Friday, August 5, 2011

Leadership Day 2011 - A Few Thoughts

Scott McLeod, a highly regarded education leader who is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky, is calling today for educators who blog to participate in Leadership Day 2011. Dr. McLeod issued the following assignment for those who would like to lend their voice to the conversation in his fifth annual Leadership Day:
" about whatever you like related to effective school technology leadership: successes, challenges, reflections, needs, wants, resources, ideas, etc."
My contribution will be a short reflection on the following quotation from Steven Johnson's book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
"Some environments squelch new ideas; some environments seem to breed them effortlessly. The city and the Web have been such engines of innovation because, for complicated historical reasons, they are both environments that are powerfully suited for the creation, diffusion, and adoption of good ideas." 
There is no place I can think of that needs an infusion of innovation more than our public schools.  Unfortunately, our schools are closer on the spectrum to those that squelch new ideas than those that breed them.  Of course the finger pointing typically goes in the direction of the educators who are working in a system that is too deeply immersed in standardized test scores that have NOTHING to do with innovation.  If innovation is what we are looking for, we need to stop because for all intensive purposes, we have strapped our country's teachers into a volkswagen bug and asked them to win the Daytona 500.  

Putting web-enabled devices into the hands of teachers and students offers the possibility to individualize to the needs of individual learners as never before possible. We need to embrace these tools and embrace the possibilities that come along with them. If we do not do this then, we are depriving our students an opportunity to become the greatest generation our country has seen. While many see students as simply wasting their time on Facebook and writing endless text messages, I see something different.  My thoughts are more in line with what Clay Shirky describes in his book Cognitive Surplus:

"Although so much of what kids are doing online may look trivial and frivolous, what they are doing is building the capacity to connect, to communicate, and ultimately, to mobilize."

Of course order to do this we need to get more school leaders on board using them.  As has always been the case, our schools need to teach literacy, citizenship, and responsibility.  However, the playing field has changed and we now need to embrace the digital realm as well.  If we do not accept this, we will shortchange both our students and ourselves.

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