Leading Change | Voices from #FETC

How are school leaders managing the pace of change and explosion of technology?

The Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando, FL gathered thousands of educators for a non-stop techfest of  keynotes, sessions, and exhibits. Lisa Schmucki, the founder of edWeb.net, attended and was particularly interested in hearing how school leaders are managing the pace of change and the explosion of technology now available to all of us as consumers and for our students and schools. This was a theme in all of the presentations and is affecting how leaders lead, how teachers teach, and how students learn and can be prepared for their own futures. Another common theme was the importance of servant leadership. “True leaders – in any capacity – strive to make those around them successful and in so doing, they ‘serve'” from Lessons in Leadership.

Ann McMullan, Founder & Lead Consultant, Ann McMullan Education Consultant, presented on the topic Challenging Times Demand Effective Change Leaders. Ann noted that education is always dealing with change, but today’s challenges are unique and different, and even more challenging. When she started her own consulting business, she thought it would be about tech, but she received so many questions about leadership and how you lead change. Administrators are facing a lot of challenges. Ann asked members of the audience what were the biggest challenges they face. Answers were:

  • Time for teacher professional development
  • Time to implement change
  • Processes and a leadership team to manage change
  • Helping teachers know what’s worth their time

There were some comments about the willingness of teachers to apply themselves and accept change. Is it a willingness to put in the effort? a fear of making a mistake? difficulty in getting our brains to make a shift and do something differently? Ann had the attendees read an article by Chris Dede, Professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, Preparing for the Future Means Unlearning What We Know.

Ann highlighted key elements that are needed for effective leadership. It doesn’t matter how you came to be a leader, nor who you are leading. There are basic leadership skills that apply in every leadership scenario:

  • Define your goals
  • Engage your stakeholders
  • Develop a shared vision and mission
  • Empower and support other district leaders

Ann also stressed the importance of servant leadership, and pointed out that parents and teachers are leaders, too, and we should honor them more. “True leaders – in any capacity – strive to make those around them successful and in so doing, they ‘serve'” from Lessons in Leadership.

Eric Sheninger, Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership, International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE), presented on the topic Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. Eric noted the pace of change has created disruption in every sector and is increasing exponentially. Some of the biggest companies in the world today didn’t exist 10 years ago, and some of the biggest brands don’t own the content they distribute.

  • Facebook, the largest content provider, creates no content
  • Uber, the largest taxi company, owns no human driven taxis
  • Airbnb, the largest hotel chain, owns no real estate
  • Netflix, the largest movie provider, owns no cinemas

How are we preparing our students for this new world? How are you preparing them in your school or district? We need to transform their learning today. “We need to focus more on the ‘what ifs’ instead of the ‘yeah buts.'” And the learning needs to be personal. Technology shouldn’t be separate from good pedagogy. If we don’t get the instructional design right, we just speed up the rate of failure. Leadership is about action and is reflected in Eric’s keys to strong leadership:

  • Learn
  • Empower
  • Adapt
  • Delegate
  • Engage
  • Reflect
  • Serve

What about your own professional learning? Put aside 15-20 minutes every day. Have a PLN!  Share, share, share. If your kids are doing great things, share it! “Connectivity is a way of life for our students. Take it away from them and they will check out… It all comes down to relationships. Without trust there is no real relationship. Without relationships, there is no real learning.”

Dr. Darryl Adams, Rock & Roll, Hip Hop & Soul Superintendent & Tech Evangelist, presented on Becoming a 21st Century Administrator. Darryl emphasized the importance of servant leadership in his presentation. “It’s about the team coming together and unleashing creativity. Be the leader who’s a coach and gives credit to others.” Darryl has been recognized for his innovation in putting WiFi on school buses in his district and parking them in neighborhoods where students don’t have internet access. Yet he says, “It’s not about the technology, it’s about heart, soul, spirit, and connection.” He had the audience up and singing a 21st century leadership rap:

Leaders are the glue that holds it all together
In any kind of challenge and any kind of weather
Leaders are the ones that show the most concern
When we see students are failing to grow and learn
Leaders will sacrifice if you’re not aware
To guarantee equality on that I swear
And the truth of the matter it’s all about the team
To visualize and realize the making of the dream

21st Century Leaders in the House
Leadership Is What We’re All About!

Darryl’s keys to leadership success are all around a Servant Leadership Model:
  • Value People
  • Develop People
  • Build Community
  • Display Authenticity
  • Provide Leadership
  • Share Leadership
Darryl made a clear distinction between being a boss and being a leader. Being a 21st century leader is connecting as a human being. It’s about TLC: trust, love, and collaboration. Servant leadership makes an impact on the world. When education thrives, democracy survives.

 About the presenters

Ann McMullan is founder and lead consultant of her own education consulting firm, based in Los Angeles, CA. The focus of her work is leadership, visioning and planning, targeted to making learning relevant for all students. Ann is a presenter at international, national, and state education conferences. She is a writer and co-authored Life Lessons in Leadership: The Way of the Wallaby, a guide for leaders ages eight to eighty-eight. Ann serves on the advisory boards of PowerMyLearning LA, and Project Tomorrow and is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Digital Education. Prior to her family’s move to Los Angeles, Ann was Executive Director of Educational Technology, in Klein ISD, Texas, which is recognized as a national leader and model district for transforming learning and teaching through technology. Ann served as co-chair of the Texas Educational Technology Advisory Committee that developed the Texas Long Range Plan for Technology 2006-2020. @ann_mcmullan

Eric Sheninger is a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership with the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE). Prior to this he was the award-winning Principal at New Milford High School. Under his leadership his school became a globally recognized model for innovative practices. Eric oversaw the successful implementation of several sustainable change initiatives that radically transformed the learning culture at his school while increasing achievement. His work focuses on leading and learning in the digital age as a model for moving schools and districts forward. He has emerged as an innovative leader, best selling author, and sought after speaker. His main focus is purposeful integration of technology to facilitate student learning, improve communications with stakeholders, enhance public relations, create a positive brand presence, discover opportunity, transform learning spaces, and help educators grow professionally. @E_Sheninger

Dr. Darryl Adams, recently retired Superintendent of Coachella Valley School District was recognized by President Obama as a Top 100 Innovative Superintendent in the nation. His district was the first in the nation to provide an iPad for all his 20,000 students and 24/7 internet access via his Wifi-on-Wheels bus initiative! Dr. Adams has been named as one of the most influential voices in education by Tech & Learning Magazine and the Center for Digital Education has honored him as one of the Top 30 Technologists, Transformers & Trailblazers in the nation in digital conversion and he is a 2017 NASS Superintendent of the Year Finalist! Dr. Adams’ impact as a creative motivational leader is second to none as he intertwines life stories, song and rap to “edutain” audiences everywhere and that is why he is known as the “the Rock & Roll, Hip Hop & Soul Superintendent!” @TheEdutainor