Currently, digital technologies are “must haves” in education. Although investments in ICTs can be assumed to be huge, little is known about the true costs (the World Bank, 2015). Moreover, while the promises and enthusiasm for digital tools in education are ample, the impacts on teaching and learning are, at the most, dubious (OECD, 2015). Also, technologies change rapidly, and schools are subject to marketing that may at times be both seductive and aggressive.

In evaluating the quality of our schools, we suggest that it is not sufficient to count computers, students’ use of computers or assessing teachers, and students’ skills in operating technologies. Rather, we aim to raise some fundamental issues, such as what are the goals and values of education that technologies may serve to meet? How do we work with students and teachers to ensure that ICT is used to develop practices that will benefit such ends? What are the obstacles and pitfalls?

Questions for reflection on Technology

  • What do you see as the main drivers for the use of digital technologies in education? Reflect on the roles of policy, educational aims, availability of tools, professional concerns in meeting the school’s need for improvement.
  • Why should digital technologies be an obvious part of the school organization and the learning activities?
  • How do technologies and tools impact on teaching? On students’ learning? And how can we know?
  • What characteristics of the schools culture enhance the uptake of technology? What are the obstacles?



Over a few decades our lives have become replete with technologies. We are constantly connected, masses of information are available at our fingertips and our whereabouts and activities are being registered processed and shared for unknown purposes. A number of these technologies are penetrating our schools and classrooms, and there is an urgent need to unpack their use and purposes. Moreover, it is crucial to uncover the discrepancy between policy, the hope for change driven by digital technology, and the real state of technology use in teaching and learning (Olofsson et al., 2015).

Erstad (2015) suggest four dimensions that need attention. The first is basic skills: Students and teachers need to develop skills and confidence that allows them to operate the technologies. This concerns operation of the tools that are currently available, but also the development of preparedness for making use of technologies across sites and over time. Secondly, students need to develop capacity for understanding the role and the power of digital media.


This would imply that both teachers and students must be able to critically evaluate not only what they do with digital tools, but also what the tools affect us and the way we are conducting our lives. Thirdly, there is a didactic dimension related to the subject domains. Teachers must investigate if and how technologies changes the knowledge structures within the subjects they teach, what the core knowledge elements are, and how they must teach to help students approach such knowledge structures.  Finally, we need to consider learning strategies by focussing on the ways we facilitate the students’ development of competency for searching for information; evaluating sources; using information to build knowledge.  

In general, new technologies are expected to make life easier, and in our daily lives, this often is the case. Schools, however, are institutional contexts that are complex, multidimensional and characterised by conflicting interests and dilemmas, goals and policies (Olofsson et al., p. 117). As a consequence, digital technologies may increase the complexity of leading and teaching. This calls for a thorough valuation of what the aims are for education in the 21.century, and how and what kinds of technologies may serve these aims. On that basis, strategies can be developed for e.g. investment, professional development for teachers, and uptake and use of technologies in our schools, and for benchmarking practices. 

Relevance for leadership

Although multiple forms of technologies now are in use in classrooms, the responsibility for making use of digital tools is often placed in the hands of individual teachers, usually devoted enthusiasts. Also, while classrooms may be equipped with technological tools such as smartboards or tablets, instruction seems to remain teacher directed and only sporadically have a profound impact on teaching and learning practices. Even in schools that are considered innovative, there may be a lack of supportive strategies.

The introduction of digital technologies for teaching and learning is a complex endeavour that has implications for structures, curriculum, economy and professional development. In particular, there is a need for instructional leadership and the distribution of key leadership roles. Digital tools need to be introduced and understood as more than technology; it requires innovative work that transforms practices. Such work calls for articulated and well-grounded implementation plans, access to appropriate professional development schemes and classroom support. In short, leadership is essential to build appropriate environments that have a potential to change the mind-sets of staff and promote the creation of new teaching and learning practices.