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Key Challenges in Educational Leadership

in ICT
The implementation of technology for learning is affected by factors in a range of contexts
spanning International, national, regional and local educational institutions. Whilst local
schools in Australia have a degree of autonomy in decision making, the National Curriculum
dictates specific sets of skills required for 21st century technological competencies. In
implementing technology into schools, principals and administrators face a number of key
issues that need to be met by an approach that is informed by best practice and research as
well as contextually based to suit the needs of their own school.
With a curriculum that encourages high levels of digital reform, Australian principals are
faced with numerous challenges when developing frameworks for implementing educational
technologies. There is a growing body of research in relation to frameworks for effective
leadership in this area. In their discussion of change dynamics, Chan, Ching and Hsu (2008)
conceptualise the four dimensions of; vision, planning and management; staff development
and training; infrastructure support and evaluation, research and assessment. Further to this,
Smiley (2009) identifies planning, data use, infrastructure, access and professional
development as key concerns in a number of case studies. Similar issues emerge throughout
further analysis of the literature, and for my own context can be collated into three foremost
challenges for the principal. These challenges include; creating a shared vision for technology
integration, allocation of infrastructure and funding and the integration of appropriate
supports systems for staff.
The shared vision of leaders nationally can have an impact on both the local school and the
skills and outcomes for individual students and their own place in a global economy.
Towndrow and Valance (2012) explore the dichotomy in approaches to the implementation
of 1:1 computing integration in both Singapore and Japan. The Singaporean policy makers
embraced a shared vision that engaged leaders in initiatives that promoted teacher up skilling,
investments in researching digital technologies, and a commitment to infrastructure (pp2645). Japan on the other hand demonstrated a limited priority in ICT in education, lacked clear
guidance on policies and demonstrated strong reservations in reshaping educational practices
(p267). As a result of this lack of vision the researchers reported low levels of digital and
technological literacy skills for students.
On a more localised level, one of the key barriers to creating a shared vision for technology in
schools lies with the attitudes and values of various stakeholders in the school. Grey-Bowen
(2010) states that Teachers attitudes toward technology and beliefs in the instructional
benefits present a significant barrier to technology integration (p3). Conversely, teachers
have the capacity to be agents of change in the facilitation of technology. Geer, Barnes and
White (2008) suggest the need for teachers to develop a vision for the use of technology to
enhance learning outcomes (p152). Perhaps the key challenge here for school leaders lies in

their capacity to firstly develop their own vision and inspire and motivate other teachers in a
shared vision for their school context.
It is difficult for teachers to develop a sense of vision when there is a perception that
computing staff and executives are the only key partners in driving change. Certainly there
are responsibilities such as the maintenance of hardware and software that are most likely
performed by computing teachers. However, Cakir (2012) referenced a study by seferoglu
(2009) claiming that administrators expected computing teachers to organize training, create
projects and work with teachers to integrate technology into the classroom (p279). In
contrast, computing teachers expected administrators to facilitate the use of technology,
purchase new technology and encourage students and other teachers to use the technology.
Such a dichotomy of mutual expectations is counter to effective management of technology
integration. Whilst there needs to be clearly appointed roles within the school, research by
Early et.al. (2002) concluded that good school leaders also share their leadership
responsibility with other members of staff and seek to foster a mutually supportive and
collaborative culture (in Lewis and murphy, 2008, p131). Thus an effective collaboration
would entail willing staff from various subject areas along with an executive team whose
leadership is visionary (Richardsom and McLeod, 2011) and transformative (Afshari et.al,
2012).
Whilst a collaborative approach to the key challenges is necessary, the burden of
infrastructure lies with the executive administrators responsible for the daily running of the
school. Perhaps the foremost challenge to infrastructure is funding the costs of the
technology in order to produce equity in access for students. For Australian Schools, the
National Secondary School Computer Fund (NSSCF) has provided funding for schools
across the three main sectors to allow a rollout of years 7-9 laptops under the Digital
Education Revolution (DER). Despite the opportunities this has presented there were also
reports of the lack of infrastructure affecting the integration of the program in some schools.
According to Reid (2009) There are a number of practical difficulties including an initial
lack of provision for the associated infrastructure needed for such a large injection of new
equipment into schools, not to mention ongoing costs. With the costs of ongoing
maintenance of technology often falling to computing department budgets, there can be a
sense of strain between executives and the computing staff regarding the allocation of
budgets. This tension between two of the foremost stakeholders in the school can affect the
overall vision for technology.
Owen and Demb (2004) highlight a number of themes in relation to funding including;
unpredictability of technology cost, forecast and subject area allocation (p648). The issues of
forecast and unpredictability can be a reflection of changing governmental policies, initiatives
and response to international and economic crises. With the recent completion of the NSSCF,
and a possible change in government affecting the future of educational funding, at this point
in time it is difficult for administrators to make forward decisions regarding government
funding. According to the DEEWR, the Digital Education Revolution was projected to be
replaced by the National Plan for School Improvement in 2014 (DEEWR website). The plan
allows more autonomy in decision making in effect giving state authorities and local schools
more responsibility in the way that technology is used throughout the school. If this is

