Leadership in the Era of Disruptive Technologies: Strategies for Educational Leaders
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Despite the dramatic proliferation of technological innovation across society in the past three decades, American educational systems have been slow to adopt newly designed and marketed digital platforms and devices to support and improve teaching and learning. And although the instructional content taught in K–20 systems has become more rigorous and standards based in this period, the pace of implementation and impact of digital innovation on pedagogy and curriculum has been comparatively lagging. Though the content of courses taught in the K–20 systems has changed significantly, how the content is taught has not changed. Arguably, waves of the technology revolution hit the shores of K–12 education more quickly and with greater impact than higher education. But increasingly in the past decade, colleges and universities have begun to widely incorporate “disruptive technologies” such as massive open online courses (MOOCs), digital textbooks, and online learning, into mainstream instruction. As a result, traditional methods of teaching have been challenged or replaced, creating a perceptible threat to the established controls of college faculty and textbook publishers. A new breed of accredited universities offering most of their coursework online provides an entirely new structure for gaining a college degree or advanced certification. These universities not only bypass seat time in traditional classrooms, they offer programs and coursework that can be self-paced or personalized by the student. While the question of whether digital learning is more effective than traditional classroom instruction remains unanswered, what does seem evident is that digital learning and related innovations offer a quality of teaching and learning that is more efficient and more adaptable to the learning needs and lifestyle demands of a diverse array of learners, including those already in the workforce. The ubiquity of technology and its inevitable impact on educational systems, however fast or plodding, create a challenge for both the leadership and management of complex learning systems. The pressing demand on today’s leaders requires not only a knowledge of the obstacles and opportunities inherent in digital innovation, but an entrepreneurial vision and responsive capacity to adapt to or creatively forge yet-to-be-imagined ways of teaching and learning that respond to the demands and interest of a new generation of tech-savvy students. In this chapter, the authors cite examples of disruptive technologies and how they have changed the context and boundaries of the broader educational community. The analysis leads to identification of key knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary in the preparation of future leaders to effectively navigate this revolution in education.