The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) is launching a new leadership initiative aimed at giving superintendents the tools and resources they need to understand the transformative role of educational technology, as well as to lay out a blueprint for technology leadership and action.

The initiative, called Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent, will help superintendents strengthen school district leadership and communication, infuse 21st-century skills into the curriculum, create engaging learning environments, support professional development, and improve assessment. CoSN will announce the project March 31 at this year’s National School Boards Association (NSBA) Annual Conference.

"In school districts, innovation and new ideas for enhancing the educational experience come from educators at all levels–but often some of the most effective efforts begin with a visionary perspective from the top, which then permeates through every level of the district," said Keith Krueger, CoSN’s chief executive.

"That is precisely why we worked with superintendents to develop this initiative. They best recognize the many challenges and responsibilities superintendents face, and based on their shared experience they can offer up some valuable insights and begin an in-depth discussion about common educational issues that technology might help address."

The initiative was designed to help superintendents build their knowledge and skills to become more effective, visionary technology leaders in their communities. An advisory committee of superintendents gave direction for the initiative, and CoSN conducted focus groups and personal interviews to help develop a robust set of resources for superintendents.

CoSN’s 2004 survey of 455 technology decision makers found that visionary technology leadership–and the community support fostered by district leaders–made the difference in districts that were able to bolster their technology plans, budgets, and implementation. The report of those findings, "Digital Leadership Divide," is available online.

As part of the initiative, CoSN has developed a detailed toolkit, "Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent: Five Themes and Action Steps for Technology Leadership," which also is available online.

The initiative’s web site features resources to help superintendents strengthen district leadership and communication, raise the bar in teaching 21st-century skills, create compelling learning environments, support professional development and communities, and create balanced assessments. The site soon will feature best practices in each one of these categories, as well as links to relevant organizations, articles, and reports.

In conjunction with this effort, the Pearson Foundation and CoSN also have developed a four-minute video that presents superintendents’ personal thoughts about their own roles as catalysts for 21st-century learning.

"Superintendents across the country know the importance that technology can play in their schools–for teachers and for students," said Mark Nieker, president of the Pearson Foundation.

"Helping these leaders share their own experiences and expertise is a great way to highlight the many effective and exemplary solutions already in practice in classrooms across the United States."

"There’s an exciting opportunity for superintendents to maximize their role as educational technology leaders, and our goal is to provide them with the necessary tools to succeed," said Lil Kellogg, co-chair of CoSN’s Superintendents Task Force and vice president of Education Networks of America (ENA). "There’s a real enthusiasm among superintendents to look at technology in new ways, and this peer-to-peer initiative facilitates the conversation."

As part of the initiative, CoSN officials said the nation must advance K-12 education through district-wide technology leadership, and school districts must use technology effectively to improve both teaching and learning.

Policy makers should encourage districts to create a compelling vision around 21st-century learning by embedding technology across the learning environment; invest in professional development for all educators, as well as administrators; and support the creation of a senior-level CIO or CTO position, so that districts have the advantage of an expert with the skills and expertise necessary to help effect these changes, CoSN says.

The organization is inviting state superintendent associations to join in the effort and embed its toolkit and resources into their conferences, publications, and web sites. The Colorado Association of School Executives and the North Carolina Association of School Administrators already have signed on, and CoSN officials say they expect more districts to participate.

The initiative is sponsored by CORE-ECS, ENA, and the Pearson Foundation. In addition, CoSN’s media partner for the initiative is eSchool News.

"This important new CoSN initiative is exactly in tune with our own ‘Tech-Savvy Superintendents’ program, which marked its eighth year just last month," said Gregg W. Downey, editor and publisher of eSchool News. "These programs provide support, encouragement, and resources to school district chief executives and, therefore, help them focus and refine the benefits technology can bring to K-12 education."

Links:

Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent

Video from the Pearson Foundation and CoSN

eSN Tech-Savvy Superintendents