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# The Role of Technology in Leadership Preparation for the Millennial Generation: The UNLV Story

Summary: This article documents an organizational odyssey. It traces the evolution of masters’ level programming in educational leadership offered by the University of Nevada Las Vegas as it moved from qualitatively traditional to technologically sophisticated. As is true in most quests, an extended period of time and a significant degree of professional “soul searching” were involved. As this reexamination process continued, the character of society at large and the educational environment in particular were also evolving. During the early 1990’s children of the millennium generation (Gen M) first appeared on the American scene, the earliest generation born in the “digital age.” Their worldview was to be heavily influenced by “ubiquitous technology,” an environment replete with all manner of sophisticated modes of communication. Gen M youngsters quickly mastered the use of iPod’s, cell phones, Digital Video Disk Players, text messaging, instant web messaging, blogging, digital video and digital photography, and the worldwide connectivity of the high speed internet. As they grew, these young persons accepted as natural and permanent capabilities that those of earlier generations viewed as phenomenal technological advances.

## Note:

This module has been peer-reviewed, accepted, and sanctioned by the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration (NCPEA) as a scholarly contribution to the knowledge base in educational administration.

Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely! ~Karen Kaiser Clark

## The Setting

While the Gen M children were maturing, faculty members in the Department of Educational Leadership, College of Education, at the University of Nevada Las Vegas were focusing their attention on the pressing needs of the Clark Country School District (CCSD). CCSD had, by the mid-nineties, become one of the fastest growing school districts in the United States. The city and surrounding county were, at that time, receiving around 5000 new residents monthly, a large percentage of whom placed children in the already overcrowded local schools.

Between 1990 and 2000 ninety-eight new public schools were constructed, supported by bond issues totaling $1.85 billion. The annual school budget grew from$385 million to over $700 million between academic years 1989-90 and 1996-97, and per pupil expenditures increased from circa$3500 to \$4500. (Chance, Steinhoff, Chance, & Jordan, 1999-2000). From a pupil population of 217,492 in 1999-2000, student enrollments climbed to 291,510 in 2005-2006.

Not surprisingly, the pressures generated by these statistical realities influenced the staffing and practice of administration in CCSD, generating ever-increasing demands for new and replacement entry-level building administrators. As administrators retired, relocated, or moved to new assignments, CCSD found itself in immediate need of more and better trained assistant principals, secondary deans, and principals than is usual in other, less dynamic educational environments. As Dr. George Ann Rice, Assistant Superintendent of CCSD’s Human Resources Department said, speaking of these needs:

…the need for new administrators [was] almost mind boggling…. During this time of unprecedented growth, the district no longer [had] the luxuryof allowing new administrators, who have learned the theories of educational leadership during their graduate programs, to mature professionally over an extended period of time in entry-level administrative positions as they wait for an opportunity to become principals. A new elementary assistant principal might find himself or herself a principal after only one or two years as an assistant. (Rice, 1999, p. 15-16.)

In 1993 UNLV’s educational leadership faculty initiated discussions with CCSD personnel about the possibility of creating a collaborative principal preparation program. By 1995, and following extensive dialogue on the nature of the program and the roles and responsibilities of CCSD and UNLV, the program was ready to begin and the initial cohort of students was selected. The initial cohort matriculated during the Fall of 1996. (Chance, Steinhoff, Chance, & Jordan, 1999-2000).

Implementation of the new collaborative effort was predicated upon experientially-based, as well as theory-based learning activities. “…entrance and exit competencies [were to be] aligned with course work and field experiences.” The students were expected to engage in “hands-on” activity, as opposed to more passive “shadowing” activities during their internship and field experiences. They were expected to demonstrate the ability “…to meld theory into practice and …a capacity to meet ever expanding state standards and expectations” (Chance, Steinhoff, Chance, & Jordan, 1999-2000).

