Sherry, 1999).

Research by Joyce and Showers identified that teacher technology training should be an ongoing effort that is properly funded with teachers given opportunities to apply what they have learned in their classroom (1995). Staff development should be focused on the improvement of instructional practice resulting in measurable advances in student learning  (Joyce and Showers, 1995).  In addition, participation by whole-school faculties with organized peer-coaching teams for follow-up had a 90% implementation level.  Staff development also needs to include ‘coaching’ by peers and sustained practice is essential if the new approaches are to take root  (Joyce and Showers, 1995). 

School districts need to consider how they conduct staff development. Districts must also consider “that teachers are adult learners with individual learning styles, with different stages of development and quite divergent interests and needs” (Bents and Howey, 1981, p18). Michael Fullan has described how change must be addressed in the educational system as a method of staff development. Teacher fears must be addressed in every avenue of staff development. He further suggests that fear of change be approached by combining responsibility with tools, personal vision-building, inquiry, mastery, and collaboration, to prepare them to be agents of change (1993, p 12). Fullan states “that purpose provides the teacher with a commitment to inquiry, knowledge, competence, caring, and social justice in the classroom “(1993, p 9).

Staff developers must address teacher’s fear of change that technology integration and Problem-Based Learning implies. 

“Putting the learner in charge is very intimidating for many adults especially teachers who are use to being in control of every situation. This is why so many educators fear that technology will undermine their authority and possibly replace them” (Gardner, 1990) .

The marriage of education and technology will only happen if educators remember what they want to achieve while remembering that technology will serve us in the end and give us great advancements in everything we do (Gardner, 1990) .

Staff development models that enhance teachers’ technological learning and then technology integration into their curriculum include small learning communities and coaching and mentoring programs. Staff developers need to understand how these models contribute to their success as technology leaders.

Learning communities

Southwest Texas State University's education department and New Braunfel’s Independent School District developed a program training first year teachers on technology integration techniques. These teachers then were expected to pass on their expertise to the next generation of colleagues (Caverly, 1997). This program found that the use of collaborative-guided practice in groups of three teachers over a three-year period provides a practice that has several advantages. The teachers formed bonds and developed camaraderie. They learned they could depend upon one another to help make instructional decisions. Group members found an area of interest that they found more interesting and/or they had strength in an area became the expert in that given area (Caverly, 1997) . This program illustrates the effectiveness of small learning communities (Caverly, 1997).

The factors that contributed to the success of this project included monthly meetings to share learning, and curriculum units they developed, evaluate the unit’s effectiveness, and collaborate on additional units for their classes. Teachers coaching one another led them to substantively change their approach to instruction and their thinking about technology (Caverly, 1997) .

Second year teachers became coaches and mentors to the third generation of teachers. The second year teachers not only passed on their knowledge and enthusiasm, but also their desire for continued development and growth. In their third year, teachers slowly shifted to be the technology resource people who were available for support and/or knowledge. As agents of change, teachers learned that technology enables teachers to provide effective instruction using constructivist approaches compared to lecturing or traditional direct instruction methods. This program of technology and staff development became part of their district’s culture (Caverly, 1997) .

Coaching and mentoring

Experts who have developed models and completed research (i.e., ACOT, Casson, McKenzie, etc.) in the area of staff development have developed programs and researched the use of coaching and mentoring for staff development. They all speculated that their programs would provide highly effective staff development that would translate into implementation and continued development of technology over time. Staff development programs that include coaching and mentoring have shown considerable benefits when combined with training teachers to use technology (Joyce and Showers, 1995) . Sharon and Hertz-Lazarowitz found in a study on developing a mentoring/collaboration program that after two years, sixty-five percent of the teachers were regularly using group teaching in appropriate ways (1982) . McKenzie identified that teacher resistance to technology can be overcome when a mentor or coach shows inspiring uses of technology that the teacher can then see himself or herself as doing comfortably, capably and independently (1994) . Programs of mentoring and coaching give teachers the opportunity to share their knowledge (Caverly, 1997) .

