Powerful Digital Discovery

This past Thursday afternoon/evening, our district hosted our first of three, Digital Discovery sessions for administrators for this school year.  I am fortunate to be one of the Digital Coaches for this series. What a night it was.  There were over 200 administrators and other district staff who actively participated in the evening. You could feel the excitement in the room.  It was truly electric.

This evening was meaningful for me because this past summer, I blogged about the importance of getting administrators more involved in the use of technology. After becoming re-acquainted with Twitter in July, I realized just how important administrators are in the use of and implementation of technology in the schools. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought of it too much before July.  In fact, I was actually one of those educators/administrators who believed that technology wasn’t really that important. After a short time on Twitter and after attending the Reform Symposium (online World-wide conference), I really started to understand the importance of our role as educational leader in the area of technology and 21st Century Learning skills (and, as a result, student/staff engagement).

On August 5th, I wrote my blog post about Being a Tech Change Agent in my district. This post was written as part of the Leadership Day 2011 challenge given by Scott McLeod of bigthink: Dangerously Irrelevant.  Every year, for the past 4 years, he has challenged administrators to think of ways to help assist and educate our fellow administrators in the area of technology.

Below, I have summarized my initial thoughts included in this blog post I wrote in August, followed by my progress since the blog was posted (in italics).

1.  Continue to annoy my colleagues with share information I am learning regarding technology with fellow administrators: articles, RSCON3 conference information, blog posts, research, etc…

Yes, I continue to share what I am learning in the area of technology with my colleagues, my staff, and my students.  I look forward to sharing the next Reform Symposium this coming January with my colleagues.

2.  Share my blog about my learning with fellow administrators.

My blog continues. While work took over in September and didn’t leave me much time to reflect and write in my blog, I feel I have got my stride back and have been writing more posts lately. I continue to share my blog with others, and have even put it in my signature of my work email this weekend.  I must say, though, it makes me rather nervous when I think that others are reading my thoughts. It is so important to share though and learn from one another.

3.  Perhaps, find a group of administrators who are interested in learning together and start a group on our Unified Communications System when the new school year starts.  We can use this space to share and collaborate. I WILL send out an email to some administrators who may be interested today! In our district, we have “Study Groups” of administrators who meet to discuss various topics, scenarios, etc… Perhaps we could have a 21st Century Administrators Study Group where we could discuss different digital technologies and how we, as leaders, could model these for staff.  We could even organize a  Tech Tuesday for Administrators event once a month. Hmmmm…. I actually love this idea!

There are 14 elementary administrators in my district who are a part of my study group. Our focus is the book, Leading 21st Century Schools.  We have a wiki where we can post reflections about each chapter, share what we have been doing in our schools, and ask questions of one another. We continue to have people ask if they can join our study group. What an exciting time to be a leader in education!

The Tech Tuesday for Administrators idea transformed into The Digital Playground, which I blogged about on August 6th, in my post, Thanks Leadership Day, 2011. 

4. Continue to model what I am doing for other administrators and staff.

Yes, I feel it is imperative to model my own learning around technology with staff, students, and administrative colleagues. A lot has happened at my school in the area of technology in the short 3 months I’ve been the vice-principal.

5. Continue to learn about technology myself (I’ve got a LOT to learn) and use it with the classes I will be teaching this year.

Yes, I am continuing to learn and be overwhelmed with what I don’t have any idea about around the area of technology.  The point though isn’t what I don’t know, it’s my willingness to learn – and modelling this willingness to my colleagues, staff, and students.

When I initially blogged about The Digital Playground in my Leadership Day, 2011, as inspired by Kipp Rogers in a blog post he entitled,  “Five Web 2.0 Tools Principals Can’t Live Without”, my vision was much different from what occurred in our district the other night.  I pictured about 30 interested administrators meeting in a school computer lab discussing and learning about different tech tools at each of the meetings.

With the amazing leadership of our Director of Instruction, Elisa Carlson, our Director of Information Technology, Dan Turner, and our Senior Management team, our first Digital Discovery session was so much more than I had envisioned!  Over 200 interested administrators filled a local golf course banquet hall with wireless internet, a back-channel Twitter feed, and Apple TV to project opening statements of our Superintendent, Mike McKay, further thoughts and examples of Digital Media by our speaker, Bryan Hughes, demonstrations by a few fellow administrator colleagues, closing comments by our Deputy Superintendent, Sharon Cohen and Director of Instruction, Elisa Carlson. You can read Elisa’s post about Creating Fire in our district that evening on her blog.

This evening was not quite what I had originally imagined.  It was so much better!  To say it was powerful, would be an under-estimation. To think that I may have had a very small part in helping plant the seeds for such a powerful learning opportunity is amazing.

I look forward to our future Digital Discovery Sessions and the learning that happens through this series and there-after in the schools and with the engagement of the students, and thus, the improved achievement of students.

As Mike McKay stated at the conclusion of his opening comments,

“When the schoolhouse becomes a place where engagement happens… the likelihood that high quality learning is greatly increased.”

For our schoolhouses to become more engaging, we have to become more engaged with what is happening in the 21st Century World of our students.  To do that, we must be more collaborative and be more open to learning from one another.  That is the power of this Digital Discovery Series – having time to learn from one another, in a safe environment where mistakes are expected and encouraged.

Seeing all the administrators in the room Thursday night made me excited and proud to be a member of such a wonderful learning environment, where life-long learning of all members is at the center.

What an exciting time to be leaders in education in our district!

Published by Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.

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