Sunday, April 28, 2019

Digital Leadership: Leading Change from Where You Are | #DigiLead

A great deal has changed over the past few years not just in society, but also in education. Many of these changes are a result of the exponential advances in technology and the role these tools play in shaping both our personal and professional lives.  As a result, innovative practices emerged in many shapes and sizes. To answer the call of disruption, new thinking had to emerge. Back in 2009, I began calling for an evolved construct of leadership that would better serve schools in meeting the diverse needs of learners and stakeholders alike.  Below is my thinking on the topic that has resulted in the following iteration:
As times change, so must the practice of leaders to establish a culture of learning that is relevant, research-based, and rooted in relationships.  Digital leadership is all about people and how their collective actions aligned with new thinking, ideas, and tools can help to build cultures primed for success.  It represents a strategic mindset and set of behaviors that leverage resources to create a meaningful, transparent, and engaging school culture to prepare learners now and well into the future.
Over time I realized that the digital aspect was a supporting element and amplifier of what leaders in classrooms, schools, organizations, and districts do every day. Sure, there are some unique behaviors and characteristics, but for the most part, it is about identifying intended outcomes, applying an innovative lens, and arriving at them in better, more effective ways. What resulted was the formation of the Pillars of Digital Leadership, a framework for all educators to initiate and sustain innovative change that aligns to the core work that already serves as the foundation for every school or district learning culture. The premise is to do what we already do better by working smarter, not harder. 

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The time has come for a new edition of Digital Leadership.  I can’t begin to explain how excited I am about the finished product as I have woven in what I have learned in the field helping schools apply the concepts to bring about evidence-based results.  Practical and realistic, this version compels all educators to lead from where they are as actions - not title, position, or power – are the key to sustainable changes that lead to actual improvements validated by both qualitative and quantitative measures. Below are some specific highlights embedded in the new edition:
  • A focus on efficacy: In the real-world of education results matter as well as how we arrive at them. Naturally then, this updated edition has research-based, evidence-driven, and learner-focused ideas and strategies that are innovative in nature that lead to observable improvements.  The last chapter of the book weaves all the concepts together while emphasizing the importance of efficacy in any change initiative. 
  • Practical and realistic: Ideas are great, but they have to consider the realities and challenges that schools and educators face across the world.  They also need to align with the core work that educators engage in daily.  The key with this update throughout is for readers to either grasp new ideas and strategies to readily implement or look to improve what they might already be doing. 
  • Evergreen: Many technology books are D.O.A (dead on arrival) once published.  The reason being is that technology changes so fast and tools come and go regularly. To account for this fact, I removed the majority of references to specific tools except for some of the most prolific ones such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. The point here is simple. Tools and products will change. However, the means to implement them to transform teaching, learning, and leadership will remain relatively stable.  This edition is written in a way to withstand the test of time. 
  • Re-organized chapters and updated content: You will see not only new chapters but also revised headings and subheadings that are more reflective of the innovative practices that can be scaled in education.  I also re-organized some of the chapters by moving the ones focused on learning to the beginning of the book.  Based on the feedback I received on the first edition, I also beefed up content related to pedagogy. All in all, the new version has approximately 50% new content. 
  • Built-in study guide: Each Chapter ends with 4-5 discussion and reflective questions that are meant to move readers more readily to actions. Be sure to share your reflections, questions, ideas, and successes by engaging on social media using #digilead.
  • Fewer tools, more on leadership dispositions: As mentioned previously, tools will continue to change. That’s why you will see more of a focus on the dispositions of classroom, school, and district leaders that are necessary to initiate and sustain change. 
  • Anyone and everyone can be a digital leader: It is important to understand that everyone has the capacity to lead from where they are. Some of the most impactful leaders I have worked with, or for, have been teachers. The new edition speaks to all educators and empowers them to leverage their specific role to usher in needed change regardless of title. 
  • Updated and expanded research base – It is tough to deny how important this is. Research and evidence in support of ideas and strategies go a long way in building cultures of excellence that are defined by results.  What I hope has resulted is a scholarly piece of work that supports a practical and realistic pursuit of innovative change.
  • Forward by Sugata Mitra: He is a luminary as far as I am concerned, and his research validates many of the ideas presented in chapters 5 and 6, which focus squarely on learning.  His “Hole in the Wall” experiments, begun in 1999, revealed that groups of children could learn almost anything by themselves given Internet access and the ability to work collaboratively. Imagine the possibilities when this learning is facilitated by amazing educators, something the new edition fleshes out.
  • Pick and choose structure: Even though there is a sequential order to the book, it is written in a way that each chapter can serve as a standalone resource.  I wrote it this way so that readers can pick the most pressing, important concepts that they want to focus on to bring about needed change now.  
  • Full color – I will be the first one to admit that this is not that important, but it does add a nice touch.  If you have the first edition, you will see a substantial increase in the number of images throughout the book. My hope is that these add much greater context to the ideas and strategies presented. 
  • Digital resources – To add more substance and stay within a broad wordcount range, I scrapped the appendix from the previous edition.  At the end of the book, you will now see a section that has links to an array of digital resources such as downloadables, sample rubrics, standards alignment, and supporting frameworks. Since I control all of these links each will remain current.
If you enjoyed the first edition, I think you will like the updated version even better. I took to heart feedback I received over the years from readers as well as reflected deeply on my own writing to develop a resource for all, no matter where one is at with their educational career, whether it be in or outside of a school. Thank you for all that you do to support students, teachers, administrators, and other educational stakeholders around the world. My hope is that this new edition can serve as a resource to help you continue to meet and exceed the goals you set. 

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