Small Moves: The Key To Digital Leadership

This post was first published in August 2014, so please forgive any outdated references. I began my student teaching and carried many dreams and plans in my mind. Looking back on these words, I still carry many of these ideas with me eight years later. Maybe I was on to something…


I’m a huge movie fan. Many of my favorite films are science fiction, which, if you know me, is probably a foregone conclusion.

I love Star Wars, Star Trek, The Last Starfighter, Dune… the list goes on for days.

One of my favorite sci-fi films is Contact, based on the book by Carl Sagan. If you’re unfamiliar with the book or film, the plot revolves around what might happen if the human race received a message from another world.

Spoiler alerts ahead if you haven’t seen this nearly 20-year-old movie yet…

In the film’s climax, the main character speaks with a member of an alien race in the guise of her dead father. He explains a bit about how they were able to contact our planet and how things will progress in the future.

Our fearless heroine wants all of her questions answered at once, excited at what this incredible discovery could mean for science and the human race. However, she doesn’t get her wish.

The alien explains to her that progress and communication will come slowly over time. He tells her…

“Small moves, Ellie. Small moves.”

Change is a good but incredibly difficult thing. Especially in education. No matter how great we think some new technology or process is or how much we will benefit from it, the implementation will not come quickly. Not will it come free of pain, problems, and complaints.

Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today

Small moves.

Writing this post, I’m in my second full week of student teaching. Of course, I bring with me a fairly large amount of tech experience with a boatload of tools that teachers can use in the classroom. I am not, however, an experienced classroom teacher.

But, I can still show other teachers a few small ways that technology can make their lives easier, engage students, and bring some 21st-century methods into their classrooms.

But it has to start small. A friend of mine introduced Plickers in his classroom as a way to perform formative assessments. He called me over to see the trial run.

Of course, the students loved it. It was cool to see this app grade their responses instantly rather than waiting for their answers to be graded. I knew the kids would love it, and I knew my friend would love it, as we’ve been talking about using it since long before school began.

What I didn’t know would happen was the response from other teachers around his classroom. The buzz in the hallways after school about this little app was astounding. One of the guys from the district IT department even came over to see what we were doing.

Small moves.

Sometimes as tech evangelists, we forget that not everyone is as comfortable with tech as we are. There are teachers in your building right now that have been teaching long enough that they can remember a time when the only computers in the school were in a computer lab, and no teacher had a school email address.

And now we’re asking them to implement tools like GAFE, Microsoft LYNC, iPads, laptops, Chromebooks, and tablets….

Small moves.

If we really want to be great digital leaders, we have to be willing to meet others where they are with tech. Too often, we get carried away with the latest and greatest shiny app that will “revolutionize” our classrooms. We don’t understand why EVERYONE doesn’t use it the day it becomes available.

It’s not about beating other teachers and administrators over the head with new technology. It’s about showing them how one tool can improve or help them. How one tool can ignite a student’s interest in a new way.

It’s about small moves, not giant leaps.

We must be ready to make those small moves quickly and guide others to do the same. When that happens, teachers, administrators, and students win.

Sure, there will always be those asking, “Well, why are you doing this? What’s your motivation? What do you want to get out of it?” They balk at every suggestion and idea made.

But if we’re making small moves, those people will soon be drowned out by the gathering crowd of people making their small moves toward a better system for us all.

And soon, that gathering crowd will no longer be the minority that wants change; they will be the overwhelming majority that drives change and sends our education system in a new and exciting direction.

But it all starts with small moves.

Small moves, Ellie.

As leaders, that’s what we have to do.


Thanks for taking a stroll down memory lane with me.

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The Connected Educator Book Summary

The Connected Educator is more than just someone that uses technology in the classroom. The connected educator is a lifelong learner, ready to adapt and use the tools available to improve their practice. They embrace new ideas and viewpoints throughout the connected world. Through the development of connected learning communities, the connected educator can improve their practice, encourage the work of others, and build an ever-changing repository of shared knowledge to benefit the education community as a whole.

