Four Ways to Extend My Digital Leadership

Digital spaces beckon me. I enjoy quickly scanning my Twitter feed for interesting tidbits. I’ve loved reading about Ontario educators’ #oneword in the Google+ community.  I blog here. Still, I wonder what more I need to do as a leader.  Jennifer Casa-Todd, digital educator, challenged the audience recently with a thought provoking question at a keynote address in our district. She asked, “How do you exemplify digital leadership?”

Leadership is the exercise of influence. It’s not about telling others what to do (much as some may dream of snapping their fingers and making it so), but rather building a culture where others take on new challenges, work to be their very best and openly share what they’ve learned.

Influencing the use of digital tools is a challenge for me, however. While I use those tools with relative ease to communicate, create and share, others do not feel comfortable doing so. So I’m not sure it’s about being an exemplar. When we exemplify something, we show how it can be done at its best. That’s important, but this kind of modelling only goes so far. Having a great model can inspire. It can also demotivate or even paralyze.

So I’m thinking more about how to extend my digital leadership to influence a culture where people may be willing to try.

  1. Using the digital spaces in our organization.  Be present in the platforms that are provided. I know what they are and how they work. Am I using them to their full advantage?
  2. Interacting on Twitter.  Retweeting. Commenting on tweets. Replying. Liking. Connecting with others.
  3. Sharing links and articles.  If it resonates, I share. If it made me think, I share. If I don’t completely agree, I share.
  4. Share the thinking in my blog.  This one is more difficult for me.  I’ve been leery of pushing myself forward, but why not? I welcome conversations about what I write here. Transparency may help others to be admit what they don’t know.

I feel comfortable in digital spaces. Can I help others feel the same way?

6 comments on “Four Ways to Extend My Digital Leadership

  1. Hi Sue,
    Thank you for tagging me in this post and for your honest reflection here. I realize that when we model we can sometimes intimidate. As a superintendent, you seem to be keenly aware of this. I don’t know that I agree that your own digital leadership might paralyse some teachers. They may not jump into these spaces with you, YET, but I think that seeing you there might actually diminish the sense of risk that some teachers associate with social media. And indeed while the modelling is essential for our teachers, more than anything, I think when students and parents see you participate positively in these spaces as well, they gain a different perspective of these platforms. Patrick Larkin is a superintendent in Mass, who continues to exemplify digital leadership for his District. If you haven’t connected with him, do. He openly celebrates the good things going on in his schools, but is also very reflective (as you are here). None of this work is easy, but our kids need better role models and who better than educators to provide them?

    • Sue Dunlop says:

      Thanks for the taking the time to comment, Jennifer, I really appreciate it. I’ve heard of Patrick and had some interactions on Twitter, but was not following him. I will take that recommendation. I agree that modelling is still important and a way to show what I value – it’s a message in itself. My hope is always that by being vulnerable and honest it will help others admit what they don’t know.

  2. Aviva says:

    Your fourth point really resonated with me, Sue! I love that you blog, and I’m always curious what you share. Sometimes I agree with you. Sometimes I don’t. But you always invite and honour these discussions … and that means a lot! As an educator that blogs professionally, it really speaks to me to see other educators, administrators, and superintendents blogging. I think it highlights the value in sharing and learning openly, and this speaks volumes when people from all facets of education are sharing in these spaces. You inspire me to think and to question, and for that, I’m very grateful. Curious to hear what others think.

    Aviva

    • Sue Dunlop says:

      Blogging is valuable for me as I hammer out my thinking in writing. I appreciate that you always read it. I want to move to the next step where I can have more discussions about what I put out there and hope people like you will take the invitation.

  3. Hi Sue,
    Thank you for sharing this with me. 🙂

    The four points you have mentioned are really important.
    – you need to understand the digital landscape as you have suggested in your first point.
    – you need to acknowledge, affirm, and extend the thoughts of others on Twitter etc.
    – sharing diverse opinions is valuable
    – making your thinking visible is difficult but so valuable—especially when you invite thoughts from others

    The one area I think that you could consider if you want to make a deep leadership impact, is that of co-construction. So often, these days, we here of ‘collaboration’—but, often it is left at sharing and communicating.

    However, the root of ‘collaboration’ is ‘collaborare’—’to work together’. It is at this level, that true meaning is made. As you are engaged with others in constructing an artefact—be it a document, a video, a plan, a solution, etc.—you are engaged in higher levels of leadership and, indeed, shared leadership. The act of creating artefacts indeed mediates conversation and ‘meaning making’. It, of course, is the essence of ‘constructionism’ (Papert). It also is a key point in ‘collaborative professionalism’—as it recognizes the strengths of various team members regardless of ‘positions of power’.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on this. Does it resonate with you? What questions do you have about these thoughts?

  4. Lisa Noble says:

    Sue:
    I’m having a little bit of a weep reading this. This bit did me in: “but rather building a culture where others take on new challenges, work to be their very best and openly share what they’ve learned.”

    You see, I think that’s what we strive to build in our classrooms. That’s the goal, right? That’s what we’re building capacity for? That’s what all this growth mindset and resilience and everything else is all about. To create spaces where our students feel empowered to take on new challenges, to be their best selves, and to openly share what they’ve learned – with each other and the world.

    And yet…..it is not, I think, the culture we are encouraging within our whole schools. Particularly that last bit. I think if you asked teachers, they might say (depending on the climate in their building) that they felt supported in taking on new challenges, they would probably say that they work to be their very best (I think most teachers believe they do), but that sharing with others bit….. I think that’s the stumbling block for a great many people. There’s that huge fear involved of – “if I volunteer to share something at a staff meeting, are people going to think I”m sucking up? Are they going to think I think I’m better than they are? Am I going to be the last straw that pushes that person hanging on by their toenails to say “and now, you want me to do this, too?”? What if they think my ideas suck?” All the questions that our students are asking when we encourage them to share their learning.

    And it always brings me back to that question of “how do we teach it if we’re not doing it?”

    Last year, Sue, I moved to a new school, and a totally new teaching challenge. It was not an easy transition – for me and my family. But – I had a principal and a superintendent who encouraged me and shared ideas with me, both in person and through social media. It made a ridiculously big difference, and helped me feel like I was on the right track. It made me feel like it was okay to get my students tweeting and participating in some global initiatives, even though there weren’t many people doing that in our building. It felt like someone was encouraging me to be my best, to try and gut it out, to share what we were learning.

    Please, keep doing what you’re doing – those 4 steps sound like a great beginning. Drive people to the digital spaces your board provides – if that’s where the information is, that’s where they have to go. Continue to build your #pln and talk about it. Share your ideas, and share where you’re finding other ones. Don’t sweat it if people look at you like you have 6 heads – find an article you think they might like, and e-mail it to them (if that’s their point of access) and tell them whose account you found it on.

    We are so much better together, and digital leadership is one way to bring us together.

    It’s probably obvious that I could write more….but this’ll do for now.

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