As educators transition from being “sages on the stage” to “facilitators of learning,” the culture in our schools needs to be rich in digital learning. Educators must be open-minded and flexible learners, focused on continuous improvement and adjustment, in order to best engage students in digital learning. Educators who are honing skills around visioning, ongoing and differentiated professional development, anytime learning, and risk taking are well on their way to effective technology leadership. Here are four ways you can become an effective digital leader:
1. BE A VISIONARY
What do your students want to know? What skills do you want them to have? When students leave your school, what skills should they have? Let these questions shape your vision for learning and technology integration.
Know where your school is and think about where you want to go from here. Identify what steps you need to take, in terms of resource acquisition and professional development, to take your team to that next level. Invest time and energy in the areas for growth that you identify.
2. FOCUS ON PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Effective leadership begins with a commitment to professional development. Becoming comfortable and effective in the use of technology doesn’t happen by osmosis, but rather by thoughtful, intentional staff development that reinforces technology as a tool for teaching and learning.
Start with the hardware and software knowledge so educators have the basics and can do essential troubleshooting, but then move on to the deeper conversations: How do the digital resources extend learning? Support students? And consider differentiating the professional development. Just as students have varying needs in the classroom, so teachers will pick up on the tech at different levels and should have support that meets their learning styles and needs.
3. BUILD A PROFESSIONAL LEARNING NETWORK (PLN)
None of us learns effectively in isolation, yet the times that busy educators have available may not coincide with the schedules of others or with the training that is offered. Professional learning networks (PLNs) allow educators to build ubiquitous learning cadres, continuing the learning that then trickles down to students.
One way to build a PLN is to start with Twitter and the many community chats, such as #EdChat, #SuptChat, #PBLchat, #MathChat, #CPchat, and the list goes on. LinkedIn also offers group membership, so joining cadres like TechinEdu, TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, ISTE, or Educational Leadership will open up message boards and conversations to deepen your learning—especially beyond your geographic area. Digital leaders must have PLNs that enable collaboration on best practices, shared thought leadership, and global sharing of resources. PLNs also provide access to thousands of other like-minded colleagues to support us in supporting our students in anywhere, anytime learning.
4. MODEL RISK TAKING
We’ve all been there: after spending hours designing a great presentation, the Internet goes down or the projector won’t connect properly. When this happens in the classroom, educators need to know that it’s OK to improvise and that it’s important to be resilient when the best-laid plans go wrong. Even in the context of a larger district initiative, it’s possible that a technical glitch or other unforeseen event could derail the plan but educators need to see transparency and course correction modeled. The obstacles can often result in a better outcome than originally planned, with risks transformed into opportunities.
The last ten years have seen a dramatic shift in pedagogy and technology integration, and classrooms are filled with digital natives whose learning styles require deeper collaboration and engagement. Educators need to ensure that students have strong foundations for incorporating technology into their daily practices. That learning begins with effective digital leaders who bring sound best practices to benefit students in their schools and classrooms.
Lisa Gonzales is Interim Superintendent in California’s Lakeside Joint School District and President Elect of the Association of California School Administrators. She is a member of California’s Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership and was selected by the White House as a
CLASSROOM LEADERSHIP: 7 TIPS FOR MANAGING THE INTERNET IN YOUR CLASSROOM
BY Monica Burns
Here are a few ideas on how to manage classroom Internet when incorporating Web tools into your instruction.
■ Provide students and parents with clearly detailed Internet use guidelines. These are guidelines you can develop with community stakeholders, including students.
■ Implement easy-to-use software that allows teachers to manage access from a single point.
■ Generate individual daily, weekly, or monthly Internet use reports to help encourage good habits and get a better understanding of how students are using digital tools in your school.
■ Utilize software that allows at-a-glance optics of real-time student Internet activity.
■ Teach students how to access online learning and research tools through teacher modeling and authentic explorations.
■ Use software that does not require installation on student devices so it can fit into BYOD (bring-your-own-device) initiatives.
■ Connect the dots between responsible online and offline behavior to help students understand that values are the same everywhere.
Monica Burns is a fifth-grade teacher in a 1:1 iPad classroom. Visit her Web site at classtechtips.com for creative education technology tips and technology lesson plans aligned to the Common Core Standards.