The Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando, FL gathered thousands of educators for a non-stop techfest of keynotes, sessions, and exhibits. Lisa Schmucki, the founder of edWeb.net, attended and was particularly interested in hearing how school leaders are managing the pace of change and the explosion of technology now available to all of us as consumers and for our students and schools. This was a theme in all of the presentations and is affecting how leaders lead, how teachers teach, and how students learn and can be prepared for their own futures. Another common theme was the importance of servant leadership. “True leaders – in any capacity – strive to make those around them successful and in so doing, they ‘serve’” from Lessons in Leadership.
Ann McMullan, Founder & Lead Consultant, Ann McMullan Education Consultant, presented on the topic Challenging Times Demand Effective Change Leaders. Ann noted that education is always dealing with change, but today’s challenges are unique and different, and even more challenging. When she started her own consulting business, she thought it would be about tech, but she received so many questions about leadership and how you lead change. Administrators are facing a lot of challenges. Ann asked members of the audience what were the biggest challenges they face. Answers were:
- Time for teacher professional development
- Time to implement change
- Processes and a leadership team to manage change
- Helping teachers know what’s worth their time
There were some comments about the willingness of teachers to apply themselves and accept change. Is it a willingness to put in the effort? a fear of making a mistake? difficulty in getting our brains to make a shift and do something differently? Ann had the attendees read an article by Chris Dede, Professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, Preparing for the Future Means Unlearning What We Know.
Ann highlighted key elements that are needed for effective leadership. It doesn’t matter how you came to be a leader, nor who you are leading. There are basic leadership skills that apply in every leadership scenario:
- Define your goals
- Engage your stakeholders
- Develop a shared vision and mission
- Empower and support other district leaders
Ann also stressed the importance of servant leadership, and pointed out that parents and teachers are leaders, too, and we should honor them more. “True leaders – in any capacity – strive to make those around them successful and in so doing, they ‘serve’” from Lessons in Leadership.
Eric Sheninger, Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership, International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE), presented on the topic Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. Eric noted the pace of change has created disruption in every sector and is increasing exponentially. Some of the biggest companies in the world today didn’t exist 10 years ago, and some of the biggest brands don’t own the content they distribute.
- Facebook, the largest content provider, creates no content
- Uber, the largest taxi company, owns no human driven taxis
- Airbnb, the largest hotel chain, owns no real estate
- Netflix, the largest movie provider, owns no cinemas
How are we preparing our students for this new world? How are you preparing them in your school or district? We need to transform their learning today. “We need to focus more on the ‘what ifs’ instead of the ‘yeah buts.’” And the learning needs to be personal. Technology shouldn’t be separate from good pedagogy. If we don’t get the instructional design right, we just speed up the rate of failure. Leadership is about action and is reflected in Eric’s keys to strong leadership:
What about your own professional learning? Put aside 15-20 minutes every day. Have a PLN! Share, share, share. If your kids are doing great things, share it! “Connectivity is a way of life for our students. Take it away from them and they will check out… It all comes down to relationships. Without trust there is no real relationship. Without relationships, there is no real learning.”
Dr. Darryl Adams, Rock & Roll, Hip Hop & Soul Superintendent & Tech Evangelist, presented on Becoming a 21st Century Administrator. Darryl emphasized the importance of servant leadership in his presentation. “It’s about the team coming together and unleashing creativity. Be the leader who’s a coach and gives credit to others.” Darryl has been recognized for his innovation in putting WiFi on school buses in his district and parking them in neighborhoods where students don’t have internet access. Yet he says, “It’s not about the technology, it’s about heart, soul, spirit, and connection.” He had the audience up and singing a 21st century leadership rap:
Leaders are the glue that holds it all together
In any kind of challenge and any kind of weather
Leaders are the ones that show the most concern
When we see students are failing to grow and learn
Leaders will sacrifice if you’re not aware
To guarantee equality on that I swear
And the truth of the matter it’s all about the team
To visualize and realize the making of the dream
21st Century Leaders in the House
Leadership Is What We’re All About!
- Value People
- Develop People
- Build Community
- Display Authenticity
- Provide Leadership
- Share Leadership