In 2007, growth in southern Nevada has not slowed. The Clark County School District consistently adds 15,000 students per year to its classrooms and continues to build ten to twelve new schools each month. Currently the fifth largest school district in the nation, encompassing over 8,000 square miles, CCSD’s student population stands at approximately 303,000 in 326 schools, including one virtual high school, and the collaborative principal preparation program continues to exist, currently recruiting its twelfth cohort. Since 1995, the program has graduated 167 students. The majority of the graduates are serving in leadership roles in Clark County School District. Presently, 22 graduates are serving as principals and 123 graduates are serving as assistant principals or deans.

### The Program

The UNLV/CCSD Collaborative Principal Preparation Program is a two-year cohort program that integrates field experiences and course work. A key component of wedding theory and practice comes from assigning each student to a practicing principal who serves as his/her mentor throughout the program. Students complete field experiences and internships at their school and their mentor's school, under the mentor's supervision.

Mentors are considered to be master principals and are nominated by their supervisors or university faculty. Final selection of mentor principals is made by CCSD's regional superintendents. Once selected, principals attend an initial training program which provides principals with an overview of the program and introduces them to the concepts of mentoring and coaching. Expectations for mentors' supervision of field experiences are outlined. In addition, the training presents an explanation and rationale for the sequencing of field experiences and how these relate to concepts and theories presented in university course work. Ongoing communication is maintained through meetings with university faculty and mentors held throughout the course of the program. Meetings consist of program updates, discussion of students' course work, expectations for mentors' supervision of field experiences, as well as special topics for professional development of mentor principals.

The master’s degree in Educational Leadership consists of 39 hours of coursework, nine of which are field experiences and internship. Students enroll in an average of six hours per semester with one intensive summer of 12 credit hours. Courses are sequenced in order to provide opportunities for continuing intellectual growth. For instance, cohort members enroll in Research Methods and Introduction to Educational Administration during their first semester. The Introduction class focuses on organizational and leadership theory. Second semester classes are Supervision of Instruction and Curriculum Development. Theories learned in the first semester are reiterated as to their usefulness and importance in issues related to supervision and curriculum. A concerted effort is made to ensure that no class appears irrelevant to companion classes. The idea is to develop a smooth stream of knowledge based upon curriculum alignment by the faculty. Every effort is made to avoid repetition of content.

Three of the courses include companion field experience components. Each field experience is designed to allow the cohort member to work closely with the mentor principal in completing a project or activity related to the class in which the cohort member is enrolled. These course-related field experiences are scheduled throughout the first year of the program. This is done for two reasons. First, it is important that a good relationship be developed with the mentor principal early on. Clearly, the greater the interaction between the cohort member and principal, the faster this relationship develops. Secondly, having the cohort member in the field as much as possible allows each individual to consider personal desire, passion, and commitment to becoming an administrator. In a few instances, a cohort member has decided not to pursue an administrative position, but to complete the program.

### Networking Through an Electronic Bulletin Board

In addition, a similar online folder is available for mentor principals. This extended network has allowed university faculty to remain in contact with graduates and mentors, allowing better access to follow-up data for program evaluation. Such post-graduate communication contributes to students’ continued support of the program, recruitment of new students, and continued contact with university faculty—keeping alive the notion of theory-practice connections.

#### Electronic Field Logs

During their internships, students are required to keep logs of their field-based experiences. In order to promote reflective practice, the on-line form requires students to indicate:

• the dates and number of hours involved in the activity;
• the domains of leadership involved;
• the intern's level of involvement (i.e., active, interactive, inactive); and
• answers to six specific reflective questions.

The six questions, which are designed to engage students in reflection are:

1. What was done?
2. Why was the task necessary?
3. What did you do (in sequence)?
4. What problems did you encounter?
5. How were they resolved?
6. What did you learn?

Internship logs contain a wealth of data that can be helpful in analyzing and assessing students’ internship experiences and outcomes. Educational leadership faculty wanted to be able to access data for research and program evaluation planning without the cumbersome burden of archiving boxes of written documents. In addition, data needed to be manipulated and managed with minimal expenditure of human resources and without the clerical tedium of handling each log individually in order to summarize and collate data. During 2000, educational leadership faculty worked with a computer programmer pursuing his doctorate in educational technology to design a computer database that would provide easy access to data required for program evaluation and research.

