Center for Digital Education & Converge: research in education technology for K-12 and higher education

5 Key Ingredients for Digital Education Leadership

on July 5, 2013
Ingredients for vegetarian lasagna. What do the ingredients look like for a digital school leader? Shutterstock.com

Leadership is an important piece of a school administrator's job. And in this Digital Age, some key ingredients go into the mix so that administrators can effectively support learning with technology.

1. Coaching

Just like soccer players need a good coach, so do educators. And that responsibility falls on the shoulders of school administrators, as well as teacher leaders.

"One thing that a person has to have is a willingness to coach, to help change mindsets and help move others towards different places," said Derek McCoy, principal at Spring Lake Middle School in North Carolina. "Sometimes it involves technology and sometimes it doesn't involve technology, but it's all about better practices."

2. Risk-taking

Let's face it: We often get scared of trying new things. But once someone else jumps into the water, it's a lot easier for another person to follow.

Jumping into the digital realm makes this ingredient even more important, said Dwight Carter, Gahanna Lincoln High School Principal in Ohio and 2013 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year. By taking risks and reflecting on the results, school leaders create a culture of risk-taking in a school that affects both student and professional learning.

"If I'm willing to try it and then promote it and then highlight those who are taking the risks to try something new in terms of integrating technology or anything, then it builds capacity that way."

3. Behavior modeling

Similarly, diigtal leaders model what they want to see in the classroom and in their staff. When leaders try new methods or technology tools, they're not only taking risks, but also practicing what they want teachers to practice.

For example, McCoy models a new piece of technology with staff at every faculty meeting and big gathering. That way, they see how a tool could be used in their classroom and how it directly ties into learning objectives.

After he models it, he makes sure teachers see it again and then understand that it's their turn to model it in the classroom. In walkthroughs and classroom visits, McCoy recognizes great lessons, but also finds ways to enhance them with a specific piece of technology when appropriate.

"Once the teachers see that it's about supportive change moving in a different direction, they're more willing to receive the input and the help," McCoy said. 

4. Understanding the times

Part of digital leadership is understanding the world we live in. And if many people have three or more mobile devices, then so should schools, McCoy said.

"We have to embrace the tools that we all use to communicate." 

5. Sharing

Instead of relying on the media to share their stories, leaders are starting blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages to talk about what's going on in their buildings. Carter's school has more than 25 official Twitter and Facebook accounts respectively for clubs, sports and classrooms.

After 43 teachers and administrators went to a social media boot camp three years ago through The Ohio State University, they came back to school with new ideas for how to share the great things going on in their buildings with parents.

And social media has also helped resolve issues between students. A new superintendent was against social media until the school had an episode over Labor Day weekend. A young man made threats on Facebook and YouTube, and through these channels, the school was able to resolve the issue before the students returned to school on Tuesday.

"Social media's a really great tool for the kids and the school as a whole just to break down the walls and be more transparent and open," Carter said.

Your ingredients

These are just a few ingredients that make up a digital school leader. What other ingredients would you add to the recipe? 


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Tanya Roscorla

Tanya Roscorla covers education technology in the classroom, behind the scenes and on the legislative agenda. Likes: Experimenting in the kitchen, cooking up cool crafts, reading good books.

E-mail: troscorla@centerdigitaled.com
Twitter: twitter.com/reportertanya
Google+: Gplus.to/reportertanya

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