Digital Learners Need (and Deserve) Digital Leaders #DigiLead

2/17/2014 12:00:00 AM
I recently read this Education Week post by  Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers titled We Have 21st Century Learners Who Need 21st Century Leaders.  I couldn't agree more. They go on the summarize the following:
"Essentially, the 21st century leader has to develop a renewed understanding of how children are learning now.  It isn't about using technology because it exists. It is about how the technologies of the world have already influenced how children are learning. Bringing a technology agenda forward with the intention of improving student understanding and demonstrated success is essential.  Leading the transition from 20th century to 21st century schools includes attention to the human toll it takes when such large changes are being required.  Ongoing professional development, constant review and analysis of successful attempts at the changes in learning opportunities and the increasing use of technology offer momentum."
The world has changed and technology has had a big impact.  As the world and our lives have become more connected and influenced by the evolving technology-rich landscape our learners in turn have become wired differently.  Not only are they engaged more outside of school then in, but in many cases they are constructing new knowledge, communicating, collaborating, and attempting to make sense of an array of media messages.  All of these examples are at the core of essential skill sets that most schools "want" students to possess, but many schools do a poor job of creating a culture that integrates them across the curriculum. Students deserve leaders willing who are willing to extend themselves beyond their comfort zones in order to create a culture that aligns with a new vision for learning.  This involves a leader's desire to take calculated risks, adapt, learn, and ultimately evolve in ways to break free of the status quo in order to create digitally rich environments that meet the needs of today's digital learners.

Image credit: http://inspiringtheact.org.au/event/unconventional-gas/

The number one responsibility and challenge for digital leaders is to create a relevant, meaningful, and authentic learning culture that allows students to create learning artifacts to demonstrate conceptual mastery. It also requires an open mind, vision, and strategic plan to allow students access to real-world tools to do real-world work. A common misconception is that you have to be "tech savvy" in order to be a digital leader.  Of course it helps, but it is not a necessity.  What is needed is a thorough understanding of what constitutes effective leadership and determining how these characteristics, skills, and practices can be improved and/or enhanced with a new mindset that views technology as a tool to support learning as opposed to just a frivolous add on.  Some of the most effective digital leaders, or just leaders for that matter, build capacity in others to move the change process further.  If you are a leader looking to do so, begin to have conversations with your teachers, and more importantly your students, to collaboratively create a system that works for learners as opposed to one that just acts to control them.

Societal changes as a result of technology now demand leaders to also look at how they perform other essential responsibilities to improve and move schools forward in the digital age.  The Pillars of Digital Leadership provide a practical framework for any leader, regardless of technological proficiency, to improve professional practice.  The tenets of leadership still apply.  It should also be noted that this isn't about giving us more to do in a time when it seems like more and more is being dumped on a leader's plate. The guiding question is how can we do what we do better to become more effective and efficient while becoming improved learners, collaborators, communicators, storytellers, and change agents.  If we look at the digital age as an endless era of opportunity to engage students in deeper, more relevant learning then the next logical step is to act.

We can no longer stand by idly while everything changes except for schools and learning environments. View this post as a call to action.  If you are a digital leader how will you help support, cultivate, and inspire others to follow a similar path? The Age of Information and Personal Learning Networks (PLN's) provides ample resources for any leader (classroom, building, district) to find success, not to mention my new book on Digital Leadership.  The challenge is to get those who do not value the role of technology in learning today, are not connected, or who are blinded by fear, misconceptions, or lack of knowledge on board.  Learners across the globe are counting on our success in this endeavor.

Are you up for the challenge?

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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