BECOMING A CONNECTED LEARNER AND EDUCATOR

As educators of 21st-century learners, we must embrace different models of learning and connectivity that are native to our students. Learning happens for our students in a connected world. The same should hold for educators. Collaboration between educators of diverse backgrounds and levels of expertise allows for creating connected learning communities: an amalgamation of communities of practice, professional learning communities, and personal learning networks. Connected learning communities provide the same benefits as the three aforementioned communities but on a scale not previously achievable due to the connected tools available today.

BUILDING CULTURE THROUGH COLLABORATION

Conversations with a community of practice can lead to deep, connected learning. Learning as a connected educator is important to connect with global educators in a globalized world. Educators can make learning relevant for themselves and their students through communities of practice. The focus of connected learning is on a collaborative culture that includes having a shared vision, shared values, and opportunities for inquiry.

Magnetic Connections
Magnetic Connections by NASA Goddard Photo and Video is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

DEFINING THE TOOLS FOR CONNECTING

In the past, connecting outside of the classroom was relegated to professional development opportunities and conferences that only a few educators attended. With tools like Twitter and Facebook, teachers can participate in groups and chats based on grade levels, content areas, teacher leadership, and more. Bookmarking and sharing sites such as Diigo and Wakelet allow teachers to curate resources around any topic and share them with the larger community. Blogging tools like Blogger, WordPress, Squarespace, and more allow teachers to reflect on professional learning with a worldwide audience.

BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH CONNECTIONS

Educators must have a plan and purpose for how they will build their personal learning network (PLN). Tips for getting started creating a PLN include:

  • Begin with one tool and add others when comfortable.
  • Establish a consistent username across all networks.
  • Find a mentor to help along the way.
  • Choose well-respected and familiar educators, see who they follow, and select connections from their list.

Educators assume roles and responsibilities in a PLN: linking, lurking, learning, and leading. Linking and lurking involve staying on the sidelines and being reluctant to share thoughts. Learning and leading members are frequent users who share ideas and help shape the community. The learning and leading roles should commit to bringing those linking and lurking into action.

people doing group hand cheer
Photo by Dio Hasbi Saniskoro on Pexels.com

SUSTAINING COMMUNITIES

While forging ahead in new connected realms, it is important that educators work to sustain these communities and foster growth. Through appreciative inquiry, educators can sustain the initial work begun in newly connected virtual communities by focusing on their strengths and asking “what if?” to explore possibilities. Community members can keep a positive perspective on what can be accomplished using the 4-D model of appreciative inquiry: discovering what they feel the group is at its best, dreaming about what it would be like to see those discoveries happen, designing the community to make those dreams happen, and fulfilling the destiny for the community by implementing those designs.

TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP THROUGH CONNECTIONS

Transformational leaders collaborate, encourage connected learning, and believe in distributed leadership. Distributed leadership is shared throughout the school by many people to strengthen the community. To shift to transformational leadership, traditional leaders must let go of control to move forward. Distributed leadership requires having a shared vision and shared responsibility in problem-solving. In a connected world, solving these problems includes making online connections with experts to inform ideas. Being connected allows teams to collaborate outside of the school day in a shared space.

CONNECTIONS TO LEADERSHIP

Being a connected educator goes hand in hand with teacher leadership. It is important in leadership to be an effective communicator and collaborator, which are also important aspects of being connected. Connected educators build their personal learning networks, or communities of practice, to continue professional learning and build connections outside of their school community.


Thanks for reading. Get access to exclusive content and expert insights on technology, teaching, and leadership by subscribing to my newsletter. Stay up-to-date on the latest trends and join our community of professionals and educators worldwide.

References:

Hord, S. M., & Sommers, W. A. (2008). Leading professional learning communities: Voices from research and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Hall, L. A. (2011). The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.