We Need Educational Leaders Who Can Move Us to the Next Level — Forward is Not Far Enough!

Forward is Not Far Enough

 We need educational leaders who can move us to the next level.  Forward on the same plane is not far enough.  We need a change of plane, not more of the same.  In a previous post, I highlighted the issue that schools still look the same way they did 50 years ago.  Some principals have argued with me that the chairs in their schools are in circles, rather than rows.   I replay the graphic again below.

We still have students forced into lock-step programs.  If they have the capability to advance faster, we accelerate them with extra or different work or put them with a special program.  If students don’t meet standards, we give them extra help.  Regardless of the names of the programs, schools still look largely like they did 50 years ago.

The big yellow blocks of cheese pull up to schools at the appointed times and disgorge kids carrying books, backpacks and lunches.  The bell rings, the teachers deliver and the students “learn.”  At the end of the day, the bells ring, the blocks of cheese consume the students and teachers are tired.  It’s as if learning can only occur between the bells.

The kids have more digital learning technologies than schools can afford and we continue to ban them.  We need leaders who will not accept “Yes, but. . . ” from the faculty.  If we have to have busses and bells, then these technologies (cell phones, ipods, ipads, and netbooks) have the capability of revolutionizing schools.  When technologies have changed the way business does its business then why hasn’t it occurred in learning?  The only answer I can decifer is that the adults in the schools are wildly resisting any change.  The privatization crew will say competition will solve this.  I’ve not yet seen a privitization model that can be scaled.

It is occurring outside schools.  Kids communicate through social networking, text each other, and a multitude of other daily interactions that are banned in schools — personal digital technologies.  With these technologies, kids can learn at their own paces.  Who cares whether a youngster completes 3rd grade in 18 months and 5th grade in 6 months?  They don’t need busses and bells.  They do need adults to help them through the rough spots, to be mentors, and to serve as role models.

If we are bound to having busses and bells, at least for the short term, leaders need to address the following issues that can be found in my other postings:

  1. Embrace the Cloud.  Schools simply cannot afford the upgrade cycles.  Let others worry about the upgrades, teach kids.
  2. Mandate the use of personal technologies in schools.  Stopping banning cell phones and other devices.
  3. Increase your network bandwidth.  Simply, you’ll need it with all the personal devices on your network.
  4. Use social media.  It’s a fantastic communication tool as noted by this day of leadership blogging.  All done through social networking communication.
  5. Deploy open source software.  It’s advanced over the years.  As with cloud computing, schools can’t afford the upgrade cycles, the upheavel of professional development, and the massive chore of constant upgrades and patches.

We need leaders who can push us and lead us to new views of schools and new learning opportunities for students.

Educational Technology has always focused on learning.  It’s time to “light this candle” (Alan Shepard).  Simply stated, “Forward is not far enough!”


  1. Jeff:

    While surely we need different leaders in schools, I do think we need to consider how much of this leadership needs to have the skill set and dispositions to engage a community that is tied to many of the legacy symbols you describe.

    These long-held community beliefs about what school should do, look like, and offer as well as how they should perform. Leaders are going to need to help not only the school community but the local community to rethink the notion of schooling, teaching, and learning.

    This is going to require a review of the practices and policies to determine how well they are aligned with our beliefs about teaching, learning, and education.

  2. I’ve been fighting this battle for years. Technology is always held back by those who choose not to understand its value. Too many have their heads in the clouds rather than supporting those clouds in education. We need a revolution of parents and educators to allow our students to develop the skills needed to advance society.

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