According to Casson et al., schools that have successful technology staff development programs use some or all of the following best practices:

  1. Schools and districts have mandates and incentives for technology development.

  2. Teacher experts are identified and training is provided towards needs continuing over time.

  3. Teachers provided the most effective training on-site.

  4. Teachers attend training at conferences, training centers, and universities.

  5. Teachers have access to individual tutoring and mentoring programs (Casson, 2001) .

Understanding the role of training in technology integration is only part of the equation. To be effective, technology leaders must have the leadership skills to ensure that training happens and is effective.


How important is leadership qualities for technology leaders? To better understand this question and its applicability to technology leadership we restate it as follows. What impact will a technology leader have who has the qualities and skills to effectively motivate teachers as active participants in the movement to integrate technology into education? Following is a discussion of the literature on leadership models and then the literature on technology leadership.

Leadership Models

Leadership is the basis of all change. The challenge is to have the skills and qualities to be a successful leader (Kouzes and Posner, 1995). Technology leaders are no different. To successfully lead teachers toward technology proficiency and integration, technology leaders need to have the necessary leadership qualities and skills.

Leadership studies have defined a number of different types of leader characteristics (Gardner, 1990). In the past, leadership abilities were defined as natural abilities (Bass, 1985). Now it is understood that leadership is a process that may be learned by any person with the desire, a reasonable level of cognitive abilities, and the flexibility to deal with circumstances that may or may not be constantly changing (Kouzes and Posner, 1995). Leadership would then be dependent on the relationships of the leaders, followers, and the context in which they operate.

There are many other definitions of leadership that move beyond the definable and into the realm of the ambiguous. Patton defined leadership “as the art of getting your subordinates to do the impossible (Cohen, 1990, p 215). Leaders are able to motivate others to take action towards a shared vision or goal. Cohen gives us his definition:  “Leadership is the ability to help people do things that they didn’t know they could do or didn’t know needed to be done” (1990, p. 215) .

Kouzes and Posner’s research into leadership practices in business, government, and education has identified five practices that enable leaders to get things done: leaders challenge the process by seeking and accepting challenges, inspire a vision shared by all, enable others to act as a part of the vision, provide a model for the vision, and encourage others to strive towards the vision (1995) .

The research into leadership practices provides technology leaders with an understanding of the need for the skills and qualities to effectively lead and motivate teachers. The following technology leadership section will further illustrate the practices of technology leaders in education.

Technology Leadership

The study Making Technology Happen reported schools that achieved the highest percentage and the greatest strides with technology integration have done so with the help and guidance of technology leadership, whether it was an administrator (97.6%), a champion chosen by administration (94%), or even a group of educators supported by administration (91%) (Casson, 2001) .  Although a major component of this study was the role of leadership as a change agent in technology integration, the data was not designed to evaluate specific information about leadership qualities, skills and actions that motivated educators to learn, use, or integrate technology into the curriculum. Casson identified four dominant elements of technology leaders in education:

1.     Vision - Leaders had a strong belief about the role of technology as an agent of change in education. They also were able to communicate, act and infect others with their vision.

2.     Empowering others – Leaders were able to get staff to buy into their vision by empowering staff to be involved with the decision making, encouraging staff to take risks, removing barriers, and using rewards for the technology achievers.

3.     Modeling technology use – All technology leaders were proficient users of technology, whether as administrators or educators. They modeled what they preached, how to use technology consistently and productively.

4.     Interacting – This category was specifically for administrators and district leaders. These individuals became involved in the process of technology integration by participating in workshops themselves and/or getting the greater community involved in the change process (Casson et al, 2001) .

Caverly suggest teachers become technology leaders only by becoming mentors and providing technology staff development after a period of two or even three years of training on how to use computers in their own curriculum (1997) . Cohen also believes that leaders need to have a vision, because without a vision there is no leadership (1990). Leaders need to have the ability to develop a vision of the future that includes everyone in a role. Leaders need the ability to communicate the vision so that others understand the vision, feel a part of it, and are willing to take action to make the vision a reality. Therefore, their vision needs to be a shared vision (Cohen, 1990). Again, we can see where the ripple theory continues to have an effect upon how teachers, administrator and students view technology and its uses.

