The challenges of digital leadership

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I wrote an article for the National Association of Independent Schools on the challenges of digital leadership. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite!

Schools often purchase software, computer devices, and technology-based learning systems because they are effective marketing tools for recruitment, or because they want to keep pace with the digital investments of rival institutions, or simply because they fear appearing outdated. None of these have to do with learning, of course, and inevitably are insufficient to smooth over the challenges that arise as digital tools enter classroom spaces. 


Too often, when navigating faculty or parental resistance, school leaders and technology staff make reassurances that things will not have to change much in the classroom or that slow baby steps are OK. Unfortunately, this results in a different problem, which is that schools have now invested significant money, time, and energy into digital technologies but are using them sparingly and seeing little impact. In such schools, replicative uses of technology are quite common, but transformative uses that leverage the unique affordances of technology are quite rare.


As school leaders, in order to achieve the types of successes that we hope for with technology, we will have to overbalance for our staff and parents the side of the scale that contains fears and concerns with countervailing, emotionally resonant stories, images, visions, and examples of empowered students and teachers doing amazing things. That’s fairly hard to do if we’re technology-hesitant or unknowledgeable about the educative value of technology ourselves, which is why so many successful digital leaders preach over and over again the necessity of personal engagement and modeling.

Happy reading!

One Response to “The challenges of digital leadership”

  1. I think the key to all of this is thinking about what the purpose of education is. This is where the cracks begin to appear with the use of technology in schools. What *are* the goals of education?

    If it is rote learning to enable young people to pass examinations then using technology may get in the way of that because of the way that information flows in the digital world compared with the static world of multiplication tables and dictionaries. There are subjectively, endless viewpoints on a subject available online.

    If it is to prepare the young person for a lifelong learning journey and the ability to have a flexible career, learning new & different skills along the way then digital will be helpful in becoming a gateway to that learning journey.

    However, and it is a big however, this integration with education or learning will only happen if we use it with an information -literate population. That means along with the usual core subjects of literacy and math, information skills have to be taught right from the very beginning. How do you find information, how do you work out what is relevant , how do you extract it and of course most importantly – how do you process it so that you can put it down in your work.

    A lot of attention is paid to online plagirism – some of it is urban myth, some of it justified but if young people were taught from an early age these crucial information skills then there would be little need for fear / worry / lack of integration. For far too long our schools (i’m from the UK) have looked at how do you use a WP, Powerpoint, Excel etc (they’re still doing it to an extent with the current emphasis on coding skills) but not why you should use one tool above another or is x website a more reliable source of information than y website.

    I view education as something that should empower not straightjacket anyone. Teachers should lead, guide, enable and use the best tools possible (which may not be a computer or video) for the ‘lesson’ they are giving.

    Just my two penn’worth!

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