This initial experiment in electronic log postings has not been without its technical difficulties. As the online data base was originally designed, faculty with system administrator privileges could sort journal entries by a variety of items, such as ISLLC standards, leadership domains, and level of experience (e.g. elementary, middle, or high school). Interns' cumulative hours were automatically summed for each inquiry. For example, one simple query could provide information on the number of cumulative hours spent on activities related to ISLLC Standard 2 (student learning and professional development) for a particular group of interns. Queries such as this allowed faculty to evaluate internships in terms of the types of experiences in which students were engaged and whether or not certain standards were being adequately addressed. Since log entries bore titles, instructors could access entire, specific, or random journal entries for use in qualitative analysis.

The on-line field log was piloted with a masters degree cohort that had been together for two years. This group was chosen because of the high level of collaboration and trust that already existed among the students themselves and between students and faculty. Students were asked to provide feedback throughout the semester as the on-line log was developed and refined.

Because time constraints prevented the availability of the on-line form prior to the beginning of the semester, a Microsoft Word template was initially employed for entering data. This provided students with the spelling and grammar checker for editing logs. While the online form was being constructed, the template served as the staging area. Students were comfortable using the Word template because of the ubiquitous nature of the software and prior experience. When the online form became available, it was simply a matter of copying and pasting from Word into the online form.

A major student concern was the issue of privacy, since online internship logs would contain the identities of personnel. It was decided that actual names would be omitted in the log entries and would be replaced with generic titles such as: Principal, Math teacher, and Central Office Facilitator. This technique was designed to insure that the privacy of those involved would be respected. In addition, interns utilized personal pen names when employing the online database for similar reasons. A master intern list, of pen names was submitted to each class instructor for reference purposes. This would later lead to technological trouble!

The electronic database, while useful, was in “imperfect vessel” during early years of utilization. However, the program was greatly improved over time and relocated from an off-campus to a university server. The potential use of the information for present and future programmatic improvement and research utilization is immense!

##### Electronic Portfolios

The culminating project of the internship involves the compilation of a portfolio that parallels the student's IADP. Like the IADP, portfolios are organized according to the six ISLLC standards. Students provide at least two artifacts for each standard as a way of demonstrating their understanding and application of the standard in a leadership situation. Artifacts are defined as concrete examples of leadership accomplishments or experiences that demonstrate expertise or ability.

Each artifact description includes a reflective summary presenting a rationale for the selection of the artifact, which describes the activity ( or activities) involved, and which shows how the selected activity (or activities) relates to the standard. In addition, an explanation is provided concerning what the intern gained in terms of personal professional growth. Students are instructed in a reflective process suggested by Brown and Irby (1997), one which integrates reflective practice into the portfolio development process through the following five-step cycle.

1. Select documents that reveal particular capabilities or skills.
2. Describe the experience.
3. Analyze the artifact in terms of its relationship to the goal.
4. Appraise through self-assessment by evaluating actions in relationship to values and beliefs.
5. Transform the experience through reflection upon how this experience can inform or impact future practice or professional development. (Brown & Irby, 1997, p. 28-31).

Near the end of the internship, each student presents his/her portfolio in a meeting involving the mentor principal, educational leadership faculty, and invited guests (usually District level superintendents). While each student makes a formal presentation of his/her portfolio, an important component of the event is the informal discussion that ensues. A reflective dialogue usually occurs during which the mentor principal engages the intern in conversation that helps the intern place the experience into a larger context of leadership. The faculty member is that of (a) affirming the student's analysis of the experience by elaborating on theory-practice connections and (b) by encouraging the intern to engage in critical analyses by asking probing questions.

At about the same time that the electronic log system was installed, the Department of Educational Leadership mandated that the portfolio requirement would become the culminating internship and programmatic experience. Originally envisioned and executed as a presentation notebook requiring reflection and synthesis, attendance of senior CCSD administrators encouraged redesign of the preparation and presentation process. District superintendents responded positively, often hiring students based largely upon their portfolio presentations. This fact suggested that producing an electronic portfolio that could be easily transported and shared would be advantageous for our graduates. Using the outline of portfolio requirements, one of our “tech-savvy” students produced the first electronic template for student use. The original template for a Power Point presentation designed by that student serves as the basis for our current template.

