Some Concrete Steps on the Path to Digital Leadership

In my last post, I focused on the importance of school leaders being digital leaders and modeling best practices for their staff and students. While most school and district leaders agree about the need to utilize digital tools, they are often intimidated by the list of options and they need some support developing a concrete plan for getting started.  This is where I think it is important to take a brief step back and ensure that we are taking advantage of digital resources that can add value and not just use technology for the sake of using technology.  
In order to model this meaningful integration of technology, we need to dwell on the challenges we face as both educators and school leaders and then find tools that can help us solve these challenges.  So what our are biggest challenges? How can we find tools that can help us solve these challenges?

One of NASSP’s recommendations that was highlighted in my previous post was fo school leaders to do as follows:
“Encourage and model the appropriate and responsible use of mobile and social technologies to maximize students’ opportunities to create and share content.”
An easy way for school leaders to begin to encourage and model the use of mobile and social technologies is to start a blog to share news and insights about their students, their staff members and themselves.  If you can type a newsletter or an e-mail then you can keep a blog. With a little help supporting your school community in accessing the most recent blog posts, the blogging school leader will be seen as both an improved communicator and digital leader! Let’s face it, a top challenge all school leaders face falls under communication. Whether it is a comes from parents, students, or staff, we do not want to hear that our stakeholders feel out of the loop when it comes to what is happening in our schools. 

One of the key parts of NCTE’s 21st Century Framework that was referenced in my last post stated the following:

Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society to: Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes.”

One avenue school leaders can take to get on the road to accomplishing this is to create a Twitter account and learn how to harness the power of hashtags to connect with other learners. For those who are unfamiliar with Twitter, here is a great overview of everything you need to get started with Twitter from Sue Waters of Edublogs.  If you are not sure what a school leader would tweet about, then check out this great post from George Couros for some concrete ideas. By the way, the school leaders who take on this challenge will also meet the aforementioned NASSP recommendation as well since they will be modeling appropriate and responsible use. 

While there are a number of other ways that school leaders can start to meet these new digital literacies, the most important thing is to begin somewhere and start walking the walk towards becoming a digital leader.  Feel free to tweet or e-mail about the ways you or others model 21st Century learning and/or digital leadership and no matter what you do, start pushing the importance of these topics in your school community this year.  Students who are being educated in communities that embrace the power of mobile and social technologies will surely reap the benefits.

School Leaders Must Be Digital Leaders

In my previous post, I discussed some of the ways school and district leaders could utilize digital tools to improve communication with their school communities. There is another level to this conversation regarding school administrators and the critical role they play as models for what is expected of all of the other learners in their schools.  The second level of this conversation is in regards to the importance of developing a digital presence, something that school leaders need to promote with all of our staff and students.  

While I see an increasing number of  school leaders making the move into digital spaces to communicate, share, and learn, I wonder why there are so many others who are still hesitant to take the leap.  In an effort to reinforce why this important, I want to share a couple of resources that may provide some motivation.  

First, I want to look at the position statement on Using Mobile and Social Technologies in Schools created by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) back in May of 2011.  Here are a couple the Recommendations for School Leaders from the statement:
  • Encourage and model the appropriate and responsible use of mobile and social technologies to maximize students’ opportunities to create and share content.
  • Participate in and provide teachers professional development on the effective use of mobile devices and networking in schools.
Second, let’s take a glance at the Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment that was developed by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in February of 2008. This framework states the following:
“Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society must be able to:
  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information;
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts;
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.”
I encourage school and district leaders to use the bulleted items above as a checklist to see how they are doing on each item. Which of these can you check off confidently as something you are actively involved in? Which items do you have some knowledge of, but need some help in getting up to speed. Which items are totally out of your realm of experience?

In my next post, I will start to look at some of the ways school leaders can develop the proficiency and fluency that NASSP and NCTE describe.  We need to make this issue a priority so that we can lead the important conversations that need to be happening in our schools and classrooms on this topic.  Our failure to lead the educators in our districts in this area will ultimately lead to deficiencies in the critical skills our students need to be developing to succeed beyond the walls of our schools.