Digital Leadership in Your District and How to Effectively Drive Transformation

Learn about digital leadership in your district
Contributed By

H. L.

Assistant Principal

Digital Leadership in Your District and How to Effectively Drive Transformation

Posted in Evolving Ed | October 24, 2018

Digital Leadership is a set of behaviors that ultimately lead to an engaging school culture. A big part of this is utilizing digital resources to make this happen.

Education in the Digital Age

We exist in the midst of a time of technological advancement that may be greater than at any other point in human history, including the industrial revolution. According to Max Tegmark, author of Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, we are on the cusp of artificial intelligence reaching, and in some cases surpassing, that of human intelligence. This will necessitate critical society-wide conversations about the coming changes across sectors, including education, that we appear ill-prepared to have.

To meet the challenges of this digital age and the related revolution to come, district leaders must now also be digital leaders. As the presence of technology transforms society and our schools, leadership is critical in creating district and school cultures "that are transparent, relevant, meaningful, engaging, and inspiring." Leadership is still leadership, but leadership must change with new challenges. Digital leadership is perhaps the greatest challenge of our era.

6 Steps to Leading a Digital Transformation for Your District

Beyond the substitution of digital tools for analog, or the augmentation of existing curriculum and processes, lies true digital transformation. Although listed as steps, the following can and should be viewed as integrated and interchangeable, mirroring the proper role of technology in our institutions of knowledge.

1. Practice Open Communication

This is a perfect opportunity to lead by example. You can go beyond the use of one-way communication tools, such as the traditional weekly building newsletter, toward the use of two-way social media tools and your school's learning management system (LMS) to communicate with (not just to) students, parents, staff, and community stakeholders. Learning management systems are particularly effective when they promote full collaboration in the learning environment, not just one-way messaging.

2. Focus on Digital Tools that Enhance Student Learning

Digital leadership means going beyond ensuring 1:1 device availability to putting digital tools in the hands of students that result in learning outcomes that aren't possible via traditional tools and methods.

For example, instead of a typical tri-fold poster board presentation in social studies class, district leadership can provide multimedia software and an LMS platform that allows for the digital creation and sharing of presentations, complete with real-time feedback from peers, local professionals, and a potentially global audience.

Again, technology tools should allow students to move from the simple substitution of analog and digital tools to the redefinition of the project itself and the desired educational outcomes, thus attaining higher levels of knowledge under a framework such as the SAMR model or Bloom's Taxonomy.

3. Support Professional Growth and Development

Under a both "loose and tight" management style, digital leaders can drive powerful change from the top down, but only if they relentlessly support teachers in realizing the potential of the new technology. To lead a true digital transformation in your district, meet your staff where they are and provide continuous, ongoing, job-embedded professional development opportunities matched to their needs and interests. Then, hold them accountable for classroom implementation and results.

4. Prioritize Digital Citizenship for Teachers, Staff, and Students

Admittedly, these are strange times for civility and reasoned discourse. To effect a lasting digital transformation where students and adults feel safe, respected, and can push the learning envelope in a supportive environment, you must take the lead in promoting good digital citizenship.

Digital citizenship may be defined as "the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use." You may have called this "Netiquette" back in the 1990s. When you provide explicit instruction in "the way we do things around here" with regard to technology, you are building a powerful culture of courtesy, security, and privacy that will benefit everyone.

5. Motivate Teachers to Integrate Digital Tools in the Classroom

Leaders do not motivate followers by fiat. Just as teachers motivate students, leaders motivate followers by constantly building relationships. First, know your staff and find out what they know. You will find teacher-leaders who will spread the gospel of digital tools far and wide to their colleagues. Unleash the power of informal professional conversation by demonstrating an infectious enthusiasm.

Time is the most precious resource you can provide to your faculty and staff. Build time into the schedule for teachers to collaborate and share their knowledge with one another. For example, you could secure a substitute for a digital teacher-leader to go to a different classroom each period to share how they use their classroom LMS with colleagues. Every time you do this, you build capacity and converts to the potential of digital tools.

6. The Strategic Digital Leader

Gone are the days where it was acceptable to lead as a proud, analog-only luddite. Students, parents, and educators are savvy and connected. That will only increase as computing power increases, artificial intelligence gets smarter and more intuitive, and humanity continues its inexorable march through the 21st century. You are tasked to lead in this new and rapidly changing environment.

Districts typically have technology coordinators or similar, while corporations often have chief digital officers (CDOs). The title doesn't really matter, but the attitude does. CDOs often focus on the company's digital strategy as a whole - and so should technology coordinators and other district leaders. The more you are able to move your district beyond counting devices or wireless access points to true digital integration that enhances and transforms student learning, the more your district will grow and thrive in an uncertain, but exciting, educational environment.

Have you mastered the challenge of digital leadership in your district? Let us know on Twitter @Schoology

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