The purpose of this paper is to extend the understanding of distributed leadership to the school district level as the authors examine how leadership for twenty-first century learning is distributed within public schools and school districts as they strive to transform their school classrooms from primarily teacher-directed toward more student-centered and technology-enhanced. It contributes to a growing understanding of the inherent distribution of school and school district leadership and helps elucidate how existing leadership machinations can be adapted to facilitate the transformation of public school classrooms from being primarily teacher-directed, to predominately student-centered, technology-enhanced learning environments.
This is a qualitative study conducted in all school districts in one Canadian province. Data were gathered through interviews of all district technology leaders and principals of two schools (per district) deemed exemplary in their use of technology for classroom learning; focus group sessions with stratified samples of teachers and all district-level program professionals in each district, and semi-structured observations of district-selected technology-savvy classrooms in two schools per district.
The paper provides insights into the challenges of leading classroom innovation, including costs associated with technology acquisition and the provision of quality professional development. It reaffirms the continued relevance of the school principal while concomitantly confirming the inherent existence of distributed leadership within and across organizational boundaries that can facilitate or impede complex change. Finally, findings from this study serve as yet another reminder that the accumulated, rich evidence base regarding the process of leading and implementing complex innovation appears to be largely ignored by practitioners.
Because the research approach is qualitative and restricted to one defined population, the generalizability of this study may be limited.
This paper draws attention to practical importance of fostering leadership from multiple sources and the need for reflection on how research evidence in education can better directed toward improved practice.
Given the major public expenditures in the acquisition of new and emerging technology for public school classrooms, this paper may foster reflection for improved leadership and implementation practices. The paper anticipates that this work will contribute to a growing understanding of the distributed nature of school and school district leadership. Also, the paper believes it will help elucidate how current machinations of leadership might be adapted to facilitate the transformation of public school classrooms from primarily teacher-directed to predominately student-centered, technology-enhanced learning environments.
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