Pillars of Digital Leadership Series: Professional Growth

Pillars of Digital Leadership Series: Professional Growth

This post is the third in a series that will outline the foundational elements of my new book, Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times. It is set to be published by Corwin Press on January 14, 2014. Currently there is a pre-publication discount of 15% for any orders before this date. Over the next couple of weeks I will introduce what I have come to identify as the Pillars of Digital Leadership, a conceptual framework for leaders to begin thinking about changes to professional practice. My book will focus on each of these elements as part of a change process. It will illustrate them in action through the work of practitioners and provide implementation strategies. To view the entire series click HERE.

Pillar #4: Professional Growth

Opportunities to grow professionally are pivotal to leaders in the digital age. However, the mounting pressure from ridiculous mandates as a result of the current education reform movement and massive budget cuts across the country, have made it a challenge to learn through traditional pathways. Without funding, many districts no longer allow leaders to travel to national/state conferences or even attend local workshops. It is a shame that the growth of leaders, and all educators for that matter, is a trivial concern to districts and so called reformers, unless it is solely related to the Common Core, PARCC, SGO’s (in NJ at least), or a teacher/principal evaluation tool. These are not the meaningful, rich, and relevant learning opportunities that leaders of today’s schools deserve or yearn for.

Image credit: http://www.edudemic.com/build-personal-learning-network/

The ever-increasing mandates at the state level impacting evaluation and curricular alignment to the Common Core have taken their toll as well. To put it bluntly, leaders feel that they either do not have, or cannot find, the time to attend professional learning opportunities due to this tsunami of work that comes at the sacrifice of meaningful growth and development. The pressure from education reform mandates is so intense that many leaders don’t even think twice about missing a day of school to learn as he/she is always thinking about the observations that could get done or the piles of paperwork that will be waiting upon their return. Leaders should never feel that their learning and growth comes at the expense of mandates and directives that are not in line with a vision for preparing students to succeed in a digital world.

Fortunately digital leaders are not at the mercy of budget cuts or taking professional days to learn and get better. They still can, but now have the ability to save time and money by harnessing the power of social media to learn anytime, anywhere, and from anyone they choose. They are able to follow their specific learning passions by connecting with like-minded individuals. A connected learning model is empowering and ultimately creates a human-generated search engine for the most practical ideas and strategies being implemented in schools today.

Using the work of Lyn Hilt as a model, Chapter 8 will provide leaders with the knowledge and tools to create their own Personal Learning Network (PLN). A PLN provides leaders with resources, knowledge, feedback, advice, support, friendships, and is a catalyst for self-directed learning. The ability and ease to now engage in conversations with like-minded practitioners and world-renowned experts provides a meaningful and differentiated model for growth to improve professional practice. For me, I love being able to ask a question on Twitter and then return hours later with an array of responses from all over the world. I also love being able to filter content based on my interests from a variety of information sources to one convenient location.

Another great way to start is to join the Leadership 3.0 community at edWeb for free. Now more than ever leaders need to take control of their learning. How have you gone about creating your own PLN? What advice would you give to those leaders who are looking to begin this process?

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.