Establish a strong district and school leadership team - Digital Promise Verizon Innovative Learning Schools
Leadership Team

Establish a strong district and school leadership team

Key Takeaway
A cross-functional leadership team must be in place to set a clear vision for the school, its culture and what teaching and learning look like before putting technology in classrooms.

Successfully integrating 1:1 technology into teaching and learning starts with building and maintaining a strong leadership team1. Practitioners and researchers often make the mistake of first focusing on how teachers can use technology in classrooms without paying enough attention to the important role that administrators and leaders play in developing a shared, clear vision for the school, its culture and what teaching and learning looks like with technology. Good teaching doesn’t just happen, and technology alone won’t make teaching better; an effective leadership team shapes the school environment and teaching practices—in all contexts2. Leaders play this role in multiple ways, such as by promoting a growth mindset among teachers, developing visions and goals around powerful learning, incorporating culturally relevant approaches, and ensuring necessary and relevant resources, training, and processes that enable teachers to achieve their goals3.

Strategies for success:

  • Build a cross-functional leadership team: A cross-functional team of leaders is critical to ensure that diverse contexts of schools and needs of different student and teacher populations are taken into account in technology investment and implementation plans and processes. Without collaboration from a diverse team of stakeholders, it will be difficult to adopt comprehensive goals and plans from which everyone can benefit. This team may include both district and school representation at all levels, including:
    • District IT leaders who bring the perspective of management, filtering, and network load
    • District or school family engagement leaders and/or parent representatives who secure buy-in from parents and caregivers and ensure they are able to access critical information about the program and provide input
    • District curriculum and instructional technology leaders who align the initiative to curriculum and instructional technology programs and goals already in place
    • District and school professional learning leaders who focus on supporting teachers with coaching, training, and resources
    • School administrators who customize the initiative for the unique culture and needs of each school
    • IT specialists dedicated to each school to address technology issues
    • School teacher leaders who support scaling instructional strategies from a variety of content areas
    • Student leaders who serve on the tech team and help test tools like filtering and provide tech support to students, parents, and teachers
  • Provide ongoing professional development for the leadership team: Technology is changing at a rapid pace, so much so that it’s challenging to grasp. Furthermore, defining how technology can effectively support pedagogy and content knowledge can be very complicated. For sustained success of technology implementation, it’s important to provide the leadership team with ongoing professional learning opportunities where they can get acquainted with the most recent useful and impactful technology tools and usage frameworks, as well as theories and mindsets around technology leadership. Professional conferences and webinars that share research-backed and field-initiated technological, instructional, and change management leadership practices can be very helpful. Participating in online communities of practice (e.g., active and robust social media channels) can also help alleviate skill and knowledge gaps.
  • Lead by example: Successful implementation of new and innovative technology practices and strategies requires buy-in from the school’s instructional team. Leaders can model these strategies by using them in staff meetings and other settings. Opting to use collaborative digital tools in place of whiteboards or butcher paper reinforces the change in culture that is expected at all levels in the school building.
Spotlight: Coaches as District Employees Embedded in Schools

One successful VILS district in an urban area in Texas assigned a district-level leadership role to guide and streamline the work of the six VILS coaches who were supporting technology integration in six campuses across the district. These seven educators closely worked together to make sure that their technology integration efforts are aligned with the district’s broader goals and meet the specific needs of each campus. They regularly met to develop a professional learning network to create uniform systems, share best practices, collectively problem solve to create innovative solutions, and monitor their success. They also collaborated with the district’s IT manager and his representatives at each campus to overcome technical challenges to maximize learning.


  1. Devolder, A., Vanderlinde, R., van Braak, J., & Tondeur, J. (2010). Identifying multiple roles of ICT coordinators. Computers & Education, 55(4), 1651–1655.
    Richardson, J. W., & Sterrett, W. L. (2018). District technology leadership then and now: A comparative study of district technology leadership from 2001 to 2014. Educational Administration Quarterly, 54(4), 589–616.
    Sugar, W., & Holloman, H. (2009). Technology leaders wanted: Acknowledging the leadership role of a technology coordinator. TechTrends, 53, 66–75.
  2. Leithwood, K., Seashore, K., Anderson, S., & Wahlstrom, K. (2004). Review of research: How leadership influences student learning. New York: The Wallace Foundation. https://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/documents/how-leadership-influences-student-learning.pdf.
    Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2001). School leadership that works: From research to results. ASCD.
  3. Fullan, M. (2011). The six secrets of change: What the best leaders do to help their organizations survive and thrive. John Wiley & Sons.
    Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Ing, M., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2011). The influence of school administrators on teacher retention decisions. American Educational Research Journal, 48(2), 303-333.
    Blase, J., & Kirby, P. C. (2008). Bringing out the best in teachers: What effective principals do. Corwin Press.
    Davis, S., Darling-Hammond, L., LaPointe, M., & Meyerson, D. (2005). Developing successful principals. Stanford Educational Leadership Institute. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.123.7780&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
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