ISTE Panel Question of the Day 1- Isn’t Being Tech Savvy Just Part Of Our Job?

Cpchat Principal Panel

The Conected Principals Panel at ISTE – via

Reflecting on our great panel discussion at ISTE 2011, I am overwhelmed by the number of great questions that were asked on #cpchatq during the panel.  Because of the phenomenal list of questions, we have decided to do a series of posts highlighting these questions.

Our first question is this – At what point is it acceptable for administrators not to use social media and other web 2.0 tools to connect, communicate, create, and learn?

In saying this, I am sure we have all heard people talk about how it is not about the technology in education and that technology is just a tool. While I agree wholeheartedly with this concept, I am left to wonder when failure to use the most modern tools becomes a problem.   I know that we would be in trouble if the medical profession operated this way.

We look forward to your responses!


  1. Tom Perran said:

    I think it is imperative that we give our students the skills they need to compete for jobs and educational slots in the future. By restricting access to learning experiences to which students in other schools are exposed, we are placing them at a disadvantage relative to their peers. We owe it to our students and children to do everything we can to help them prepare for their futures, this must include the latest tools and technologies that are available to them.

    July 1, 2011
    • I completely agree with your thoughts. Of course, we all know that pedagogy and the instructional core make the difference for students but we also have to recognize that we need to make the shift from the industrial age education model to the information age education model. I wholeheatedly agree with the correlation you made to medical professionals. I’ve often stated that very same sentiment to my colleagues, especially the ones who say “it’s not my job to integrate tech or teach technology.” We need to leverage the power of technology and work to change the learning opportunities that we can offer to our students using technology! It can be transformative, engaging, enriching, and global.

      I recently made a statement to a group of individuals in our central administration regarding our district vision. It includes a portion – as do many school visions- focused on preparing our students to be successful citizens in the global in our global society. My reflection was that we’re not really doing this and we need to really dig deep and examine what schools would look like if we we’re really preparing them for the global society.

      I also have a strong frustration with educators who refuse to engage in the very thing our profession is based on: learning. To me the very essence of an educator – at any level- is to be a learner. I frequently share this idea with anyone who will listen: Educators need to ask the same things of themselves that we ask our students every day: set goals, reflect, learn, take risks, do your best, be engaged, and be evaluated.
      Thank you for posing this questions. I look forward to following the responses and what we’re going to do about it. It’s not enough to blog and reflect – we always need to create a plan for how we’re going to create change.

      July 1, 2011
      • Stephanie – Great thoughts! One of my main take-aways from ISTE was the reaffirmation that it is about the educator and not about the tech. Great educators will always use the most modern resources to ensure that they are continuing to grow and expose their students to the most relevant learning environment possible. Educators who refuse to give new tools a chance are simply not modeling the never-ending growth that we need to model for our students.

        July 1, 2011
    • Tom – right on the mark! I am not sure who in my PLN said this, but I agree with the fact that “we need to prepare our students for their future and not our past.

      July 1, 2011
  2. Ryan Bretag said:

    It is really about growth. If an administrator isn’t growing as a leader, learner, and teacher, s/he is a poor model for a learning community.

    A lack of growth leads to complacency and a complacent leader means complacency systemically. This is failure.

    As you said, it isn’t about technology nor should it be. However, growing in 2011 will inevitably include technology.

    What I fear is our preconceived expectation of what that growth should be, what technology that should be, and how that technology should be used.

    July 1, 2011
    • I agree Ryan! That is my biggest fear as well. The greatest thing about technology is that we have so many more choices. Unfortunately, the m.o. in education has been to worry about the lowest common denominator and become overly prescriptive.

      July 1, 2011
  3. Dale Seiler said:

    “I know that we would be in trouble if the medical profession operated this way.”
    The medical profession is also privately funded and cansimply raise costs in order to fund new equipment, etc. For communication, too much emphasis had been placed on the medium used for communication rather than communication itself. Insisting that, in particular, kids, must have the absolute latest in technology in order to be prepared for the 21st century workplace fails to address the ability on the part of the student to adapt whenever tool X is not available. How many of you would be as savvy of a navigator without a GPS?

