Thursday, May 25, 2017

5 Myths of Digital Leadership

The use of technology in schools continues to rise each year. By 2019, spending for education technology is expected to be more than $55 billion. More and more schools are utilizing devices as part of routine, daily learning. 

And this shift is happening for good reason. The world is becoming increasingly digital, and students will need skills that involve using technology to create, connect, and learn. A recent article claimed that just having the word 'digital' listed on your resume improved your chances of landing the job.

As technology becomes even more pervasive in schools, the need for effective digital leadership will increase as well. Even now, I believe it's impossible to be an effective leader unless you are also an effective digital leader. All educators need skills for using digital tools to support and transform learning.

But there are also a number of myths about digital leadership I want to dispel. There are often misunderstandings about what it means to be a digital leader.

1. Digital leaders are tech geeks.

You don't have to be a technology geek to be an effective digital leader. It's great if you have strong digital skills or love technology, but it's more important to be an expert about learning. The most important thing is the willingness to learn more about technology. It's great if you're a tech geek, but it's essential to be a learning geek. And, it's critical to recognize the importance of technology to help you and your students leverage skills. 

Every digital leader should strive to learn more about using tech and strive to make that learning visible. I'm often considered a tech-forward principal, but I learn something new every day. It's not as important to have all the technical knowledge as it is to model the mindset of a constant learner.

2. Digital leaders are always administrators.

It's very important for administrators to be digital leaders, but they aren't the only ones in the school who can do the job. We need leadership from every corner of the school. It takes collective leadership to really support the culture of digital learning that is needed in schools. Change is hard, and there are often leaders in the school besides the administrator who can help champion the cause of using technology for learning.

3. Digital leaders force everyone in their schools to use technology.

Effective digital leaders don't look for technology to be used at every turn. They don't force technology on people. Instead, they constantly model, teach, and inspire. They start with why it's important to for students to use technology, and then they challenge people to grow. They don't want technology being used just for the sake of technology. They want to see digital tools being used when it makes sense to use them and when it supports learning. They encourage teachers to use digital tools in ways that transform learning.

Every educator is at a different place with their skills and their mindset about technology. Digital leaders honor teachers as learners and support them wherever they are in their learning journey. Even when growth is slow, if the educator is growing, that is success.

4. Digital leaders love everything about technology.

Not true. Digital leaders can fully see the importance and relevance of technology and still not love everything about technology. Sometimes technology is a pain. It hovers somewhere between being a blessing and a burden. And there are some parts of technology we don't have to embrace. No one likes it when technology doesn't work. Devices can be a huge distraction. There are all sorts of dangers online. People get addicted to the internet. And the list goes on. Some of these challenges work directly against learning.

But clearly there are incredible benefits to technology too. Digital leaders work tirelessly to overcome the pitfalls of technology use to help make sure teachers and students have what they need to leverage these tools for productive use. There isn't a single challenge I've seen that can't be overcome with inspired leadership and careful planning.

5. Digital leaders spend the whole day tweeting.

Completely false. There's no question that digital leaders tend to be connected leaders and one of the best ways to connect is through Twitter. In fact, Twitter has been one of the best tools for professional learning I've ever encountered, and it has been an invaluable resource in my own digital leadership, and in my leadership overall.

But effective digital leaders are busy each day supporting learning in their schools in hundreds of face to face interactions. Not everything that happens in a school is digital, nor should it be. Our goal in our school as we transitioned to a device for every learner was to improve the quality of our conversations at the same time. We want better learning with digital tools, while at the same time increasing the quantity and quality of discussions happening in classrooms.

Question: What other myths or misunderstandings do you see about digital leadership? What are the biggest challenges digital leaders face? I want to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

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