by Guest Blogger, Marion Ginopolis
In an interview some time ago with Scholastic Administrator, Ian Jukes stated, “What many educators still don’t appreciate is that technology is a tool, not a subject. It’s not about teaching someone Microsoft Word, it’s about helping them to become better writers. It’s not about teaching them how to use Excel – it’s about helping them to become better problem solvers. It’s not about them learning Power Point– it’s about them becoming better communicators. And learning about the software is nothing more than an incidental but essential by-product of the process.”
And that’s what Digitaleadership is all about. The tools have changed but the intent has not. It’s not about learning how to blog; it’s about becoming a more effective communicator, reaching a broader base of stakeholders in a more efficient manner and allowing those stakeholders the ability to comment rather than sending out newsletters in students’ backpacks that often don’t reach home. It’s not about learning how to subscribe to RSS feeds; it’s about accessing up-to-the minute information in an efficient way rather than letting journals and periodicals stack up unread in a corner of the office.
Digitaleaders use technology tools not only to effect efficiencies in their daily practice and communicate easily and widely with a variety of different communities, but to enhance all areas of their leadership, and, while doing so, they model the seamless use of technology tools for faculty and parents.
As an example: The McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning) Balanced Leadership work of Robert Marzano, Brian McNulty and Tim Waters, a result of thirty years of research about the effect of leadership on student achievement, identifies twenty-one key leadership responsibilities. One of these is Intellectual Stimulation evidenced by the extent to which a principal ensures that faculty and staff are aware of the most current theories and practices and makes the discussion of these a regular aspect of the school’s culture.
Typically, the non-Digitaleader might locate some cutting-edge theory or best practice in a journal or hear about it at a conference or from a colleague. The information is photo-copied and distributed to faculty in their mail boxes. An announcement on the PA system or in a weekly memo notifies the staff that this will be a discussion item at the next faculty meeting along with the 45 other issues that are on the monthly agenda.
The Intellectually Stimulating Digitaleader, on the other hand, may have read about the cutting-edge theory or best practice from an RSS feed s/he has to the ASCD Blog (Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development) during a daily review of her/his Bloglines account. The information is shared immediately with faculty by 1) clicking the ‘Email This’ link that appears after each entry on Bloglines, 2) opening a faculty email address list that is kept handy on the computer desktop, 3) highlighting, copying and pasting the faculty addresses into the window that opens after clicking the ‘Email This’ link, 5) creating a brief message to faculty requesting they read the article and begin sharing their reactions and thoughts in a discussion on the virtual knowledge-building community that the Digitaleader has set-up on the district Blackboard server.
Rhetorical Questions: Of the two, which leader has the greater chance of being characterized as an Intellectual Stimulator? In which leader’s school is there a greater probability that cutting-edge best practices will make it to the classroom?
It is not about the technology; it’s about sharing knowledge and information, communicating efficiently, building learning communities and creating a culture of professionalism in schools. These are the key responsibilities of all educational leaders. The Digitaleader meets these responsibilities using relevant technology tools.