Web-enhanced Courses

Throughout the program, students are enrolled in courses that are web-enhanced. In these courses, classroom activities are augmented through use of various web-based tools. Instructors use the Web for materials distribution and as a way to create a more dynamic learning experience. Most of the activities we have employed online are similar to those employed in face-to-face seminars. Prompt questions are employed to generate student reflection upon the topic under consideration. However, it has been found that using online discussion offers diverse learners, shy learners, and reflective thinkers new opportunities to engage in the discourse due to the asynchronous nature of the interaction. Furthermore, discussion often becomes “many-to-many”, rather than instructor-led in nature (Carmean & Haefner, 2002). This type of communication tends to create a rich virtual learning environment.

The main goal of web-enhanced instruction is that of encouraging greater communication and collaboration outside of the classroom as a way to extend the learning experiences. Instructors nurture interaction in an effort to create a robust virtual learning community. They provide ongoing feedback through the use of discussion boards, e-bulletin boards and threaded discussions. This approach provides motivation, support and feedback for discussions. Moderators thank students for their response, keep the discussion on track and allow students to discuss among themselves. Instructors encourage student-to-student interaction, which can be just as valuable as teacher-to-student interaction and provide communication through class-wide announcements, group emails, and chat archives. Web-enhanced instruction provides powerful opportunities to connect students with their own learning needs.

Ongoing Review and Development

The use of technology has presented a number of educational opportunities and advantages for our students, the most important being increased interaction between faculty, peers, and the course content. Web enhancements provide students with additional opportunities to construct meaning from experiences, reflect on learning, and gain practice and feedback in applying new learning. The various methods of utilizing technology in teaching have evolved supporting student cohesiveness and encouraging learning.

We continue to explore how technology can enhance what is done in the teaching of educational leadership. Technology is a tool that can promote greater learning, but only if its use is planned and carried out with that goal in mind. We believe fundamentally that online teaching and activities only have value if they allow students to develop key skills and abilities and that the use of technology must extend the possibilities for this development in ways that go beyond what is achievable within a more traditional classroom setting.

The most promising outcome thus far has been the development of a virtual learning community both within the current cohort and within the larger community of previous cohort members. Brewer, DeJonge, & Stout (2001) defined a virtual learning community as a community that “consists of learners who support and assist each other, make decisions synergistically, and communicate with peers on a variety of topics” (p. 88). This interdependence has resulted in professional relationships that endure long after coursework ceases.

Central to the development of a virtual learning community is the role of the instructor. Effectiveness depends on the instructor’s presence and interactivity in establishing this presence (Wingard, 2004). Whether it is instructor response to activities and reflections posted on the electronic log or instructor comments to students’ thoughts and reflections posted during threaded discussions, or student response to other students’ thoughts and reflections posted online, the role of the instructor in engaging and supporting interaction is the critical key to establishing a successful virtual learning environment. Moore (1993) suggested that there are three types of interaction necessary for successful web-enhanced education: (a) learner-content interaction, (b) learner-instructor interaction, and (c) learner-learner interaction. Instructors of web-based courses need to ensure that all three forms of interaction are maximized within the course structure.

We have found that in web-enhanced classes where online discussion occurs, a deeper level of discourse tends to result. Emphasis on the written word encourages a deeper level of thinking. The fact that students must write their thoughts, and the realization that those thoughts will be exposed semi-permanently to others in the class, has resulted in higher-quality discussions and interactions.

The use of technology has also had an impact on the nature and delivery of content. The addition of web components to a course does not necessarily change instructional content, but it does offer alternative means of delivery and expands the amount of information available to students. Instructors have found that the Web makes it much more efficient and convenient to make course materials available and that because information can be expanded, updated, and distributed immediately, course content is more likely to be dynamic and more current. As a result, students are able to access resources that are richer, timelier, and more authentic with access any time and anywhere.

