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Leading educators through a transforming landscape

By Nicole Krueger 6/23/2014 Education leadership

When the ground keeps shifting beneath your feet and the path ahead looks different every day, it’s difficult to know just where you’re headed — or how to help others get there. Yet this is exactly what today’s education leaders have been charged with.

It’s no wonder, then, that many school and district administrators feel like they’re floundering. In the traditionally slow-moving field of education, technology has become the critical X factor that accelerates, multiplies and transforms everything it touches.

“We’re in a different time now,” says instructional technology specialist Kyle Pace. “Teaching and learning is different. Leadership is different. It should be.”

Qualities of a digital age leader

Last year, Pace outlined five important traits of education leaders, which in truth apply to any leader tasked with guiding a team through rapid change. The need to instill trust, make people feel valued, exercise empathy and commit to self-growth should come as no surprise. But one trait many leaders struggle with — and which may be, arguably, the most important for education leaders right now — is the ability to encourage risk taking.

“As a leader are you encouraging teachers (and are teachers encouraging students) to take risks? To be brave, bold and step out of that comfort zone?” he said. “In terms of technology and social media, I think of it this way: Don’t deny the existence, invest in the potential.”

Most of the traits listed above, including encouraging risk taking, are outlined in the 14 Essential Conditions ISTE has identified as the necessary prerequisites to meeting the ISTE Standards. One of the steps toward becoming a technology-ready school or district is to cultivate empowered leaders at all levels who “are able to make critical decisions about their own teaching and learning, help each other solve problems, and enact change within and across their own spheres of influence.”

A standards-ready school or district ideally operates under a shared governance model in which leadership and decision making are distributed from the bottom up so all teachers and staff feel empowered to experiment, take risks and adjust their course accordingly.

The job of an education leader, then, isn’t just to lead but to create more leaders.

Leading to inspire

It’s one thing to lead a group of educators who are champing at the bit to bring more technology to their classrooms. It’s another to drag reluctant educators into the digital age.

“If today’s principals want to effectively harness new technologies and use them to motivate, inspire, lead and support others in their seamless integration and use, we must begin with ourselves,” said Rosie O’Brien Vojtek, a school principal and outgoing president of ISTE’s Administrators Network.

“Administrators must find ways to hook teachers by showing them how technology can help them teach more effectively as well as help students achieve their learning goals.”

That’s why ISTE 2014 offers an entire leadership strand of sessions aimed at helping digital age leaders face the challenges ahead. With special sub-strands for school administrators, district administrators and technology coordinators, every education leader will find support and resources for:

Leading a districtwide technology initiative. Learn best practices for technology planning and implementation at the district level, including what policies are needed, how to use data to improve student outcomes and how to break through resistance from teachers and staff. You’ll also have opportunities to explore the challenges of planning a 1:1 initiative and learn from the mistakes — and successes — of other leaders with in-depth case studies.

Providing visionary leadership. Another important prerequisite to becoming standards ready is to develop a shared vision from of the collaborative voices, goals and values of your teachers and staff, and use it to guide technology integration. Find out what it takes to be a digital age leader and learn strategies for fostering a culture of empowerment for teachers and students.

Keeping an eye on the future. See what’s on the horizon for education technology by exploring the latest research and trends. Discover the top trends and technologies that will impact K-12 schools in the next five years, find resources to help all students get connected, and join a conversation with state leaders to learn about systemic changes in education.

Today’s education leaders play a tremendous role in bringing forth a new era of learning and teaching. Are you ready?

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