At the beginning of the year, my Principal asked me if I wanted to join the ‘Future Leaders’ Program in our partnership. In the previous year, I had backfilled a leadership position for a couple of weeks and then applied for a Coordinator position that had been advertised at another site. I wasn’t quite sure how I ended up in this direction, but it felt like this was the next step. I was pretty excited that I had been considered, plus it gave me the chance to work with Education Changemakers, so I was in.
On the first day of the program back in April, I looked around the room at the ‘collective genius’ and I felt like a fraud. The people around me looked confident and sounded so sure of what they were saying. What was I doing here? I didn’t belong. I wasn’t in a leadership position, so how could I possibly lead?
We were asked what we wanted to get out of this program. I wanted to know how to strategically lead and implement change / programs, how to get staff ‘on board’ with changes and how to effectively use my leadership style. A lot of this was due to previous years where I had been trialling some new practices in personalised learning and digital technologies, but despite sharing this with others, no one was really keen to take it on themselves. Upon reflection now, I think what I lacked was the proof that it was working (at least it was with my class) and the means to be able to provide support to others. I kind of just said, “This is what I have been doing.” I didn’t encourage them to trial it, I didn’t provide them with support and I didn’t explain the rationale behind it. These were the skills that I wanted to develop throughout this program.
After spending four days with Louka and Mike from Education Changemakers, my view of leadership has changed and I am developing my skills so that I can lead more effectively, even if I’m not in a leadership position:
- Leading change has to be consultative and collaborative. We can’t do it all by ourselves.
- Leaders are like entrepreneurs. They identify problems, develop solutions and implement them.
- Leadership shouldn’t just be a top-down approach. Leadership should be at the grassroots level. The best changes come from those who are living and breathing the problem.
- Leaders are doers, not just talkers.
- Leaders need to convince others that there is an issue to change and that the issue is important to those involved in the change.
- Leaders should build capacity within others, so that change can continue without them.
My project for this program is the development of a Student Technology Leaders Network across our partnership. This came about by working through the EC change process, in which we identified our beliefs about education and what our schools should look like and what the reality is at the present time. We considered the problems that we could solve in order to shift our reality towards our beliefs. For me, I believe that children must have access to and an ability to use digital technologies, as well as create digital solutions. Why? In my experience, students tend to engage more with their learning when digital technologies are used and they help to develop a wide range of skills required for students’ futures.
At my current site, we are very fortunate to have access to a wide range of digital technologies, such as laptops, iPads, Beebots, Spheros, Ozobots, LEGO Mindstorms, MakeyMakeys, 3D Printers and so on. However, for the most part, they remain stored in our STEM space (except for the laptops and iPads). I believe that the main root cause of this is due to teacher capacity (and I’m sure that this is common across many sites). How do we get started with technology? How do we incorporate it authentically into cross-curricula units of work? How do we assess student use?
I feel very passionately about teachers learning with and from students. I believe that our students are the people in our school who have, arguably, the most knowledge and passion about technology and that we should harness this in order to incorporate technology more purposefully into lessons. At our site, we have a Digital Leaders program that was established by Graham Wegner, our previous Assistant Principal, ICT, Data and Admin. These students complete digital projects, run lunchtime sessions for students and offer support to some classes. My vision is to expand upon this, so that we have groups of students across our partnership who provide professional development and ICT support to staff and students. This will include teaching teachers and students about new technologies, integrating technologies into lesson plans, creating resources and tutorials for staff and students and helping to maintain technologies. During Term 2, I found that numerous students were interested, but they also valued their time completing their own projects. It now becomes a balancing act between giving students that time to develop their own skills, whilst also finding the time to develop their leadership skills. They have some great ideas about how to use technology in the classroom (e.g. “You can just add a mod to Minecraft to learn about natural disasters”), but they need more scaffolding on how to break this information down to those of us have no idea what a ‘mod’ is!
The concept of Digital Leaders is not a new one (see Digital Leader Network and Generation YES as a start), but as I have learned through the EC process, it’s okay to steal good ideas. During Term 3, I’ll be looking more into what is already established in order to see how we can use and build upon these programs across our site (and hopefully partnership).