In January 2014, I attended a session by Eric Sheninger at the Florida Educational Technology Conference. Eric had many thoughtful points regarding digital leadership, so I was eager to order and read a copy of his book Digital Leadership. As I was reading Digital Leadership, I was so inspired by the message and the content, I thought, how could I best share and discuss all the book had to offer with the principals and directors in my district? So, I met with our assistant superintendent to discuss a plan for a book study. The books were ordered in the spring and distributed before summer for principals and director to read and/or get started during the “less” busy time.
I am a firm believer that we, as administrators, must model professional learning how we want our teachers to work with the students in their classrooms. After the books were distributed, I asked each to complete a quick pre-reading assessment (Know and Want to Know) using the following questions:
- What do I know about Digital Leadership?
- What do I want to know about Digital Leadership? (What I Learned will be saved for after the book study.)
- What other related discussions do you hope we have pertaining to technology, 21st century learning with technology, etc.?
Book Study - Day 1 - Tuesday, October 7th
After much preparation, is was time to finally get started with the book study. I hoped everyone else was as excited as I was for our book study. Here are a few strategies I used to facilitate the discussion:
1. We used TodaysMeet as a way for each principal and director to provide input into the discussion and allowed an opportunity to pose questions. For example:
Question #1: As school leaders, how do you ensure that all of your students have opportunities to achieve their dreams? Here are a few responses:
“Provide an environment that allows for free thoughts and creative thinking.”
“Work towards a safe learning environment ‑ safe to take risks so they can dream!”
“Give them an opportunity to explore and try new things.”
“I think by getting to know students and their abilities and desires, you work to find opportunities
that will prepare them to reach dreams.”
“Find engaging activities that push and challenge their creativity.”
Question #2: Based on the following quote from Eric Sheninger:
“It is time to transform schools into vibrant learning communities that are connected and allow access to numerous social media tools that can unleash the creativity of our learners. This will increase engagement and, ultimately achievement.” (Sheninger, p. 5)
So often, when considering new ideas outside of our comfort zone, ideas quickly die when responses start with “No, because…” and “Yes, but…” I asked the leaders to respond to the quote with “Yes, and…” as a way to to think in terms of agreeing with the quote as their starting point. Here are a few responses:
- “Yes, and let's get going!”
- “Yes, and....we needed to do it yesterday!”
- “Yes, and this change is long over due!”
- “Yes, and then we teach students how social media can be productive and engaging rather than gossip and negative.”
- “Yes, and if the learning activity is constructed well, it will become a relevant learning opportunity for the students.”
- “Yes, and it can create a dynamic real world learning environment for our students.
After we discussed for a bit, I did allow for some “Yah, buts.” There were not nearly as many as I anticipated.
2. I used Kahoot as a survey tool to allow for each administrator's input while gaining some insight into overall perceptions.
First, we reflected on 5 of the characteristics of learners today (Ian Jukes, Ted McCain, and Lee Crockett, 2010, p. 15) and asked for an "agree or disagree" response for each question.
Q1: Digital learners prefer to access information quickly from multiple-media sources, but many educators prefer slow and controlled release of information from limited sources.
Q2: Digital learners prefer parallel processing and multi-tasking, but many educators prefer linear processing and single tasks or limited multi-tasking.
Q3: Digital learners prefer to network simultaneously with others, but many educators prefer students to work independently before they network and interact.
Q4: Digital learners prefer processing pictures, sounds, color and video before text, but many educators prefer to provide text before picture, sound, and video.
Q5: Digital leaders prefer learning that is relevant, active, instantly useful and fun, but many educators feel compelled to teach memorization of the content in the curriculum guide.
Some found this tough as they may have agreed or disagreed with part, but were forced to select agree or disagree. Discussion followed after the results for each question were shown.
Second, I pulled 5 questions from the NASSP Guidelines to assist school leaders in integrating technology in their schools (p. 42 and 43) and asked the administrators to self-assess using a modified “Marzano” rating scale:
4 - Innovating
3 - Applying
2 - Developing
1 - Beginning or Not Using
Q6: The principal effectively and consistently models the use of the same technology tools they expect teachers to use in their classrooms with the students.
Q7: The principal is consistent in their decisions and expectations about integrating learning technology in the school.
Q8: The principal provides appropriate professional development time and resources to support effective classroom implementation of technology.
Q9: The principal supports early adopters and risk takers.
Q10: The principal sets and supports the expectation that student work will be done and stored using technology.
3. As s follow-up, I sent a link to a Google form for each person to provide a brief reflection and feedback. Here is one of the questions and some of the responses:
Please list something new you learned or an "ah ha" moment from our book study.
- “I need to take a more active role in the seamless integration and technology into all classrooms.”
- “Many leaders in our group are ready to move forward to "change paradigms for changing times"
- “It is time to begin to consider allowing all students in K-12 to have a cell phone with them during the day to use as a learning tool.”
- “Moving forward with technology integration to enhance learning is a must.”
- “I do not believe this book is about being digital, I believe it is completely about leadership.”
I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations we had on chapters 1 and 2 and look forward to future conversations in the coming months. As we continually strive for better, I sincerely believe the content in Digital Leadership will provide us with ideas to challenge our thinking and guide our conversations. Watch for more post-book study blog post reflections.