School Leadership & Educational Trail Blazing

UnPlug’d 2011 brought together Canadian educational change agents to share their first-hand experiences and to collectively consider modern approaches to learning. The summit culminated with the release of a publication that communicates a vision for the future of K-12 education in Canada.

More than any other group, I hope that school leaders will take the time to read the collected stories and review the videos that highlight the experiences of these trail blazers that use technology to support the development of global citizens.

Why Social Justice Matters: A Story Shared by Shelley Wright from unplugd on Vimeo.

Why Sharing Our Stories Matters: Story by Bryan Jackson from unplugd on Vimeo.

Not captured in their stories and video are the challenges they faced and the obstacles that school leaders often placed in front of the them as they attempted to empower their students to become technologically literate, global citizens.

While getting to know the Unplu'd participants during meals, relaxing by the lake or hanging out at the dock, it became apparent that intertwined with the stories of innovative teaching and learning were disheartening examples of principals and superintendents interceding to pull these trail blazers back into the confines of the status quo. Instead of empowering these explorers to be technology stewards that are charged with clearing a path for others to follow, they often felt alone and vulnerable in a jungle of technological fear and policy sink holes.

Now, more than ever, it is essential that school leaders move beyond traditional and rigid notions of school leadership to embrace leadership practices that empower others to be leaders and trail blazers. Instead of needing to captain every ship, school leader should see themselves as the nobel leaders that funded and equipped the explorers that charted the course to the new world. Confident leaders realize that regardless of who first sets foot on a new territory, we can all benefit from the discovery.

While technology can be of great assistance to distribute leadership, technological resources are not necessary to foster leadership practices that are collaborative, open and dynamic, that in the end will empower educational trail blazers.

Why Tech-Enabled Leadership Matters
With the exception of E-mail, the toolbox of resources available to school leaders has remained virtually unchanged for the last twenty-five years. Despite the previously slow pace of change, a new generation of leadership tools that include blogs, wikis, and RSS feeds, appear to have the potential to significantly alter the who and how of leadership practice, and rapidly disrupt previous notions of school leadership.

These new leadership resources, that are often labelled ‘social media’, have already demonstrated that they are capable of disrupting traditional patterns of knowledge management and information distribution. One needs to only look to the impact of Wikipedia and blogs on the information and news industries to grasp the disruptive nature of these resources.

When harnessed as a leadership tool, these social media resources may have the potential to disrupt the traditional distribution of leadership and how leaders influence followers. Just as recent technological advances have changed traditional notions of the workplace and collaboration by creating a flat world where telecommuting across time zones and collaborating across continents is possible, technology-enabled leadership has the potential to alter school leadership to the point that it warrants the label “leadership 2.0.”

The designation 2.0 is generally associated with web applications that afford greater levels of user interaction, collaboration, and engagement than the static, pre-millennium internet. It is also commonly used by computer programmers to highlight an incremental improvement in software code that is built on the strengths of a previous version. Consequently, leadership 2.0 can be considered a new iteration of leadership practice that goes beyond traditional models of rigid leadership that were often opaque and hierarchical to facilitate leadership practices that are open, collaborative and dynamic in nature.

Photo by Stephen Poff

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