Striving to be a Strong Digital Leader

—Every day, I want to grow and become better. Through every task and experience, I am pushed as a leader. How will this decision affect kids? What impact will this have on our school? What is our next step to make the most of what we do to help our students be successful? How do we prepare our teachers and our students for the world in which we live and the world of tomorrow?

As a principal of an elementary school, it could be a lonely job. In many smaller schools, there is no assistant principal. I am lucky to have one this year, but, that hasn’t always been the case. My leadership teams and other teacher committees are always imperative to our decision-making and growth as a school—we are better when we make decisions together. While there are sometimes decisions that sit with the principal alone, our ability as a school to build a culture of collaboration is critical to our success for our students.

And so, in today’s educational world, strong leadership is essential. This is a social media world, one of continual connectedness. This is the world our children are born with, not just grow up in. In order for me to lead in the way that will have the greatest impact on kids and our school community, school leaders must be digital leaders. We must break down the barriers and fears that reside in the digital world, bridging the gaps and modeling what we want to see. Our leadership is dependent on our ability to use the digital tools available to us in order to communicate and model what we want to see in our classrooms.

A digital leader has been defined by many great educators around the globe. Most notably Eric Sheninger. He is one who inspires me to continue my growth as a school digital leader. Digital leadership hinges on our utilization of digital tools to enhance our communication with all stakeholders, building a culture of collaboration and transparency. Through our digital leadership, we are not alone, as we have many other educators around the globe to lean on, reflect with, and collaborate with in order to make our schools what they need to be for the future.

I must model what I want to see in my school. I never ask my staff to do something that I am not willing to do myself. A digital leader is one who puts themselves out there, using tools to collaborate and communicate. However, tools change. We must constantly be thinking about why we use these tools available to us at this present time.

I have found a few key elements that I utilize in order to help me strive to be a digital leader. Yes, there are particular tools I love right now, but I always know that these could change at any moment. To keep up to date, I think about why I use them and for what purpose. If I want to be a strong digital leader, my why must always drive what I do and how I use the tools in front of me.

Twitter, Voxer, and Your PLN

I rely heavily on social media to propel me forward as a digital leader. In the few years I have been on Twitter and then Voxer, I have built my PLN to be my go-to for on-demand professional development. Without Twitter and Voxer, a walkie-talkie app, I would be alone. I would read books in isolation, peruse the resources available by myself, and have no one to push me professionally to become a better leader. Now, I find spurts of involvement depending on my schedule and daily tasks; I know the inspiration from around the globe is always waiting for me when I need it most. Without this support from my PLN, I would not be a digital leader.

What Twitter and Voxer have also done for me is help me see how other building and digital leaders share the story of their school. Again, I am learning from others so that I can apply it to who we are as a school. Then, I am modeling that sharing for my staff and community. We become stronger together. We share our story, brand our school, and build the positive school culture that we want to build through this cycle of sharing. All school leaders should be active in social media. It is here that we grow as digital leaders and build the positivity of our school.

Google Apps for Education

On a completely different note, Google Apps for Education are critical to my success as a digital leader, most notably on how we work as a staff on absolutely everything we do. Our staff teams make it happen in our school. Without GAFE though, we may not collaborate as effectively as what we do today.

Email is great, but when paired with Google Classroom, Google Drive, and now the new Google Sites, we can collaborate in real-time on everything we do together. Whether it is collaborating on agendas for our meetings, presentations for the school, or a curation of resources for the staff, GAFE has changed the game for us. And as a digital leader, it is my duty to ensure I model it with my staff, not just tell them what to do with it.

We know that Google Classroom is a great instructional tool within the classroom for managing resources and assignments. In that case, I need to use it with my staff, building Classrooms for each grade level and team, sharing content and enhancing conversations. We want our students to collaborate on projects in real-time, or we want our staff to collaborate on assessments and lessons together. Then as a digital leader, I need to use Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides in a way that promotes this use as well. If I want my staff to see the power of Google Sites to not only share information, but also as a way for students to collaborate,  we need to use it together.

Do I make mistakes with all of this? Absolutely! However, my staff knows I am taking risks with them. So, they are more willing to give new techniques a try as well, building their classroom beyond the four walls of the school.

Maker Movement

The maker movement is a new venture for me, yet as a digital leader, I feel it is my obligation to help lead the charge instructionally, preparing our students for the world we can’t see quite yet. We know creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and making are important components to a strong educational background. If we build risk-taking, collaboration, and creating into our school and classroom, our students to rise to the challenge, creating some extraordinary things!

So today, the maker movement is my additional part of being a digital leader. While not all aspects of making have to do with digital tools, it is more about transforming our instructional practices and spaces to enhance learning overall. This maker movement has opened wonderful conversations for my staff. We now share and talk about what we are doing in the classroom to help push our students thinking and abilities more than ever before. Most of our maker space is not digital, but we are building digital resources and opportunities for sharing, using tools available to us to make, create, and share.

In Closing…

I am always striving to be a better leader, one who has an impact on our school, our staff, and our students. In today’s world, digital leadership is critical to that success. I am always striving to be better than the day before. We are taking our learning to the next level for the future, and that is really about being a strong digital leader is all about. Use the tools to transform our school to better prepare kids for their future.


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Leo Hidalgo (@yompyz).

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