Friday, May 20, 2011

The Deliberate Practice of Edtech Leadership

I love the concept of deliberate leadership, of purposefully exerted action aligned to vision. To act with thoughtful and calculated enterprise requires an acute understanding of the end-game to which you are leading, which is why I appreciate ISTE's work on "Essential Conditions."

Like most "best-practice" lists, many of the conditions are cross-pollinating, organic rather than sequential, auto-catalytic, and fluid in priority as other conditions become more critical. And of course, it's easy to recognize a high-functioning system when you see it, but that's not the dilemma. The catch is where to start?

I get this question all the time. What should school leaders do first? Where should we best begin the process in order to increase the likelihood of success? The answer, unfortunately, is depended not on an endorsed method but more on the existing qualities of the people and the characteristics of the places targeted for innovation.

Through the lens of a district-level leader, the first and most essential measure that a leader can begin is an awareness of and personal competence in digital-age tools within a burgeoning digitally-oriented professional learning community. This may look like a group of administrators amusing ourselves with technology, but it may be the most important step of deliberate practice an administrator can take in order to develop the essential conditions of technology-integrated educational environments. The next step is a "systems" approach to working incrementally on the ISTE "Essential Conditions," most important of which is the "Shared Vision" condition.

What do you think? Where should a school leader begin to exert deliberate leadership in the process of edtech transformation? Should you have a balance of personal and system development? Is there one essential condition that is significantly more important than another?

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Mobile-Savvy Superintendent

Raise your hand if you have a smartphone. Now, raise your hand if you frequently tweet, socially bookmark, or access shared documents on your smartphone. Just as I thought: We've got a mass epidemic of underutilization and ignorance within the ranks of superintendents who vainly carry smartphones in their breast pockets. It's like using Taylor-Made golf clubs on a miniature golf course. They are only using "bars" instead of using mobile bandwidth.

So, what does the "mobile-savvy" superintendent look like? This graphic (by Brian Solis) does an excellent job of visually representing the variables at play. We use smartphones socially (professionally speaking) in real-time, where ever and whenever we want. We choose the personalized device that fits our needs the best, and then install the best apps to allow us to engage in relationships and networks (PLNs and PLCs).

For the sake of example by way of vignette: A busy (and mobile-savvy) superintendent finishes a school district stakeholder meeting early, boots up her smartphone, and posts a community member compliment about the new school nutrition program to her twitter account (an mode of communication that reaches 1200 of her "followers" instantly). She then opens her Google Reader App, and quickly scrolls through her blogroll in order to stay current on evocative issues and happenings. She notices a piece on "BYOL," then bookmarks and comments on the piece via the Diigo App to her district-wide technology innovation group, who has been looking into creative ways for allowing students to bring their own laptops to school. She'll check the groups' responses to the piece later. A Google Calendar reminder pops up to prompt her to the next appointment, so she opens the GPS App as she's walking to her car, verbally directs the App to provide her directions to downtown chamber of commerce building, hops in her car and allows the GPS to do the  dirty work as she thinks about her speech, which she realizes is sitting on her desk at central office. Upon arrival, she finds the Google Doc on her smartphone, and sends it to the chamber of commerce secretary who then prints off a fresh version for the speech. 

Most superintendents, however, are just using their smartphones for texting, making phone calls, and checking emails. Their underutilization (or low-capacity use) of the smartphone may point to more than just a lack of technology know-how. The subscript to the squandered-away opportunity speaks to their connectedness, or their contribution to and participation in digitally-oriented professional networks and relationships.

The meaningful utilization of a smartphone is just the tangible demonstration of the extent to which a learner participates in a personal learning network and a digitally-oriented professional learning community. So, if you want to be a "mobile-savvy" superintendent, it depends less on the smartphone you buy and more upon the professional communities to which you meaningfully contribute.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What's on the "Horizon"

Many of you are already very familiar with the annually submitted "Horizon Report" by the New Media Consortium. Trend analysis is one of the most important skills a district-level leader can apply when strategic planning, designing staffing levels, allocating resources, updating polices, and the list goes on.

The NMC has been extraordinarily accurate in their forecasts over the last seven years, as seen below in a graphic that neatly arranges their previous predictions. What is most interesting is both the scalability of some trends versus the one-dimensional/false promise of others.

Recently, the NMC released this year's report, which includes recognition of innovations such as ebooks, augmented reality, game-based learning, and gesture-based learning. Below is NMC's ppt on the 2011 report.

View more presentations from New Media Consortium

NMC, however, is not the only resource a district administrator may look to in order to become more aware of upcoming drivers of change. Gartner's "Hype Cycle" of emerging technology trends is another valuable resource where information may be gleaned and applied. The format of visually seeing the excitement, disenchantment, and realized function of digital-age tools is not only comical put also alerting.

For a more global perspective, the Knowledgeworks Foundation has completed the 2020 Forecast for education, citing catalysts, trends, signals, and learning agents.

So, why look to the horizon? Why pull our heads up from the grindstone (or guillotine)? Does anyone else feel off balance with rapid changes to the learning landscape shifting our equilibrium, and techno experts volleying recommendations without research and careful consideration? Are we as district administrators at somewhat of a disadvantage if not logged on, plugged in, and growing in a personal learning network? Offline school administrators will likely be looking through a myopic, fiscal-year lens, be uninformed of emerging innovations, and recoiling from transformative forces. A visionary leader is predictive in strategic planning, experimental in programming, and engaged in trend analysis. Use the resources above to "turn your brights on" and build an awareness of what's on the horizon!