When Scott McLeod asks you to do something, it’s difficult to say “No”. He is one of those connecting leaders in education. The following tweet showed up in my feed this week:
So, this is my first time participating in #LeadershipDay14 discussing leadership with digital technologies in education. It has been, and continues to be, a journey that takes me to different places on many levels. The following is a list of 10 things I have and continue to learn as a teacher, principal and now superintendent:
1) More and more it is not digital leadership, it is just leadership. Just as digital literacy is giving way to literacy and digital citizenship is becoming simply citizenship, digital leadership is really just leadership. We live in a digital world, so it would be virtually impossible for educational leadership to not embrace the role technology is playing in our learning, teaching and in our schools today.
2) You are never done. There are many leaders, schools and districts that mistakenly embrace technology plans with the belief that one can implement technology like it is a thing — some sort of program. Digital is a journey — the educational tools we use on that journey continue to evolve. So, there will always be something else or new to learn.
3) Digital doesn’t make things easier. I have said this before in different contexts, but there is still a belief digital technologies make teaching easier, or learning easier. They don’t — they make it different. However, when everything connects, digital tools allow learners to do things that could not be possible without digital tools.
4) Listen carefully to the skeptics. Those who question and challenge are an important part of the process. Yes, some will challenge for strictly political reasons, while others enjoy being the dissenting voice. My experience with those most closely involved in education, particularly teachers, is they will do amazing things if they think they are the right things for kids. The culture needs to be developmental not judgmental. If you have many skeptics — come back to why the effort is good for kids.
5) Always start with learning goals. Please don’t set out to have an iPad in the hand of every student as your ultimate goal. We want students to be connected learners. Now, let’s figure out how to make that happen. And while you are doing this — also be sure you have a plan for equity. If digital tools are the answer for the learners who can afford them, we better figure out how we can put them in the hands of all learners.
6) Make sure teachers have the tools. I think almost all districts across North America are at least thinking about a plan to include personal devices in the classroom. This is great news. But, before students walk into classrooms with devices, make sure you have a plan for teachers to have devices as well. We have the responsibility to ensure our staff have the tools they need to go where the kids are.
7) You can’t microwave change. All teachers, all schools, and all districts must go through the process. Yes, it can be frustrating that change is not happening as fast as a leader might hope for, or that the digital transition is lagging. There are ways to support and encourage it, but trying to force the change will ruin it.
8) Embrace the uncertainty. I never trust people who speak with certainty about what schools will be like in five years, or what role technology will play. Same, with those in education who self-gloss themselves as technology or social media gurus. I think we can be pretty sure about the skills our kids will need, but the rest is really uncertain and that is okay. Technology will not ensure our kids are prepared for the future, but we can be sure that in five years technology will play a greater role, not a lesser one, in our schools and in our world.
9) Whatever you do — model it. If you want kids to blog, then the leaders need to be blogging. If you want schools to go paperless, then the district office needs to go paperless. And, if you want classes to be more learner-centred, the same should be true for staff meetings.
10) For leaders — surround yourself with people who will push you and make you uncomfortable. There is nothing worse than being satisfied with status quo. Finding leaders who will take risks is not easy, but they are out there. We need them in our district offices and in our schools.
Community is the greatest part of the educational journey. From those who I work with everyday, to the amazing digital community, there are so many of us trying to figure out the way forward — part of that is doing our best for all of our kids in this digital world.