maintained by the next government it has the benefit of allowing schools to respond to their
own socio-economic context. There is, however a lack of literature in regards to
accountability and policies surrounding the plan at this point. Schools will inevitably be faced
with decisions about allocation of funds and responsibilities, continuation of 1:1 initiatives,
hardware and software choices, m-learning versus laptop learning, etc. In my own context
this is usually the role of the head of IT, however in order for these choices to become
grounded in the schools overall vision they may need to be discussed and endorsed by the
cross-curricular technology team.
According to Moyle (2010) the quality of students experiences with schools online
environments is influenced by the consistency of the interfaces used within various locations
in a school (45). In making decisions regarding the technical requirements, school
administrators need to consider characteristics such as; sustainability, reliability, security,
accessibility and flexibility. In order to determine these requirements schools should also
have a clear central model for digital learning such as 1:1 laptops, macbooks, ipads, BYOD
or BYOT initiatives. Lee (2013) for example believes that in response to societal and
technological changes a move to BYOT (and a more ubiquitous model) is inevitable. Not
only would such a model raise issues of equity, but problems with accessing content,
applications and other software would make it difficult and possibly costly to plan for
efficient infrastructure in the school.
Further to a need for infrastructure is the challenge of providing ongoing support for teachers
and students. Voogt et.al. (2011) Identifies that such support extends beyond just technical
support to incorporate organisational support (p7). The provision of technical support
usually relies on the appointing of specific organisational roles within the school, with clearly
defined duties and roles for IT personnel. These may include Technical Support Officers
(TSO), Network Administrators and Learning Technology Facilitators who advise on
pedagogical issues and professional development. Again allocation of funds is a clear
concern for executives when creating such support roles. Under the DER, the government
appointed a number of TSO positions to support the roll out of the 1:1 laptop initiative. Their
role however was mostly limited to the specific coordination of the DER program, and many
schools still needed personnel to maintain the other technical requirements within the school.
Some schools elect to use contractors or appoint non-teaching IT staff, however with a strain
on budgets for smaller schools such as my own, this burden generally falls to the IT faculty
(dandolopartners, 2012). In this instance, executives may need to make decisions regarding
training IT staff in specific areas of maintenance, or redefining selection criteria and roles for
future job applicants.
Further support is also needed in regards to specific direction for professional development.
Prestridge (2013) claims that ICT professional development is perceived as an avenue for
pedagogical change (p2). Although the number of in-service and development days are
rapidly growing, they tend to lack the content to initiate permanent pedagogical change (p5)
and in my specific context can require infrastructure that the school simply does not have.
Executives then need to meet the challenges of providing a framework for professional
development that includes provision for ongoing learning and collaboration for all staff. An
Australian study by Pegrum et.al. (2013), amongst other suggestions, highlighted the benefits

of building a professional community of practise/ professional development network as a


platform for learning from other teachers both internally and externally. This is a viable
option but principals would need to find a balance in encouraging teachers to participate on
a consistent basis perhaps by providing targeted time to participate in such an initiative.
There are a broad range of challenges facing educational leaders in implementing ICT into
the curriculum. Principals must establish an achievable vision and provide support and
infrastructure to all stakeholders in a realistic and manageable fashion. Both executives and
teachers must also be prepared and plan for a range of circumstances that may affect their
everyday engagement with technological learning tools and work together to create positive
solutions. Such collaboration should assist the school to successfully realise its full vision for
providing a 21st century learning environment.

References
Afshari, M., Bakar, K.A, Luan, W.S., Samah, B.A & Siraj, S. (2012). Factors affecting the
transformational leadership role of principals in implementing ICT in schools. The Turkish Online
Journal of Educational Technology, 11 (4), 164-176.
Cakir, R. (2012). Technology integration and technology leadership in schools as learning
organisations. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 11 (4), 273-282.
Chang, I.-H., Chin, J. M., & Hsu, C.-M. (2008). Teachers Perceptions of the Dimensions and
Implementation of Technology Leadership of Principals in Taiwanese Elementary Schools.
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Dandolo partners. (2013). DER Mid-Program Review: Assessing Progress of the DER and Potential
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DEEWR. Computers in schools. Retrieved from http://deewr.gov.au/computers-schools
Geer, R., Barnes, A. & White, B. (2008) Four ICT enablers in a contemporary learning environment:
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Grey-Bowen, J.E. (2010). A study of technology leadership among elementary public School
principals in Miami-Dade County (doctoral dissertation). St Thomas University, Miami Gardens,
Florida.
Lee, M. (2013) Where to After the Digital Education Revolution? ETSMagazine, May 2013.
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Owen, P.S and Demb, A. (2004). Change Dynamics and Leadership in Technology Implementation.
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