This question has been bouncing around my brain since I left the International Society for Technology in Education conference. When people say that I’m an ed-tech leader, I am always shocked. I don’t think of myself as a leader in this area — just someone who really likes what he does.

So, what makes someone an educational-technology leader? Are there certain qualities that make such people stand out from everyone else? Do they have fancy degrees that make them special?

I think it is important to say that a leader is a leader, regardless of the field. Leaders have certain qualities that help them stand out from the crowd. Leaders direct the masses and encourage more to follow. They lead by example and strive to learn from successes and failures. Leaders are people you want to stand with in difficult times. They will listen to others and share their opinions in a respectful manner. Where do these traits fit into the world of educational technology?

I’m not sure whether I have the definitive answer, but this is what I think an ed-tech leader looks like.

  • The ed-tech field is in flux. There are gadgets and ideas coming out every few weeks that claim to be the next big thing to make schools better. A leader in ed tech is someone willing to explore all options when it comes to making instruction and learning better.
  • Honesty is also key. When evaluating tools, it is important to honestly consider how they work in theory and how they would work in the school environment. It is tough to say negative things about products, but they need to be said if they are going to improve and become useful to student success. People will respect an honest, critical opinion more than a glossy overview. People depend on leaders to provide guidance. This can be done only with an honest approach to all things ed-tech related.
  • Have the ability to see beyond bells and whistles. Ed-tech leaders examine how technology would affect students and address curricular needs. They understand that there needs to be sound pedagogy for using a tool, not only that it looks cool. It is tough to go against the current, but a true leader will when the best interests of students are at stake.
  • An ed-tech leader needs to be connected. Some might not agree with this, but in today’s day and age, information arrives daily about the value of various tools and how they are being utilized nationwide. It is important to be connected to these streams of information. Ed-tech leaders do not need to be “plugged in” all day every day, but they should be using the right tools (Twitter, Zite, Google Reader, etc.) when they have time to look around. Understanding and using these tools to become a connected educator are crucial.
  • Ed-tech leaders stand out with their willingness to say, “I don’t know.” These three words are some of the most powerful a person can speak as long as he or she is willing to follow up with, “Can you show me where I can find out more?” A leader cannot be expected to know everything about everything but does need to proudly admit to not knowing something, then go digging for the right information. Whenever I say those three words to my students, they are always shocked. Teachers rarely say them because they are afraid of looking “dumb.” Real leaders let the world know they do not know everything but will do their best to learn as much as possible with the help of peers.

Every person has what it takes to be an ed-tech leader. Having passion for education and technology gets a person two-thirds of the way there. Take those leadership qualities that we all possess and focus them on your passions, and you can be a leader in ed tech for your school, district, state or beyond.

Nicholas Provenzano is a high-school English teacher and a technology-curriculum specialist for the Grosse Pointe Public School System in Michigan. He has a master’s degree in educational technology from Central Michigan University and is a regular presenter for the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning and ISTE. When he is not writing on his blog or tweeting @TheNerdyTeacher, he is working on an educational e-zine and a free “unconference,” Edcamp Detroit. He also blogs for Edutopia on the value of technology in education.

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