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.


  1. Brad, you'll weep at this. Just a few months ago, I bought a new smart phone: a 2007 Palm Centro, for $35 on e-bay. It won't do half what you describe in your excellent blog, but I cannot let go of Palm technology. I've used it for too many years and like it too well. My gateway drug was the old Apple Newton; then I got hooked on Palm.

  2. Dr. Frazier:

    You are plugged-in and logged-on, so as a "connected" superintendent, the hard part's done! The transition from being anchored to a desktop/laptop to being footloose with a smartphone is also additively liberating. Thanks for the comments and retweets!