Utilizing technology in our programs has had a positive impact on students’ development as future educational leaders. However, technology use has also had an impact on the faculty. There has been increased sharing and collaboration among faculty. Discussions regarding e-activities and new instructional approaches as well as expansion of research options are occurring more frequently. The program uses standard syllabi regardless of the instructor assigned; however, as technology uses increase, there is more collective development of learning activities both within the course, and more importantly, across courses. This has led to more continuity of courses within the program.

Emerging Technologies

Meeting the needs of the 21st century learner requires continued exploration of new technologies as tools for enhancing learning. The use of virtual learning environments can become more that just a “depot of knowledge” rather a place for reflection, experiment, and critical self-awareness. This means that professors must continue to embrace technologies that support the goals of increasing students’ interactions between faculty, peers and with the content.

Our goal is to continually expand web-based and web-enhanced instruction through active and informed course design as a way of establishing what Garrison and Anderson (2003) have called the “community of inquiry”, a total learning environment in which Information Technology and traditional teaching and learning models are integrated and are mutually supportive. In this environment, learning is acquired through opportunities for reflection and active construction of knowledge as well as by means of social interaction and collaboration.

In the future, we envision moving to a form of teaching that is, in effect, “blended learning”, in which face-to-face and online teaching are integrated in all courses. As numerous discussions of online learning make clear, the key to the success of incorporating e-activities is how they are introduced and integrated within the course. This means that it will be important to introduce gradations of complexity into the learning activities that students are asked to undertake online.

It also means that communication must be both reflective and proactive. It is planned to include more class-wide journals and summaries to bring closure to units and help with transitioning to succeeding units. In addition, instructors expect to create more group activities online where students collaborate on projects and learning activities to share ideas, discuss content and solve problems. Future web-based and web-enhanced courses may include online guests (authors or experts in their field) residing at a distance, yet participating in online threaded discussions with students in the class.

Virtual learning environments offer opportunities for the support of critical thought and higher-level learning activities. Real-world problem-solving activities can be greatly enhanced through the web-based structure. The faculty plan to develop more learning opportunities that engage students in decision-making skills that are so critical to their success by using role playing, case studies, and vignettes in an interactive environment. In addition, it will be important to develop an increased ability to use media and add more complex, graphical illustrations, models and simulations to enhance and support higher levels of learning both in the classroom and the virtual learning environment.

It is anticipated that there will be greater integration of the Web in our courses. Discussions are underway concerning the creation of modules that can be used across courses. Furthermore, plans are underway to develop a complete self-paced masters degree in educational leadership. Such delivery will create an educational process through which every individual can start, stop, and restart the learning process at any time that is convenient. Students will be able to map out their own instructional trajectory of instruction, regardless of their geographical location.

As the number of web-enhanced and web-based classes continues to grow, increasing numbers of faculty are engaging in this type of instruction. As the use of technology in our program expands, it will be important to provide guidance to these professors as they design online instructional activities. This suggests that various types of training and support should be made available to faculty. Online instructors need to be “seen” in order to be perceived by their students as present in the course just as they do in face-to-face instruction. The department plans to increase opportunities for faculty to share ideas, successes, and failures as well as to collaborate on best practices

The first-generation Web tools, as many have called them, included email, chat rooms, and discussion boards, among others (Godwin-Jones, 2003). However, it is second-generation Web tools that promise to take virtual learning environments to the next level. Blogs (Weblogs), wikis, and podcasts can be introduced alone or in conjunction with web-based/web-enhanced courses to create engaging learning environments. According to Weller, Pegler, & Mason (2005), blogs can be used as student portfolios that keep records of their individual progress, accomplishments, and reflections. This could be a way for students to document their personal and intellectual growth. Podcasts provide students and instructors with up-to-the-minute information (Beldarrain, 2006). Although podcasting is not a synchronous activity, it provides students with information that will help them feel connected to the learning community. Students can also create their own podcasts for the rest of the class members based on the course content. A wiki, which is a collection of web pages that are linked to each other, can reflect the collaborative works of several students. Wiki projects foster social interaction and knowledge construction. These emergent technologies support a more learner-centered and learner controlled experience while increasing interaction with faculty and peers. These tools may help tap into a student’s expertise and promote collaboration through peer-to-peer mentoring and teamwork.

