At our principals' retreat this week I had the opportunity to participate in a session led by Bev Freedman , educational consultant and adjunct professor of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. She is also a former executive officer of the Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. Her workshop entitled The Role of The Learning Leader cast a new light on many of the constructs of leadership that my colleagues and myself were taught as we entered the role. As I listened to her speak I began to critically evaluate some of the ideas that I once held true not that long ago and I began to contrast these against my efforts to learn about digital leadership and 21st century learning.
The first of these long standing constructs that I questioned is the notion that leaders lead - everything. Looking back on my first year as a school leader I remember the heavy sense of responsibility that I felt for having to know the answer for everything from curriculum to policy to any question that my staff would ask. I fell victim to the idiom of 'the buck stops here' , in essence I felt I had to be the gatekeeper of all things school related. Information is not a protected currency.In fact in order to lead the vast changes that have come and are yet to come from digital learning, leaders must view information as a shared commodity that serves to benefit the entire community. The more we admit to not having all of the information , the more adept we become at facilitating the increase in capacity for learning of all members of our school communities. It is not about having the answer , it is about the desire to know the answer and how this desire has a positive ripple effect through your staff and students.
Next on the construct hit list is the idea that leaders must learn to plan every detail in order to guide an improvement process. Having been part of two school wide technology projects during my tenure at my present school, I quickly learned that real leadership happens when best laid plans go awry. During our second technology and math project we encountered a true " TSN turning point in the game" moment as the technology we planned, sourced and budgeted for at the outset became obsolete three months into the project. When you are mired in the path of Plan A you are more likely to get caught in the mindset of defeat. The solution was to be open to possibilities and that is when the opportunity to take a different technological path was found and the project outcome was better than we had imagined.
Where does this leave us in terms of our path to digital leadership? Simply stated be open and take risks with your learning. Leadership has come a long way from the measured process of learning to lead. Digital leadership is positioned at a turning point. We can no longer assume to know everything but we do have to be prepared to learn everything and be demonstrative with this desire. There is one long standing idea that will always remain true, experience counts. The only change is that now we must see experience as the verb in moving forward and not the noun in remembering the past.