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.

BYOT and one-to-one initiatives are literacy initiatives

The following post was on the Smart Blog On Education earlier this week.

As a school leader who recently sold my community on the importance of moving to a one-to-one environment where every student has access to a web-based device, I believe strongly that our students will be more literate than students in other schools who do not have access to web-enabled devices.  A look at the world outside of our schools and the technological resources being accessed in so many professions that allow people to work “smarter” is a clear indication of the track that our students need to be on in order to be able to function in the “real world.”

The biggest stumbling block in schools even if we can get the devices is the proficiency level of the adults in the building in utilizing the technology resources effectively. This is not meant to be an indictment of educators, but it is a critical question that we all have to look at, assess, and then move forward. Technological tools/resources can assist educators in some of our biggest undertakings (i.e. common core standards integration, teacher evaluation, providing relevant professional development, etc.). However, because so many educators in schools are not comfortable with the most modern literacy skills we are not able to make better progress.

Are these your literacy standards?
From an educator’s perspective there are a few places that we can turn for a concrete look at the standards.  The best resources for modern literacy standards are the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Let’s start with NCTE.  The Definition of 21st Century Literacies listed below was adopted by NCTE in 2008. While you look at the list below,  think about how many educators in your community are comfortable in these areas.

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
  • 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 multi-media texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

As educators, we need to be able to start to list concrete examples of how we meet each of these standards and then assist our students in doing the same.

What about the ISTE standards?
Like NCTE, ISTE also provides us clear standards to help schools better prepare students in the digital age. Unfortunately, the vast majority of educators look at the ISTE standards as technology standards when in reality they are learning standards. As the introduction to the standards states on the ISTE website, “Technology has forever changed not only what we need to learn, but the way we learn.”
Like the NCTE standards, ISTE’s contain six focal points:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

As with the NCTE standards, I question how many of these our staff members are comfortable with at this point.

Is this even on our radar?
So as we look towards the new things on the agenda for schools throughout our country like common core implementation and new teacher evaluation methods, I am worried that the integration of technology is still looked upon as a detached task that will have to be kept on the back burner.  The reality of the situation, however, is that if we understand how to utilize the vast array of collaborative resources out there that we can accomplish our tasks more effectively. But we cannot even start down this road if we do not provide access.

There is a great quote about technology in Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”: “Technology alone is not going to move an organization or an individual from Good to Great. However, technology that is thoughtfully deployed can help us move a bit faster. ”

In closing, I have to mention the seven survival skills that Tony  Wagner discusses in his book “The Global Achievement Gap,” skills that our students need whether they are going on to college or the workplace.

  1. Critical thinking/problem solving
  2. Collaboration/leading by influence
  3. Agility and adaptability
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective oral and written communication
  6. Accessing and analyzing information
  7. Curiosity and imagination

We cannot get where we need to go, if we as educators do not model these skills and we cannot model these skills if we do not provide learning environments where staff and students have access to digital resources that allow them to experiment and discover the power of being a connected learner. We are at a point where we have to consider whether or not those who are learning in “disconnected” environments can be called literate by today’s standards.
So as you are thinking about whether or not a BYOT or one-to-one initiative is right for your school, you need to ask yourself the following question: Is it important that students in our school are literate?

Patrick Larkin (@patrickmlarkin) is the assistant superintendent for learning for Burlington Public Schools in Massachusetts. He is a former high school principal and former commission member of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

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BYOT and one-to-one initiatives are literacy initiatives originally published by SmartBlogs

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