If you’re not learning as a leader, if you’re not hip deep in the learning, you’re not the type of instructional leader your students need. – Larry Cuban.
The drive for change in schools tends to be largely focused on new things teachers must do so that they can, in turn, help students do new or improved things. Teachers are doing new things all the time. All too often in this process, school leaders seem to be largely exonerated from the conversation about changing professional practice. This makes no sense. If the leaders don’t get it, it doesn’t happen. If leadership is to be about more than the failed strategy of simply issuing directives from on high, surely change must begin with school leaders? There would seem to be a growing agreement around the kinds of authentic leadership that facilitates the learning we want to see in schools today. I summarise these leadership imperatives, gathered from recent reading, online exchanges, conference sessions and conversations here, as follows. All effective, innovative school leaders need to:
- Have a compelling vision for learning for the world students will enter after they leave school
- Understand and appreciate that educational technology is a critical component in achieving this vision
- Create an organisational culture that values, understands, and is committed to innovation and change by creating opportunities for distributed leadership
- Create a supportive culture in which teachers are listened to, protected, professionally developed, and encouraged to take innovative risks without undue haste
- Foster and nurture technology leadership opportunities throughout their staff
- Commit to fearlessly improving their own skills and knowledge about learning technologies
- Commit to attending at least one major conference focused on technology use in education every year
- Use every opportunity to model their own enthusiasm and willingness to try new technologies
- Share their personal learning story with their teachers, students, parents, and peers
- Connect with forward-thinking educators using the digital tools that empower and inspire their students
Fullan advocates for the need for leadership from the middle. While both top-down leadership and simply letting people do their own thing have clearly failed, a new convergence is needed. We need a new pedagogy to leverage the opportunities digital technologies present today. Fullan calls this “The Stratosphere Agenda” and compellingly contends that we need to radically rethink pedagogy in the new digital context. Principals, if they truly are to lead this innovative agenda, must be out in front, as lead learners.