About 20 years ago Dow Chemical Canada was benchmarked against Motorola then as now a corporate paragon. At the end of the week the conclusion was that Dow could never aspire to match Motorola's performance. The reason was that Dow's top management did not understand technology and would therefore be at the mercy of its technological wonks in making decisions. Since all decisions would involve a technological component, chance not reason would rule.
I have thought about this story often through the years. Scott recently raised the question about whether educational leaders needed to be technologically literate. In my opinion it depends. If you are serious about educating students for a future the exact nature of which none of us knows then the answer is yes. Since Dow measured itself against Motorola, the need for this kind of knowledge has grown and it will continue to grow.
Mark Prensky has introduced a distinction between digital natives and digital immigrants. I believe Don Tapscott has also divided the field in a similar way. That the distinction is not exhaustive does not mitigate its usefullness. I think there are a few educators, however, who while they did not grow up immersed in technology, get technology in a way that may be precisely what is needed. These people are around and in many industries they have become ascendant. They are like the accountants of the fifties and sixties who became CEO's of major corporations. They were excellent bean counters who were able to see the ways in which beans could be employed to make their companies better.
There are these people in our business as well. I see myself as one. I had email in the very early 90's and used gopher and lynx, the latter a text-based front end on the early web. I read the writings of Louis Schmeir and participated in Global Schoolhouse Projects. In 1994 I travelled to Swarthmore College to work with the originators of the Math Forum still one of the best math sites (now located at Drexel U.). Our project involved building a geometry website that we could look at in a new program called Mosaic.
We were supposed to be spending our time the first few days learning the Internet protocols: mail, ftp, gopher, http, etc. But none of us could stop ourselves from launching Mosaic and taking a look around at the first graphical front end on the web. Our instructors, Annie Fetter and Stephen Weimar among them, were equally enamoured.
So I had a great start on this path. I have taught Logo, Object Logo, C++, C and Java programming. I have taken and taught Cisco's four semester CCNA program. Even in my small district there are many like me whom I hesitate to call digital 'immigrants'. These people have suffered over the last ten years as resources have been devoted to getting the horses back in the barn. Their knowledge, enthusiasm, and willingness to risk have been honoured in word only. I know many 'digital immigrants' and most of them are riding a horse til the day they die; they ain't ever getting in a car. See the distinction here.
There is no real bottom line in education. Until recently those in power hired people like themselves, people who would support the team, even when the team was the Montreal Maroons or the Kansas City Monarchs. This has had devastating consequences as we find ourselves with the gap between where we are and where we need to be widening. If we could see more clearly and were not at the mercy of every fad that came down the pike, if we began where we are and simultaneously encouraged our people and began to improve our processes in authentic ways, we would do better. With so many readymade excuses for failure and so little real accountability, there is much work to do. :)