    July 1, 2011
    • Dale – I agree that the infusion of technology will widen the gap between the haves and the have nots and I agree that we need to teach kids to think which is something we can do without technology. But I think that you are following into the #yeahbut trap that Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli talked about in their session at ISTE

      This discussion is not an either/or discussion. We need students who are adaptable and able to use whatever tools that are available to them to solve problems, collaborate and communicate. These can be technological tools in many cases…and other times not.

      July 1, 2011
  4. Paula White said:

    I’m concerned by the over-emphasis on technology. I absolutely agree technology should be ubiquitous in our classrooms and schools, but just because someone uses it doesn’t mean it’s a good lesson.

    Becky Fisher (@beckyfisher73) once created a Technology Perspective of Administrators ppt show that was playing as people entered the room–and it had phrases on it like :

    The Kilowatt-hr Consumption viewpoint: “She’s a great technology-using teacher–the computers are always on in that room.”
    The Cooperative viewpoint: “Technology use is integral in this room–kids are always playing games on the computers.”
    The High Productivity viewpoint–“I know the computers are in great use in theta classroom because the teacher always responds my emails in a minute or less.”

    I can’t remember the others, but the point was that it’s HOW the computers/tech is being used, not just whether it is and too many observers, whether they be admins or parents or other teachers or kids, just look at whether it’s being used, not HOW it’s being used.

    We have way too many principals who don’t look at how the tech is being used–and who just want “stuff’ in their building. Not only do principals and leaders have to look at whether its being used, but look carefully at the depth of the use–and the lesson– to see if it is truly teaching kids skills they need to know in deep and meaningful ways. It is, as Ryan says, about perceptions and preconceived notions as to how to use the technology many, many times.

    July 1, 2011
    • Hi Paula – That is exactly correct! We could stock every classroom with the shiniest new tools, but that would not ensure that meaningful learning is taking place. I am not sure I even like the term tech-savvy because it emphasizes the tech. I definitely don’t like savvy alone as a descriptor because it seems too egocentric. I just think we have to continue to focus on what it means to be effective in our roles and we need to look a tools that allow us to do this. There are more and more options in the area of technological tools, but we need to emphasize the choices and not just the choice we like most.

      July 1, 2011
  5. Lyn Hilt said:

    I agree that at first glance, “tech-savvy” is perhaps not the adjective that we necessarily need to describe our administrators. Technology should be used as a means to an end. That “end” is student learning. Outcomes should be clearly defined, student-led, collaborative, and aligned to district goals and vision. That being said, while we can’t ignore technology itself as a partner in student learning, we have to place emphasis on professional development for teachers and administrators in helping them understand, design, and plan for meaningful learning environments and activities in a “21st century” classroom, not for them to become experts in using tech. Teaching and learning shouldn’t look the way it did 2, 5, 10, 15, 20+ years ago. We should constantly evaluate where we are, what our students have accomplished, where we need to go, and provide support to help them get there. Technology can and should play an integral role in this. But it should not be the focus.

    July 1, 2011
    • Scott McLeod said:

      How about ‘tech-knowledgeable’ instead?

      July 1, 2011
      • Lyn Hilt said:

        I think I like that better. Meaning we wouldn’t necessarily need to know the ins and outs of how all of the technologies work, but we should a) recognize they exist b) know that our students need access to the tools c) know how to develop our teachers and ourselves in learning how to integrate the tools seamlessly into learning for the benefit of students and d) work on using the tools to enhance our communications, productivity, and our own learning.

        July 2, 2011
  6. It’s hard to find an advertisement for an administrative job without seeing something like “must be tech savvy” somewhere. Communication skills are also important and the two overlap a great deal. Using tech tools to communicate can make a leader more effective and more efficient. The question for people doing the hiring is how to get a sense of how tech savvy someone is and how they can leverage the technology as they communicate. In addition to questions that get at vision, you should ask for a demonstration or at least samples of work. I would also ask for something in the way of a TED talk performance in front of teachers and parents. You would want a demonstration of how a candidate would use tech tools for administrative chores like budgeting and data analysis. The other big piece is an understanding of modern instructional technology along with a vision of how to move forward from the status quo.

