This is the third in a series of four posts that have emerged as a result of a week-long trip to Silicon Valley with a group of educational leaders from the University of Pennsylvania Midcareer Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership. Be sure to check out previous blog posts providing my reflections on the daily adventures. You can find the other posts in this series at these links:
This idea of a “leadership upgrade” has been a focus of mine since I completed my dissertation in 2010. At that time, I looked at the different kinds of knowledge, skills and dispositions leaders need in a fully digital learning ecology. Throughout the week in Silicon Valley my thinking continued to return to questions of leadership and what school leaders need to do differently, especially in shifting the conversation to developing educational technology that supports reimagining the system rather than merely improving the current system’s efficiencies.
In the Forward of David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around, Stephen Covey writes:
…leadership is the enabling art. It is the art of releasing human talent and potential. You may be able to “buy” a person’s back with a paycheck, position, power, or fear, but a human being’s genius, passion, loyalty and tenacious creativity are volunteered only. The worlds greatest problems will be solved by passionate, unleashed “volunteers.” (p. xiii)
It would be easy for leadership to just say, “Elevate the conversation!” But this change is much more challenging and requires us as leaders to create the conditions for educators and the edtech world to shift the conversation. How might leaders create these conditions?
The Internal and Internal Context Lens
- Know your vision for learning. As a leader, the vision you communicate within your culture and context must be crystal clear and always at the forefront. Take an inquiry stance and ask yourself these questions: What is my vision for learning in a digital ecology? Is it clear? How do I communicate it within my context? In a digital ecology, how does the technology advance us toward the vision for learning?
- Once you’ve worked through the self awareness step, model curiosity and inquiry with the educators in your context. Do this often, to the point where teachers are repeatedly asking themselves the above questions. Consistently engaging in these questions will provide the culture for teachers to become better critical consumers of edtech tools.
- Encourage teachers to share their critiques with vendors, engaging them in critical conversations beyond efficiencies and toward reimagining learning. Teachers are the first line of feedback for vendors wanting to improve their products. They should be prepared to engage on a level that will challenge and push thinking. This third suggestion is a bridge to the second lens, the external context lens for leaders.
The External Context Lens
- While creating the conditions internally for elevating the conversation, leadership should connect and engage with vendors to expand the impact of the internal context conversation. Conferences are a good place to make initial connections with vendors. A challenge will be focus – how to pick and choose the most valuable conversations to continue face-to-face and through social media once the conference is over. Which products hold the most potential for transforming education? Which vendors seem the most open to conversations that push their own visions?
- Continue to develop your own thinking by connecting with organizations like Education Reimagined and schools/initiatives such as City Neighbors Schools, Iowa Big and MC2 Charter School that are doing the work to change education and the conversations we’re having. Be around like minds! Also, check out the podcast with Education Reimagined shared on TLTalk Radio.
Following these steps, in short time, you’ll upgrade your leadership and help shift the conversation.
What other ways can leadership create the space both inside and outside of schools to move the edtech conversation from improving efficiencies to reimagining learning?
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