Leaders must be committed to their vision by modeling their beliefs to others. It is easy for a leader to identify the needs of others but it is much harder to recognize the needs in themselves (Cohen, 1990). Technology leaders need to pursue training, participate in study groups, forward articles to staff members and solicit their comments. They also should make presentations at conferences, write articles for professional journals, engage in action research, communicate the importance of professional growth.

Another powerful method to help teachers become a part of the vision is to empower them. Technology leaders can empower teachers by showing inspiring uses of technology that they can see themselves doing comfortably, capably and independently (Mckenzie, 1994) . Technology leaders also perform the duties of mentors and coaches. This mentoring or individual relationship allows for increased confidence and gives followers understanding and ownership of decisions and consequences (Bass, 1985) .

Dockstader combines elements of successful leadership with elements of successful staff development to identify what he considers to be critical factors for success (1999) . Staff development must;

  1.  Hook the curiosity, wonder or passion of teachers.

  2. Offer immersion and transformation.

  3. Inspire teachers to invent.

  4. Be experience-based, with learning resulting from doing and exploring.

  5. Respond to teachers’ appetites, concerns, and interests.

  6. Consider the feelings, fears and anxieties of the learners.

  7. Engage the perspective of teachers.

  8. Appeal to learners at a variety of developmental stages.

  9. Be properly funded (Dockstader, 1999) .

Technology leaders with a thorough understanding of leadership qualities and technology skills can effectively lead teachers towards the vision of technological proficiency and integration of technology into their curriculum.


The goal of a technology leader is to motivate teachers to integrate technology into their curriculum and become proficient with technology. How a technology leader accomplishes this goal requires more than just expertise with technology. This paper provides a deeper understanding of what makes a technology leader. Technology leaders must be familiar with educational technology goals and standards. They must understand the benefits of how technology should be integrated into education and be able to develop staff development programs for teachers. A major component of technology leadership is how they will motivate teachers to learn, use, and implement technology into their curriculum. 

Although this review has shown the foundations for technology in education as a benefit to student learning, the current literature represents technology leadership as primarily technological proficiency and knowledge. Dockstader provides some insight into the role of leadership in staff development, but his model does not specifically examine staff development in technology (1999). The general gist of the research implies that the primary requisite for leadership is proficiency, but as McKenzie states:

The training agenda is no simple list of skills; everybody must learn an entirely new approach underwater. Adaptation requires major readjustments and realignments. It requires immersion, to support such fundamental change, schools need to apply a different model of adult learning from the one which has perched on the back of staff development for decades (McKenzie, 1991. p 1) .

What is missing in the research is the technology leader’s role in overcoming the barriers to technology integration identified by Hancock:  time constraints, support, and the fear of change (Hancock, 1997, p.60) .  If as McKenzie asserts: “shifting from Industrial Age thinking and teaching to Information Age thinking and teaching is as dramatic an adjustment as shifting from teaching in a classroom to teaching underwater” (McKenzie, 1991. p 1) , then perhaps the same can be said about leadership roles relative to technology in education.

Action Research: Area of Focus

This research has provided a deeper understanding of technology leadership qualities, skills, and actions for technology leaders to lead teachers and provide better programs that will give teachers the skills to become technological proficient and able to integrate technology into their curriculum. Technology leadership in education must be examined more closely to better understand what qualities, skills, and actions define what makes a technology leader. Once we are able to define a technology leader by their practices, qualities, skills and actions, we will be able to evaluate educators and administrators for technology leadership qualities and know if these individuals have what it takes to be a good leader.

Also, with a better understanding of technology leadership practices, administrators, technology proficient educators, and district personnel are able to develop their leadership skills to become better agents of change in our schools. Technology leaders can provide educators with motivation, training, and support towards the vision of fully integrating technology into the school system.

This research project provides a more accurate understanding of the skills and qualities of a technology leader. Respondents to a survey on technology leadership responded more favorably that technology leaders empower, support, encourage, and communicate as compared to a technology leader with technology skills. Results also indicate that it is the technology leaders themselves that believe technology skills are of primary importance.


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