    July 1, 2011
    • Doug I think it was you who tweeted during ISTE that the type of PD necessary for an admin who is not willing to look at tech tools at all is a retirement seminar. I don’t disagree.

      July 1, 2011
  7. Janice Driscoll said:

    Being tech-savvy is a part of our job, just as it is part of our 21st century lives. I can’t imagine my job as a principal without technology. I hope the excitement I feel when I learn to use a new tool is translated to my teachers and students! Being a new Twitter user is reminding me daily of the positive force of technology in my life, and how can administrators overlook that power? I agree with other comments regarding the importance of the teacher, how tech is used, etc. At the same time, I wonder if we shouldn’t be having conversations beyond this question at this point. For me, the answer is way too obvious.

    July 2, 2011
    • You are absolutely correct!!! We should be having conversations well beyond this question. Alan November once said, and I paraphrase: The difference between other countries and the Unitd States is that when I present in other countries on how we should be using technology and being globally connected, a year later I can re-visit and see a change. I can revisit a school two years later in the United States and they are still teaching the same way we always have. Change is slow, as a result, we continue to discuss this obvious question and robbing our students of tomorrow!

      July 2, 2011
      • I just read this on Rob Mancabelli’s Blog:

        In his book, Change or Die, Alan Deutschman relates the tale of heart patients who’s doctors told them to change their lefestyles or die within a few years. That’s a pretty clear mandate. After two years, how many do you think changed? Three quarters? Half? A third?

        Try 10%. Yep, 1 out of every 10.

        This is just another example of how effective change can be irresponsibly denied!

        July 2, 2011
  8. Isn’t being tech savvy just part of our job? A big part of our job as educators is staying abreast of the most effective, proven strategies and putting these ideas into action. Isn’t performing instructional rounds just part of our job? Isn’t providing meaningful feedback just part of our job? Isn’t intervening immediately to assist a struggling learner just part of our job? I think you get the picture. Can students of today learn in an empty field with a chalkboard? Yes…..but what type of learner would we produce?

    “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” – John Dewey

    July 2, 2011
  9. Angela Page said:

    Being tech savvy and using social media are two different things. That’s not to say they are mutually exclusive; they’re not. However, I work with many ‘tech savvy’ colleagues who actively avoid social media and are very critical about my use of it to support not only my own professional learning, but the ongoing learning of the staff I support in my role as online learning advisor. Perhaps they have difficulty seeing that it’s less about the technology and tools themselves and more about the pedagogy associated with using them to enhance learning?

    July 4, 2011
  10. Dave Bircher said:

    An administrator does not need to use EVERY Web 2.0 tool, but to completely pretend they do not exist is very wrong.

    Administrators can use these tools to provide leadership to their staff and within the larger school community. Using and showing how to use certain tools can help others create wonderful learning opportunities for students and create a higher level of engagement. I truly believe that if we ENGAGE students more, learning will improve. Those who want to ignore technology are limiting the opportunities to engage students who are learners in the 21st century.


    July 4, 2011
  11. Fred De Sena said:

    Principals do not need to necessarily be tech savvy, but they do need to choose the tech partners wisely. A partner should listen to the needs of the superintendent/principal’s district and create solutions based on those needs. This requires the tech partner candidate to be flexible and savvy. That is the goal of our company, Innovations in Online Education, to be a district partner in offering quality instruction in an online environment that suits the districts needs. Innovations in Online Education offers solutions in Home Instruction, Summer Remedial Programs, and in school online courses to supplement an existing course framework. We consider ourselves a true partner because we mirror the “brick and mortar” classroom by offering LIVE instruction online with a NJ certified content specialist. This is live classroom instruciton not text based audio enhanced modules that the student acceses at will. Choose your tech partners wisely and know your tech options. I would be happy to continue such a discussion with you. Fred De Sena VP/Administration IOE, Inc. IOE, Inc. IS incorporated and registered in the state of NJ and authorized by the NJDOE to offer our services to the NJ school districts

    July 5, 2011
  12. […] conversations, and in presentations I’ve shared. It came through loud and clear in the Connected Principals ISTE session that teachers want their administrators to value the opportunities to use technologies to enhance […]

    August 5, 2011

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