Here are a few thoughts as part of Digital Leadership Day...

Over the course of the last 2 months I have had the incredible opportunity to meet face to face with phenomenal educational leaders across the country.  A few years ago I wouldn’t have even considered the thought of traveling across the country to connect with leaders from different states, talk about how we can change the educational landscape and create better environments for kids.  I didn’t think the power of 140 characters would lead me to Voxer conversations that have made me laugh, cry, and want to be a better leader because of the push I get from my friends across the world.  I didn’t think a simple conversation would turn into a session at an Edcamp that would grow into a radio show that would balloon into writing multiple books.  All of those things may have happened at
some point, but the impact of being connected digitally has made it substantially easier. The digital leadership journey, is just as it indicates…a journey.  We go down many paths that we don’t really know throughout our careers.  Some work out and some don’t, but all help us to grow.  The use of digital tools in the development of leadership skill has been a game changer for me.  The tools have allowed or conversations. Those conversations have challenged my thinking and grown a network that expands well beyond location.  The best and most connected leaders in the country are literally a tweet, post, or vox away.  The internet has changed school for students.  They have access to any content at any time.  The same holds true for leaders.  The opportunity for growth is out there.  If we are leading learning organizations, it is incumbent on us to model that learning.

Leadership and Management
The digital portion of leadership may not be essential…but it certainly has made me want to be a better leader.  We often get stuck in the day-to-day operation of what school looks like…and to be honest that is a critical piece to leadership.  Curt Rees and I were talking a few months ago about the difference between leader and manager.  The discussion veered toward the idea that great leaders have both vision sense and management ability. Philosophical discussions that happen in every social media forum are just dreams if you do not have a process in place to make change happen.  We can talk about how it should look or how we would like it to look or fawn over the latest infographic…but the attempt to move forward is where the new path for staff and students will be cut.

As I have indicated before, I live and work in an unbelievable school district.  We have unwavering support for our school from the parents and community, the staff is beyond wonderful, and the school board allows us to take risks and try new things.  We are a very small school so as we move into the future the use of digital tools will certainly be needed to provide opportunities for our students that they can’t get due to limited course offer
ings.  We use social media in our building on a regular basis.  Could we use them more often…of course.  We have some classrooms that have active Twitter feeds and connect with other classrooms across the world.  We have some classrooms using Remind to connect with families.  Our school district app has been very successful in communicating with our parents and families.  CricketTV has brought HS extra curricular activities to life for extended family not living in Fall Creek.  These are just a few examples.  As a leader, modeling the process for staff is essential, but it clearly does not hold the biggest card in terms of influence.  The staff in our building who have utilized the communication tools and connected to the outside world do it because of the feedback they get from students, parents, and colleagues.  If the positive comments are coming from any of those groups the motivation grows and the initiative starts to move.

Digital tools of today will be replaced with newer, faster, and more productive tools in the future.  The gold is not in the tool, but the process.  As leaders, we have an obligation to seek out and model opportunities that could help our students, staff and community.  We need to provide resources and time for people to dive into the process and grow through ownership of learning.  Self-guided exploration of learning is great for both students and staff.   We don’t need to have all the answers and often won’t, but if we are seen as leading the learning, we will be in a better place.  Go Crickets!!

AuthorJoe Sanfelippo