The best leadership in educational technology really isn't any different than any type of great leadership—the most effective leaders serve others. If tech leaders and administrators really want to help a teacher, they should begin with a really simple and basic step. Ask him or her.
I know my post on this topic is heavily influenced by my current focus. I asked all our employees to read Creative Confidence this summer, and yesterday we had a workshop on design thinking. In my mind, the second step in design thinking is the most crucial: Understanding. If you don’t gather meaningful, personal information about the person you wish to help through the design process, the rest of the steps don’t really matter. It’s simply a matter of empathy. That necessitates asking and then truly listening. From what I’ve seen and heard, too often tech leaders want to do all the pontificating and expect others to do all the listening. (Of course, that makes them no different than any other ego-driven leaders.)
But I’m also basing this on experience, recalling when I was still in the classroom. I was fortunate to work with a tech guru, Chris Bigenho of Greenhill School, whose real focus was the teacher and student joint experience. One wonderful example from several years ago comes to mind. I used to do loads of collaborative work in class. As Chris and I were talking one day, I mentioned a wish I had. I wanted to be able to have groups in my class each contribute to a single mind map as they worked on things. He couldn't immediately think of a way for that to happen, and it took a while, but eventually he came back with a great tool for us to use.
It was before design thinking had become such a rage; but looking back, I see that we were basically using a common design thinking tactic. In essence, we were asking, “How might we utilize technology to enhance collaborative learning in the classroom?” Then we worked as partners. And we had to empathize with each other and with the students.
I encourage more leaders—whether in technology or elsewhere—to begin in that space.