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From the Principal's Office: Leading in the Digital Age

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November 11, 2013 By: Eric Sheninger

Nov 10

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11/10/2013 6:24 PM  RssIcon

I am very excited about my upcoming book titled Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times which will be published by Corwin Press. The entire book looks at leadership through the lens of practitioners in the digital age. Effective leadership is extremely important in any system, but it is even more imperative in schools if we are to provide all learners with a world-class education. This education has to be relevant, meaningful, and applicable. At New Milford High School, we have been working for the past four years to transform our culture to one that is primed for student engagement, learning, and achievement. It is my hope that this book will provide a framework for other educators to begin the change process that will ultimately lead to transformation.

Image credit: https://research.usc.edu/usc-symposium-on-digital-media-research-education-and-innovation/

So how would one define digital leadership? I think it is important to first look at the concept of leadership in general. Wikipedia defines leadership as a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. Kevin Kruse defines it as a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal. Both of these definitions highlight the importance of social influence. This leads me to ascertain that social media can be an invaluable tool that educators can harness to move schools, learning, and the profession forward. 

Leadership is no different today than it was years ago. The only difference is that style and focus need to change with the times if we are to accomplish the lofty task of preparing students for a dynamic world that is more social and connected as a result of technology. Leading in a way that supports the status quo, standardization, outdated practices, and misconceptions related to technology, not only does a disservice to our students, but also renders our schools and profession as irrelevant. 

Digital leadership takes into account recent changes such as ubiquitous connectivity, open-source technology, mobile devices, and personalization. It represents a dramatic shift from how schools have been run and structured for over a century, as what started out as a personal use of technology has become systemic to every facet of leadership. Digital leadership can thus be defined as establishing direction, influencing others, and initiating sustainable change through the access to information, and establishing relationships in order to anticipate changes pivotal to school success in the future. It requires a dynamic combination of mindset, behaviors, and skills that are employed to change and/or enhance school culture through the assistance of technology.

The basic tenets of leadership are still valuable and needed for our schools to succeed. However, the changing times as well as society’s reliance on technology demand an evolution of leadership practices to create schools that our learners deserve, and need, to succeed in today's world. It all begins with trust. Digital leaders must give up control and trust students and teachers to use real-world tools to unleash creativity and a passion for learning.  The time is now, whether you are a building level or teacher leader, to boldly move schools forward in the digital age. What have you done and/or changed to become a digital leader? Where did you begin? How have things changed since this shift? 

For those looking to begin this journey or take your work to the next level please check out my book that will be out this January. You can pre-order now and it will be available for Kindle about a week after it has been published.  The forward was written by Yong Zhao and the book itself has been endorsed by some of today's most prominent thought-leaders.

cross-posted on A Principal's Reflections

Eric Sheninger is a NASSP Digital Principal Award winner (2012), PDK Emerging Leader Award recipient (2012), winner of Learning Forward's Excellence in Professional Practice Award (2012) and co-author of Communicating and Connecting With Social Media: Essentials for Principals and What Principals Need to Know About Teaching and Learning Science. He presents and speaks nationally to assist other school leaders in effectively using technology. His blog, A Principal's Reflections, was selected as Best School Administrator Blog in 2011 by Edublogs.

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