Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times #EdChat

I asked Eric for a copy of his book so I could review it for my site.

I'm really excited to share some thoughts on Eric Sheninger's book Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times. I'm actually not one to read many books on education. I always feel like someone claims to have the next new answer to solve education and everyone gets very excited. A few months later, a new book comes out that tells everyone they have solved education's woes and everybody should read it. Well, this is not the case with Eric's book.

First, After I looked up the word Paradigm, I dove into the book and found it to be a very quick and pleasant read. Also, look at that cover.

When you've got a smile like that, you put it on the cover of your book. Sadly, my smile is nowhere as awesome, so I might just as Eric to be on the cover of my book. :-)

In 12 Chapters, Eric covers some very important topics, but I want to talk about two that really stood out to me. 

Chapter 7: Branding is an excellent chapter and something every school administrator and educator should read. There are two views of what Eric calls "Brand-ed Thinking". The first is about a person's professional brand. It is important for educators to take charge of who they are in the digital world. If a person fails to claim their digital identity, someone else could do that for them. Using social media, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., to let the world know who you are and what you do is a good thing. 

I was always hesitant about branding myself and what I do. "The Nerdy Teacher" was not created to be a brand and I never thought of myself as selling me or my brand, but that changed over time as I started to be asked to write for different groups and speak at conferences. All of a sudden, I was more than just Nicholas Provenzano,  I was "The Nerdy Teacher" and people wanted what that brand could bring to the table for them in different ways. What I've been able to do is use my brand to engage with other schools, districts and companies to provide opportunities for my students. That is the big part of branding that I see that can be valuable to all educators. By creating my brand, I'm able to offer more to my students and that is why I got started doing all of this in the first place. 

The second part of the "Brand-ed Thinking" is the school's brand. Eric points out that private schools have "flourished under institutional branding" (Sheninger 112). Having attended private school growing up, I know that Eric is very correct. Private schools are all about developing their brand and selling that to community members. Social media now offers the chance for all schools to develop their brand. Use these tools to share the great things teachers and students are doing on a daily basis. Leverage the awesome things that are going on in your school and your district. I've hear Eric say something like "Create the news you want for your district or others will write the story they want." He is right. There are things I have wanted to brag about, but the news was not going to come to me, so I went to them. I engaged local newspapers in social media to get their attention and feature the cool things my students accomplish. The more positive news that goes out to the public, the more people it can attract and retain that will be invested in the school and the district. 

 Chapter 8: Professional Growth and Development 

I love this chapter because it supports something that many of us have been advocating for many years; Social Media is a positive force in Professional Development and Personal Growth. 

Eric shares the stories of +Lyn Hilt and +George Couros and how becoming connected educators impacted their growth as educators. The top down approach to PD is no longer the only way for teachers to learn and grow as professionals. There are so many great resources for educators today and social media is just one of the many tools that schools and districts need to look at when thinking about providing the best PD out there. 

The new view of PD in the social media world is the Personal Learning Network (PLN). What makes this different from the old form of PD is that PLNs are all about two-way communication. People in a PLN are there to learn AND share. This is a great environment that encourages growth and learning because the educator can look at all of the information and engage experts in real time. 

Eric says that being connected needs to become the standard for educators and I completely agree with him. I find it so hard to explain to my friends why I have invested the time I have on Twitter, my blog, podcasts, etc. I feel like PLNs are one of those things that need to be experienced first hand to truly understand them. I didn't know I was building a PLN when I joined Twitter. I just wanted to learn from others and share what I thought. I see know that it has helped shape me into a better teacher in a way that district provided PD never could. 

I asked Eric if this book was for teachers or just for admin and he said all educators could take something away from his book. This book is for those educators out there that are not connected and fear change in the technology driven world. This book is what needs to be given to Superintendents and Principals and School Boards that fear social media and what they think it could do to their school districts. Eric writes a wonderful book giving readers every reason in the world to embrace the positive changes that technology can bring to schools. 

I recommend this book to anyone in education that needs convincing that technology is here to stay and important to education. 

You can buy Eric's book on Amazon here!


  1. I found this post very interesting Nicholas, particularly the comments on branding and PLN. Were there any other specific strategies that you see as working best to promote a school in the broader community? Also, do you find that the idea of PLNs is very time consuming? Our school is just beginning to engage with this concept and I am worried that teacher's time will become even more limited.

    Regards and thanks again for an intereresting read.

  2. Thanks so much for this book recommendation! I've been wanting to improve the quality of my teaching abilities/class material for next year. I've been doing a lot of research and invested a lot of time into my little project, but I still have a long way to go. There are so many different ideas for teaching styles, projects, ways to keep their attention and motivate, etc, but there aren't so many ideas about how I can just be a more adaptable teacher. This is going to be a great read, thanks again!

    Academy Canada


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