Technology can be used to offer innovative and relevant learning activities within the context of a given education leadership course – this is what determines the success. In addition, virtual learning environments have considerable potential to encourage some desired student skills, extending them beyond the classroom, and, in addition can help foster the sense of community and integration that is integral to the life and vigor of the principal preparation program.

##### Implications and Conclusions

In general, the incorporation of technology into our principal preparation program has been beneficial from a number of perspectives. Electronic databases provide a rich source of information for program evaluation, as does the electronic network environment, by providing a ready source for continual contact and follow-up with graduates. The electronic bulletin boards for current students, graduates, and mentors provide a constant venue for continuous professional networking. E-logs, e-portfolios, and web-enhanced courses assist students’ reflective process as they develop their leadership skills.

However, embracing technology is not always easy; there will be inevitable bumps along the path. From our experiences, we offer three suggestions for other institutions.

Plunge ahead. In the arena of information technology one does not have the luxury of planning too far in advance. If we spend six months or a year in planning, our plans will likely be obsolete. Technology applications change quickly and constantly.

Involve students. Many of our technological additions came from the suggestions and work of students. Furthermore, students have provided valuable feedback for fixing and updating applications. It is essential that we listen to our clients and utilize the talents of students to improve our virtual learning environments.

Stay the course. Working with information technology applications that are constantly changing is bound to generate problems and create frustrations. It would be easier sometimes not to redevelop applications, but instead to simply give up. Expect to have faculty who will resist or encourage a continuation of “business as usual.”

Technology is not the wave of the future; it is rather a current reality. Whether or not universities embrace emerging technologies may determine their future viability. Whether we like it or not, the information age will demand a new organizational structure for learning institutions. As those who prepare educational leaders, shouldn’t we be blazing the path?

References

Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration, Distance Education, 27 (2), 139-153.

Bischoff, B. (2000). The elements of effective online teaching. In K.W. White & B. H. Weight (Eds.), The online teaching guide (pp.57-84). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Brewer, E.l, DeJonge, J., & Stout, V. (2001). Moving to online: Making the transition from traditional instruction and communication strategies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

Buckner, K. G., Flanary, R. A., Hersey, L. G., & Hersey, P. W. (1997). Mentoring and coaching: Developing educational leaders. Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Carmen, C. & Haefner, J. (2002). Mind over manner: Transforming course management systems into effective learning environments. [Online] Retrieved January 2007, from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0261.pdf

Chance, E. W., Steinhoff, C, Chance, P. L., & Jordan, T. (1999-2000). Preparing urban principals: The UNLV-CCSD collaborative principal preparation program. National Forum of Educational Administration and Supervision Journal, 16 (3), 5-14.

Council of Chief State School Officers. (1996). Interstate school leaders licensure consortium: Standards for school leaders. Washington, D.C.: Author.

Garrison,D.R. and Anderson,T. (2003) E-Learning in the 21st century:A framework for research and practice. London: Routledge Falmer.

Moor, M.( 1993). Three types of interaction. Distance Education: New Perspectives, eds. K. Harry, M. Hohn & D. Keegan. London: Routledge. pp. 19-24.

Rice, G.A. (1999-2000). The Clark County School District perspective: Preparing leaders for the future. National Forum of Educational Administration and Supervision Journal, 16 (3), 15-18.

Weller, M. J., Pegler, C. A. and Mason, R. D. (2005). Use of innovative technologies on an elearning course. The Internet and Higher Education, 8 (1), 61-71.

Wingard, R.( 2004). Classroom teaching changes in web-enhanced courses: A multi-institutional study. [Online] Retrieved January 2007, from http://www.educause.edu/apps/eq/eqm0414.asp

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