In a rapidly changing world, educators have been forced to self-examine and come to terms with approaches that are inefficient and irrelevant–from outmoded ways of setting up classrooms to equating school success solely on standardized metrics. Innovation and transformation in schools can’t happen unless we tackle entrenched practices and mindsets in bold and specific ways.
How can we best harness the positive aspects of technology to improve student learning and the schools we work in?
As a first step, we need to disrupt the status quo that’s embedded in the education system by developing new ways of looking at things that transform the world. We create permanent change only by identifying and communicating what shifts need to occur as well as illustrating how effective these approaches are at improving education. When we apply principals of efficacy to the Pillars of Digital Leadership, we’re well on our way toward integrating technology with confidence that learning will be transformed.
The 7 pillars of digital leadership
Pillar 1: Student engagement, learning, and achievement: Enhancing essential skill sets that society demands
Schools should reflect real life, allowing and encouraging students to apply what they’ve learned through the tools they use outside of school. Communication, collaboration, creativity, media literacy, global connectedness, problem solving, and critical thinking are vital to success. Within a solid pedagogical approach, digital tools and social media allow students to create artifacts of learning that demonstrate conceptual mastery and, when framed within an structure such as The Rigor and Relevance Framework, cultivate learner autonomy.
Which technology, implemented in which specific and measurable ways, drives skill acquisition and conceptual understanding within that objective? This means aligning actual results that show improvement in terms of engagement, learning, and achievement evidenced by a Return on Instruction.
Pillar 2: Professional growth and development: Leveraging tools that allow pursuit of passions
Traditional forms of professional development (PD) such as “sit and get,” one-size-fits-all, and trainings lacking accountability have proven obsolete. Digital tools now allow for professional learning to take place anytime, anywhere, and with anyone. Personal learning networks allow educators to acquire resources, access knowledge, receive feedback, and connect with others. Digital badges are an exciting way to acknowledge both formal and informal learning.
To build efficacy in this pillar, we ask, what are clearly identified areas of needed growth and what measurable solutions will address development? And, how do we measure the impacts of PD on students and student learning?
(Next page: Re-envisioning learning spaces, improving communications, and more)
Pillar 3: Re-envisioning learning spaces and environments: Creating real-world spaces in which to learn and practice
Pedagogical innovation requires an innovation in the space where learning takes place. If the space doesn’t match the desired learning pedagogy, then it will hinder student learning outcomes. Research shows us that students need choice, naturalness, and appropriate levels of stimulation, among other characteristics, to maximize learning opportunities.
A digitally enhanced practice such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), blended learning, flipped classrooms, makerspaces, and virtual learning has no impact on its own. It becomes relevant and useful only when it’s tied to clear and understandable learning objectives.
To build efficacy, ask which characteristics and dynamics embody innovative learning spaces and environments? Which skills sets are essential to us and what type of learning spaces foster growth of those skills?
Pillar 4: Communication: Engaging all stakeholders in two-way communication
Static, one-way methods such as newsletters, email, and websites no longer suffice. Leaders can now give all audiences relevant information in real time through free social-media tools and simple implementation strategies. This blended approach results in more transparency, exposure, dialogue, and message amplification.
Pillar 5: Public relations: If we don’t tell our story, someone else will
We can create our own positive public relations platforms using free social-media tools that allow us to control the content. As storyteller-in-chief, you can focus on student and staff accomplishments and the daily awesomeness of your schools. When you do, you narrate the story of our own creation as well as develop a needed level of transparency in an age of negative rhetoric toward education.
Addressing efficacy in this pillar means asking which positive messages have the potential to impact your school? Which strategic messaging campaigns can help you communicate those messages? And, how will you measure the impacts?
Pillar 6: Branding: Key to the identity of your school
Coupled with communication and public relations is the idea of branding. In fact, branding is the inevitable result of a strong communications and public relations combination. Businesses have long understood the value of branding and its impact on current and potential consumers; now schools are in the position to message and build identity through branding. Instead of focusing on selling a product or service, you’re focused on sharing a positive narrative about education. This builds powerful relationships with all stakeholders and cultivates the idea of educating the whole child instead of the child-as-data-point mentality and approach.
Pillar 7: Opportunity: If it doesn’t knock, build a door
The digital world allows us to open doors like never before. Opinions, talk, and ideas alone will not do the trick, especially those not connected to research and evidence. You’re in control of what you learn and what you know.
With a sustained focus on the other six pillars, the paradigm shift here will naturally result. When you view your practices within the framework of opportunities, scalable paradigm shifts occur and holistic improvements become the norm, not the exception.
Putting the pillars into practice
Taking advantage of our digital moment is the imperative. You’ve got to understand the impacts of recent developments such as ubiquitous connectivity, open-source technology, mobile devices, and personalization–what they mean for learners and educators. Cultivating and modeling the mindset, behaviors, and skills that can change school culture through tech integration is essential to this leadership. In the end, the success of all of this is about making sure that everything you’re doing is measurable and that there’s an identifiable return on everything you’re doing in the classroom.
For more information or to get in touch with me, please contact me through the International Center for Leadership in Education website.