Leadership Day 2009 – Thoughts from a Principal

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As part of Leadership Day 2009, Scott McLeod is challenging us to blog about technology leadership in school’s. Here are some questions he posted to get us thinking:
  • What do effective K-12 technology leaders do? What actions and behaviors can you point to that make them effective leaders in the area of technology?
  • Do administrators have to be technology-savvy themselves in order to be effective technology leaders in their organizations?
  • What are some tangible, concrete, realistic steps that can be taken to move administrators forward? Given the unrelenting pressures that they face and their ever-increasing time demands, what are some things that administrators can do to become more knowledgeable and skilled in the area of technology leadership?
  • Perhaps using the new National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators (NETS-A) as a starting point, what are the absolutely critical skills or abilities that administrators need to be effective technology leaders?
  • What strengths and deficiencies are present in the new NETS-A?
  • What is a technology tool that would be extremely useful for a busy administrator (i.e., one he or she probably isn’t using now)?
  • What should busy administrators be reading (or watching)?
  • How can administrators best structure necessary conversations with internal or external stakeholders?
  • How should administrators balance enablement with safety, risk with reward, fear with empowerment?
Since I am an administrator who is desperately trying to finish my dissertation in Educational Technology, I have actually pondered many of these questions over the past several years. However, I will only concentrate on questions 1 and 6 in this post. To me, it’s not about effective K-12 technology leaders – it’s about effective K-12 leaders. The effective ones understand that it’s more about connecting and collaborating than it is about the technology.
1. Most school leaders really, really want to learn more about how to lead their organizations in the 21st century.
2. Most school leaders are completely overwhelmed with day to day management leaving little if any time for their own personal growth and development.
To me, it’s not WHAT effective school leaders do or don’t do. It’s more about HOW they do things. It seems to me that the school leaders in the more dynamic and progressive schools tend to do things as follows:
1. They are not afraid to admit that they don’t know everything. They willingly put themselves out there as LEARNERS rather than experts.
2. They encourage the more forward thinking teachers and aspiring leaders with honest and authentic praise, support and genuine interest in what they are doing.
3. They have a sense of humor about it all and practice Rule #6 (they don’t take themselves so seriously).
4. They filter information and ideas making everyone feel good in the process by asking really great questions such as: How will this help our students be better thinkers, readers and writers? How will this keep our students more engaged and connected to each other and to the adults in our school? What are our students interested in right now? How can we take their interests and turn them into meaningful and challenging projects that strengthen their academic skills while extending their thinking? How is that good for students?
5. They rely on others for support, information and they are open to new ideas.
6. They come to school upbeat, smiling and ready for the days challenges.
7. They provide PLENTY of time for connection and collaboration among the different constituent groups in the school.
8. They have a system for keeping up with the latest educational news/ideas/research and some have even developed personal learning plans using the latest technology tools – this is where question #6 comes in.
I have begun following about 10 innovative thinkers on Twitter and I dedicate about 30 minutes a day to reviewing their postings and links. This has completely transformed my own learning. Following people like Daniel Pink, Scott McLeod, Angela Maiers and Silvia Tolsilano has kept me inspired and knowledgeable. Alternately, educational leaders can set up RSS feeds using Google Reader. I actually have both set up now and my learning has exploded without becoming overwhelming. The best thing about this is that my learning is personalized and happens when I need it and where I need it. I can quickly refer back to ideas/tools/solutions using Diigo and/or Delicious. More than anything, using Twitter and Google Reader keeps me REFRESHED & RECHARGED!

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