Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections on Eric Sheninger's new "Digital Leadership" book

As the year ends, I am republishing the Opinion Drive-thru's seven most viewed posts of 2014.  Ta-dah!! Here is #1. There is no mystery why this post got three times as many views as any other.  Eric is an ed tech rock star and he and many of his Twitter followers retweeted it. It was fun to have so many viewers visit Larry's Opinion Drive-thru.

Principal Eric Sheninger of New Milford High School in New Jersey is one of a rare breed.  He is a current school administrator who evangelizes the use of social media by educational leaders.  Scholastics deemed him “Principal Twitter”  and in 2012 the National Association of School Principals honored him with a Digital Principal award.

Despite Eric’s high profile he has been generous with his help contributing to and promoting my iTunes U course: Becoming a Digital School Administrator Last month, Eric has published Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times. a book Cindy Johanson, Executive Director of the George Lucas Educational Foundation describes as  “Essential reading for any education leader trying to figure out how technology can strengthen schools—and what pitfalls to avoid.”

In the chapter called “Leading with Technology, Eric concludes with “some guiding questions to begin the change process in one’s digital leadership journey.  The following ones really resonated with me and I have made some brief comments:

How can educators and schools effectively use free social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to communicate important information . . . to stakeholders in real time?

Mercy High School uses Twitter and Facebook to do this (as do some other schools that I have investigated). I think we have a cool FaceBook stream of news.  The problem as I see it becomes the “job” of one person. Some media like  Instagram may actually be easier to crowd source.  I am working to get some of our academic departments to “toot their own horn” about student achievement, but they are more likely to think of the marquee outside of our building as a way to give a “shout out” than social media.  Eric’s question has motivated me to dig into this deeper.

How do busy leaders go about establishing a brand presence once restricted to the business world when schools and districts. now have the tools at their fingertips to do this in a cost-effective?

Some educators recoil against the term "branding", but I will tell you, at a tuition-financed school like ours, standing out from the crowd is critical.  We saw applying for Apple Distinguished School status as critical to branding ourselves as a school that not only has technology, but uses it in creative ways that advantage our students.  Besides offering regional teachers a rich professional development opportunity, our we are hosting the Tech Talk conference to reinforce our "distinguished" brand.

How can leaders connect with experts and peers across the globe to grow professionally through knowledge acquisition, resource sharing, and engaged discussion, and to receive feedback?

Like "Principal Twitter" I have both seen my professional life radically changed as the result of being networked with other amazing educators through aocial media.  In Becoming a Digital School Administrator I have a course section titled ”Social Media to Enhance Professional Development.  Eric co-authored a book called, Communicating and Connecting with Social Media. Chapter 3 as a terrific reference for educators learning both why and how they might use social media to build personal learning networkz.

When will the profession of education catch up to society?

I am afraid the answer to this question may be “not in our life times”. I believe that the educators in formal leadership positions tend to be the most “out of it” when it comes to technology.  It is unlikely that they were selected for their positions based on their social media or technology acumen.  This is why following Eric and other innovators like him is so important for prospective school administrators.  Trust me, you won’t get up to speed in a typical University graduate program where the professors also lag when it comes to truly "getting" the power of technology to reshape and improve education.

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