Saturday, August 31, 2013

To Boldly Go Where Few Have Gone...

It's the beginning of a new school year, and for many teachers and students there is a curious mix of moods, such as apprehension, excitement, and focus, especially as the demand for accountability and core standards reaches a heightened level. No matter what delusions of accountability our elected leaders throw at our schools, and our students, the desire to continue moving our schools, and our students into 21st Century learning is more crucial, now, more than ever. It will take responsible leaders making this jump to hyperspace possible, despite the wreckage and stray asteroids of political criticism and reactive attacks that prevails.

How bold will you be, as a leader in moving your school forward?

In a wonderful research study by Barbara Levin and Lynne Schrum (2013), they remind us that "leadership matters for promoting the integration of technology in schools, and that administrators need to be increasingly involved in technology projects in their schools to model and support their use." I reiterate, school leaders need to walk the walk, and talk the talk of what they expect their school community will become. As a school superintendent I had a wonderful principal who challenged me to model the way for the rest of the school administrators, and start using social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. Well, I took up her challenge and found a responsible way to utilize social media as a school leader, encouraging faculty and administrators to do the same.

Levin and Schrum (2013) determined as a result of their research, that leaders of award-winning schools and districts focused their efforts on characteristics of systems leadership required for successful technology integration and leadership: vision, leadership, school culture, technology, planning and support, professional development, curriculum and instructional practices, funding, and partnerships.

Of all of these characteristics, the three that stand out the most are what would be called expectations that come from the role, mannerisms, and actions of the school leader.

Vision: leaders must communicate "a clearly articulated vision" on the use of technology in the schools (Levin and Schrum 2013).

Leadership: leaders need to encourage people "to find their niches and lead from their strengths, working as a team, building teams" to make the work of moving forward viable and owned by the faculty and staff (Levin and Schrum 2013).

School Culture: expect everyone to "plunge right in" the excitement of using and developing technology in the schools (Levin and Schrum 2013).

Regardless of the position and setting, school leadership that challenges and inspires will have a lasting benefit in the future for our students in the future.

Levin, B. B. & Schrum, L. (2013). Using systems thinking to leverage technology for school improvement: Lessons learned from award-winning secondary schools/districts. Journal of Research on Technology in Education46(1), 28-51.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Quality of Decision-making

The game of life is like the game of poker. You strategize, analyze the odds, match your ability against others in the same arena, make a play and take a chance you made the right decision. It sounds like an oversimplification of a game, but being in a position to lead others requires people to make decisions about themselves, the group and the organization. I had a professor who felt that decision-making and management of issues and scenarios in managing organizations could be compared to the arena of poker (Wiles, 1988).

“Poker theorist David Sklansky once wrote that you should consider yourself a winner as long as you had the higher probability of winning the hand when all the money went into the pot. This attitude is consistent with the underlying mathematical reality of poker, and it can smooth out your emotional reactions to losses and wins. What matters is the quality of your decisions, not the results that come from them.” (Chabris, 2013)

I love that quote: what matters most is the quality of the decisions.

            Think about the number of decisions that are made each day in an educational organization that have an impact on student learning and achievement. You might think that many of those decisions might be insignificant in the bigger scheme of learning, but I would contend that if a school leader is mindful of how that decision will impact one child, greater care and focus might be made to bear in one’s mind. These could be decisions that are seen in class placement, teacher hiring’s and firings, resources, textbooks, technology, health services, cleaning the hallways and the cafeteria, lunch schedules,as well as landscaping and grass cutting on the playground. And, believe it or not, there could be hundreds of others as well.

            A good poker player practices mindfulness activities to prepare his/her decision-making in a game. An excellent school leader practices mindfulness in creating a vibrant and exciting culture that nurtures and supports the education of every child.

            Remember: what matters most is the quality of the decisions.

Wiles, D. (1988). Practical politics for school administrators. New York: Allyn & Bacon.