4 Research-Backed Steps for Effective Principal Leadership of 1-1 implementation


Principals and School-Leaders: The quality of your leadership, and the particular choices you make and priorities you set,  make a significant difference in the success of a 1-1 device implementation.

These are among the conclusions of a recently released report from Project Red, which can be found on its website, and in a new ISTE publication by the Project Red principals, Revolutionizing Education through Technology: The Project RED Roadmap for Transformation (which is happily available for free download: click here for the pdf).

This research reviewed implementations in nearly 1000 schools in 49 states.  For my broader discussion of the findings of including the 11 “education success measures” used (high stakes testing being one, but just one, of these 11), the key implementation factors for success, and the evidence of improved learning in 1:1 programs, click here.

The Project Red Website shares 9 Key implementation factors for success; two of them relate to principal leadership:

  • Change management leadership by principal: Leaders provide time for teacher professional learning and collaboration at least monthly.
  • Principal training: Principals are trained in teacher buy-in, best practices, and technology-transformed learning.

In Revolutionizing Education, Project-Red rightly emphasizes quality leadership as essential:

Transformed school leadership is needed for school reform. Technology initiatives present new expectations and a shift from traditional to dynamic, self-discovered tools and resources.

To effectively use these tools, school leaders need professional growth experiences that help them become nimble thinkers, skilled problem solvers, and confident facilitators of learner-centered models.

The Four Steps for Principals and School-Leaders. 

1. Practice Public leadership for the program: setting high expectations, demonstrating commitment,  and providing modeling for teachers. 

The effectiveness of 1-1 program implementations will be greatly enhanced when principals embrace the initiative with confidence, commitment, and clarity.    Own it, step up to the mic, and make the case.     Communicate in every forum your commitment to high expectations for the program, model your own technology use, and set a tone of experimentation and innovation for your teachers.  Principals who delegate this technology implementation initiatives diminish the likelihood of its success.

To quote from  Revolutionizing Education through Technology : 

The expectations of a school’s principal drive student performance.  The relationship between students’ use of technology tools and school leaders’ expectations is consistent with the research that demonstrates the important role of leadership in improving student outcomes.

Commitment and high expectations from principals are mirrored by teachers, which leads to increased student success.

For more suggestions about this kind of leadership, you might read the following posts:

2. Make a sincere commitment to consistent access to technology for students. 

Whether you made the decision to go 1-1 yourself, or it was made by the district or the board or some other outside entity, you as principal need to remember that decisions aren’t actions.  It will require your ongoing attention to ensure that the program becomes fully realized in your building or on your campus, and among the critical issues is access: do students have regular and reliable access to the tools and to the internet?

From the book:

Student motivation and engagement increase when students have consistent access to digital learning tools, and school-level leaders establish those access expectations for students.  

Among other things, this requires keeping an ear to the ground: what are students saying in the lunchroom or in the hallways about their access: what is the chatter?  Have open forums, and keep those communication lines open.   Regular meeting with the technology staff in your school is essential, with probing questions: how is it going and how do you know how it is going and what problems are you encountering and what do you need help with?   Press and lead.

3.  Commit to your own continuing growth and learning as an educational leader.

As society, technology, and learning increases its rate of change, school leaders must become lead learners, working hard each and every day to keep up with new information, to remain open to changing one’s mind, and to develop new skills and techniques.    This is especially true in a changing educational technology environment.

From the book:

Leading a technology-transformed school calls for different skills from those needed in a traditional Industrial-age school. To set expectations and provide support, leaders must develop insights and skills related to first- and second order change so that robustly infused technology can create a teaching and learning environment that is dynamic, systematic, and natural.

Education leadership programs need to support lifelong learning for administrators to make sure they can keep pace with the skills required for this century.  National- and state-level policies should require that school leaders pursue ongoing leadership development and demonstrate their skills through supervised practicums.

One note: Web 2.0 tools and vehicles are providing far greater and wider opportunities for educational leaders to keep learning.  Joining twitter, entering the blogosphere both as a consumer and a contributor, participating in a MOOC like the Leadership 2.0program: all these and many more are great ways for school-leaders to learn and grow, as this element requires.

4.  Prioritize teacher learning and collaboration, with an emphasis on providing time and internal structures for ongoing, internal, faculty learning.

No surprise here, but school-leaders must recognize that that supporting faculty learning is perhaps their highest priority in a 1-1 implementation.  It is not enough, and it may not even be ideal, to provide faculty PD especially or exclusively via traditional, external providers of professional development.   External PD may have a role in the launch, and may be valuable reinforcement or infusion of new ideas or inspiration in an ongoing way, but it is not enough.   The real work happens internally, via ongoing teacher learning with and from each other, and via collaborative teaching planning, reflection, and debriefing.

From the book’s chapter on the Importance of School Leadership:

Teachers must continually hone their ability to create and improve the 21st-century computer-enhanced learning environment. Professional learning is essential for teacher growth in terms of effectively integrating education technology.

It is well established that educators need consistent, ongoing professional development in pedagogy, best practices, research, content, curriculum, and the personalization of instruction. We also know that educators learn best through the on-the-job application of best practices, reflection with peers, and collaboration on how to implement theories in the classroom.

Effective school leaders provide ongoing, embedded professional development in order to ensure best practices for new century education. Federal, state, and local policies should support the expectation that principals will actively seek, develop, and implement robust professional learning for themselves and their teachers.

I’d underscore the importance of providing time.   The key implementation factors suggest that principals must provide teachers time for professional learning and collaboration at least once monthly, but that seems barely enough.  Shoot for once or twice weekly, and be deeply devoted to using this time well.   Employ Professional Learning Communities or Critical Friends Groups, and follow-through to ensure these are getting the support and resources they require.


Principals: If your own 1-1 implementation is already underway, it is time to take the steps necessary to bring it forward, and your leadership is essential.   It is the right thing to do not just because the research demonstrates that well structured, it improves student achievement as measured by narrow measures, but because it is connects students to the world, to a vastly enhanced opportunity for the pursuit of their passions, and to an enormous “new culture of learning.”  

From the Project Red Findings. 


  1. Craig Levan said:

    Great article! Educational Leadership certification is not viable for the technology that is being incorporated into the public school system.

    October 16, 2012
  2. I concur fully with the information you prepare! Just like most of my contacts with who I chatted also publish your viewpoints. It’s nice to come across a post that as it happens that your not alone into your convictions!

    December 1, 2012

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