Innovative Leadership

20 Takeaways From the 1st Annual NYSCATE Digital Leadership Conference

I had the opportunity to attend the 1st Annual Digital Leadership Conference sponsored by NYSCATE and the Educational Administrators Association. There were sessions led by Thomas Murray, author of Learning Transformed, Jason Green, the author of Blended Learning In Action; as well as notable administrators and educational technology vendors. It was a wonderful way for administrators and educational leaders across New York to connect and share ideas on how best to drive instructional change in their schools. Here were the major ideas I garnered from the experience.

On 21st-Century Instruction

  1. At this stage, 21st-Century Learning should just be called learning.
  2. ed8bf0b3f844bf9ed57cc9b7f39469f9--classroom-carpet-classroom-décorRedesigning learning spaces is more about mindset than money. You don’t need new displays and devices to create workstations and places where making, creativity, and higher order thinking thrive. It’s about effective spaces for learning, not being pretty for Pinterest.
  3. Technology alone isn’t enough. A Chromebook as a digital worksheet hub is just as meaningless. Just using a computer is like turning on a light switch. The tech doesn’t matter in itself. Is it being used in a static or active way?
  4. You can’t think about changing the nature of teaching in your school until you have the right structures in place.
  5. Effective technology integration requires interactive learning that allows students the ability to explore, design, and create coupled with teachers willing to push forward and experiment. We’re often asking the wrong questions in education about how we can integrate technology when instead we should ask how we can personalize learning for each student to help them create, reflect, and grow.

On School Culture

  1. Being innovative in one part of a school isn’t enough. If it’s good, learn how to expand it and share it. Innovate outside of little pockets of only those who immediately buy in. Turn small steps to cultural change.
  2. Ongoing communication with staff and students is essential, and we need to be aware that sometimes what we say is different than what’s being heard. Loading up any teacher training or lesson with educational buzzwords makes it meaningless.
  3. The key to effective teacher training is not about giving teachers another tool or role. Their cups are too full to fill with more. It’s about giving them a means to empty those cups.
  4. Even on our worst day, we may some child’s best hope.
  5. The culture of a school is influenced most by the school leader, but every adult is responsible and has a role in contributing to a school’s culture.

On the Teacher’s Role

  1. Generating quality questions is often more important than determining answers. It’s about the process of exploring, creating, and reiterating.
  2. It’s an exciting time to be a teacher because we get to be part of the shift from holders of information to facilitators of learning. The role of the teacher is no longer to relay facts. Google and YouTube can do that. We are to provide a path for growth and guidance on how student strengths can be expanded and weaknesses can be fortified.
  3. Mistakes are crucial to learning as a student and a teacher. Yes, mistakes are where the learning happens, but being honest about your shortcomings humanizes you, builds character, and creates a bond with those you share it with.
  4. Be ready to forge through failure. Our first, second, and third attempts at instrumental change will likely meet with failure. Don’t let that automatically make you quit. Reassess and iterate. If it can be done better, do it. If it can’t that be glad for the effort and move on to something else.
  5. If you still view the role of the teacher as the holder of information, you’re making yourself obsolete. It’s about facilitating challenging learning experiences. (See the experiment in Kalikuppam).
  6. You are never JUST a teacher, you have the opportunity to change lives. Each person you teach is someone else’s whole world.

On Student Connections

  1. Tap into student passions (see the San Fernando teens) and tap into organizations that will empower their passions (see DIY Girls and Thrively)
  2. We think the digital natives know automatically how to use tech, but they don’t innately know how to use it to best use it to organize their learning. Provide guidance with mechanisms like a Chromebook Academy where before the school year students learn appropriate use and procedures which lead to them caring for their tools and using them appropriately and they are encouraged by receiving the Chromebook as the end reward.
  3. We can’t be sure what the future world will look like, but we can prepare students for itAutomation is why many jobs are leaving really going. 38% or more of current jobs will be likely gone when young students graduate, but some people will be less impacted by it. (see the image)
  4. Teaching will always be inherently about relationships. Your love of the kids must be first and all else is tertiary. If you forget that primary role you have 2 options-quit or refocus your efforts.

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