Thursday, July 23, 2015

Leadership in District Digital Transformation #bbworld15

A great panel discussing the important of strong leadership in transforming a district with technology integration.

Moderator: Tom Murray


Angelique Nedved Assistant Supt of T&L, Lawrence Public Schools (KS)
Patrick Murphy Supt Arlington Public Schools (VA)
Jerry Boyd, Supt Putnam County School System (TN)
Philip Lanoue Supt Clark County School District (GA)
Julie Young, CEO of Global Personalized Academics (GPA), Blended Schools Network

Leadership is a funny thing. We have people in our society that are in leadership positions, but might not be actual leaders. Sometimes, the leaders are people we might never expect. I do not believe that leadership is something that can be bestowed on someone because of the title they have on their business card. Leadership is about action. I was interested to hear what these leaders had to say about leadership and where teachers fit in with the conversation.

One of the things that stood out to me from the start is the fact that these leaders gave shout-outs to their teachers for making this possible. The emphasis on teachers as leaders was evident in the panel. There have been conversations on Twitter lately about the term "Lead Learner" being used to describe building principals. There was some push back from me and from others that think the label is silly since it doesn't really make a person a lead learner and it also implies that the teachers are not leaders in their learning as well. What about students? Can they be "Lead Learners"? The conversation on the panel really focused on the community as a whole coming together regardless of title or rank. That is what made these transitions so successful. Tossing out titles for the good of the school.

There was a great conversation on setting the mindset of helping all learners and understanding that it is a slow process to fully understand what is going to happen in the classroom. Starting small and encouraging teachers to take risks is huge to changing the culture of teaching and learning. Teachers need to be given the time to explore and try new things and then share that with other teachers. They have found that to be a successful model for changing the culture of a school.

I loved listening to this part of the conversation. Too often, districts treat technology integration as a sprint. They want to see results in the first few weeks. Changing a culture is a marathon. It takes time and hours and hours of training. It also take a whole team to support those that are trying to make big changes.

Supporting teachers during the transition is key. Angelique Nedved from Lawrence Public Schools  (@Akoblertalked about how they cut admin costs to pull teachers out of the classroom to support other teachers in the transition they were making in their district. These would be 2 year roles so they would not become out of touch. It was such a refreshing thing to hear. There was clear value in the knowledge that teachers had and utilizing it to help other teachers. Also, they also saw that being out of the classroom for too long hurts the coaching model as well. This is a structure that school districts should model if they are looking to truly transform their districts.

The last part of this panel that I really enjoyed was the fact that these district leaders did not focus on the things they did. It was how they were able to use the talent they had in their district to make this happen. Their job was to support the educators that had the big ideas and wanted to change the culture of learning and teaching. They all recognized the fact that they would not be able to make the changes they have made without the great work done by their staff. I think "leaders" that struggle to make long term changes are the ones that focus too much on what they do and how things need to be their way. It was refreshing to hear the great stories about their teachers from them. It speaks volumes about how their districts run.

Being a leader is more than telling people what to do. It is about getting out of the way sometimes and encouraging others to do great things. 

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