Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times by Eric Sheninger

Increasing Student Engagement

  • When it comes to using digital tools to boost learning, it’s more about pedagogy than technology. There should be a clear movement away from a teacher-led environment to one where teachers and students are learning together. A good deal of direct instruction can be delivered by videos that students watch whenever they can. If your school can’t afford to give every child a device as some do, let students who have them bring them (BYOD).
  • One goal is to change the relationship students have with their device. They need to see it as a learning tool and be responsible for how they use it. Since they will be publishing their best work, they should develop an understanding of how to use it to promote themselves rather than posting material that can come to haunt them when they apply for college or a job. A focus should be connecting lessons to the real world as much as possible and to make assignments authentic. It may not be obvious when to use which tools so be sure to bring students in on the planning stage. Above all make sure you look for opportunities to connect with people outside the school including other countries and make sure your students collaborate outside of class. Using Twitter hashtags, for example, opens your class to comments and answers from students and teachers anywhere.

Rethinking Learning Environments and Spaces

  • Eric tells of a new school with a lot more space for individual and group work. This includes common space with comfortable seating, nooks in the hallways, and conference rooms. In addition to rethinking how space is used, a rich assortment of online courses needs to be added to expand opportunities and promote individualization. Students should be expected to produce something of their own as part of most courses. This would include presentations to faculty and peers. Even for online courses, teachers will still be needed for mentoring and monitoring. This type of student-centered learning relies on abundant access to devices and probably works best when each student has their own laptop. This chapter contains links to specific sites where school leaders can access high-quality online courses.

Discovering Opportunity Through Partnerships

  • Digital leaders need to pursue many partnerships with other schools, universities, businesses, museums, and other organizations. Such partnerships need to be authentic and be valuable for both the school and the organization. You also need to be willing to end a partnership if it isn’t working rather than let it sap resources. Partnerships can involve getting students off campus or be totally virtual. They will allow students to engage in learning outside of the traditional classroom. Eric sites examples of how partnerships have brought resources to his school and himself along with stories from other schools.
  • One such partnership involves students from a college writing class mentoring middle school authors. Another involves a mental health agency partnering with a school. This sort of partnership is natural as it brings the agency into direct contact with students who they are supposed to serve. Skype visits from professors, authors, and experts also seem to be a natural connection.

A Call to Action

  • Eric warns about going too far with the use of digital tools and virtual connections. In a high tech school, face to face relationships are still very important. Student projects should also show a balance between digital productions and physical artifacts. There is a link to a free Digital School Leader Course by Larry Baker.
  • The remainder of the book is composed of six appendices that contain: the ISTE National Technology Standards for Administrators, a Twitter memo for parents, a student media waiver, the professional growth period model Eric uses, tips for integrating digital tools and content to develop essential literacies, and sample rubrics.

Eric Sheninger

  • Eric is a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership with the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE). Prior to this, he was the award-winning Principal at New Milford High School. Under his leadership, his school became a globally recognized model for innovative practices. Eric has received numerous awards and acknowledgments for his work and authored several books and articles. Check his website and consider booking him to speak at your school or conference.
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