During the week I was asked by the principal to represent the Middle Years (5-9) on a new ICT Committee. Although the school has invested in a lot of ICT, there has been very little explicit leadership to drive it. Often ICT was the last dot point of many on the list of responsibilities allocated to various leading teachers in the school. Instead it has been driven by leadership with a little l, those staff who have a passion and interest in the area. 
 
The first task set for the group is to develop a three year plan. Thinking about where the school might be in three years time got me reflecting how far things have evolved in the past three years. Here are just a few changes:
 

Collaboration and the Cloud

Three years ago, staff and students were dependent on the school share drives to share resources. The only way to really collaborate was through email. As I have stated elsewhere, the problem with this is that the ‘original’ document often gets lost in the process, meaning that everyone ends up adding their information to the files on the share drive. The move online began with detentions and reading conferences. Since then it has included sharing a wider range of resources, including planning documents and lesson activities.
 

Listening to Students

Gone is the dependency on hands up and sticky notes on the board, there are now so many interactive ways to involve students in their learning. Whether it be using ActivExpressions attached to the whiteboards or websites like Socrative and Answergarden on the web, there is an array of technology available to engage students.
 

Interaction vs. Presentation.

Although projectors and interactive whiteboards were around in the school long before three years ago, there use in last few years has progressed from simply delivering presentations to being an essential part of the lesson. Whether that means embedding hidden videos to improve the flow of a lesson or sorting information to promote discussion. More teachers are using them to actually create content that sparks conversation and student learning.
 

Online Spaces

Starting with the Ultranet and since moving to Edmodo, online spaces are progressively being used to not only convey information, but also celebrate student learning. Whether it be setting a quiz for homework, rather than giving out a sheet, or providing students with regular feedback, these spaces supplement learning and provide an option for students and teachers that was not available three years ago.
 

Portable Devices

The only portable devices available three years ago were digital cameras and Flip Cams. Since then, iPads have progressively been distributed amongst principal class and leading teachers to aide with administration, as well as support in regards to teaching. In addition to this, more and more staff are utilizing their smart devices, such as tablets and phones to support their work. This has made a considerable difference to communication, for when the server is down, teachers are no longer in the dark. Many simply access emails and other such information via their phones. In a school with 60+ staff, this is significant.
 

Supporting Teaching, Learning and Administration

Whereas in the past staff would have to sort through various excel workbooks and create their own formulas, there is now a whole range of tools and programs available to support teaching and day to day learning, such as Student Management Tools and Student Performance Analyser. These applications allow teachers and administrators to not only share information, but also set a range of formulas that lets you sort through a various data sets in a more functional manner.
 

eSmart

One of the significant changes over the last few years has been to go through the process of becoming eSmart school. This has involved a range of processes including reviewing and refining school policies relating to wellbeing, developing an explicit curriculum educating students about the appropriate use of ICT, as well as connecting with members about the perils of cybersafety.
 
 
Looking back, it is interesting to consider how much has changed in such a small amount of time. I think therefore that the challenge over the next three years is not necessarily bringing in a whole set of programs and practises, rather it is building upon those foundations that have already been set so as to continue to redefine teaching and learning in and out of the classroom. 

One of the biggest issues within the school is that too many of the good things that have happened have done so in isolation. Therefore, in my view, moving on, it is an imperative that as a team we create a plan with clear goals for everyone, provide more personalised professional development and get more staff on board. For as +Dan Rockwell suggested in his post, “help is not helpful when it creates dependence.” At the moment, too much is left to too few and it just isn’t helping anyone.

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Over the past few years there seems to have been a push from some in education to make everyone a leader. There has been an effort to give power to a wider range of people, spreading leadership across the board. A part of this movement is a move from a top-down to a bottoms-up model. (See for example, such programs as Leading Teams and Restorative Justice, both of which focus on relationships as a way changing culture.) The two questions that come out of all these changes is ‘what is leadership?’ and ‘can everyone really be a leader?’
 
So, what is leadership? Dictorary.com defines leadership as:
the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group
Thinking about this, there are two things that need to be addressed. Firstly, what does it mean to ‘guide and direct’, and secondly, what does it mean to be in a ‘group’. In regards to first question, there are many ways to ‘guide and direct’. Sometimes it might be overseeing a project, monitoring everything, making sure that everyone is on task, other times it might be providing support through the development of curriculum or the implementation of an initiative. While in relation to ‘groups’ we are all a part of many groups at once, some that we maybe in charge of, others that we may simply be members of. Although this covers it, there is still something missing.
In addition to ‘guiding or directing a group’, leadership can also be thought about as both a naming word and a doing word. Often when we reflect upon the notion of leadership we are left pondering about those who have been appointed to various positions of responsibility, those in charge of making the big decisions, those whose choices have a visible impact on the set-up and structure of a school, those anointed with a title. The problem with this way of seeing things is that it does not capture the idea of leadership as a characteristic. On the other side of the coin are those who lead in the way they work. Although these people may not necessarily be named ‘leaders’, in charge of significant groups, be found in closed meetings, instead these people embody the principles of leadership in what they do in their day to day activities. +Dan Rockwell puts this best in his blog post ‘How to Become a Leader Before You are One’ when he says:

Reading and talking are useful, even essential, but experience matters most. Leadership is about practice more than theory. Every leadership behaviour can be practised as a volunteer.

Rockwell goes on to provide a long list of things that people can do to demonstrate leadership before they are actually leaders. Some of the examples that he provides include:
  • Take initiative.
  • Solve problems
  • Motivate others
  • Manage projects
  • Endure through adversity
  • Teach others your skills
  • Adapt to others
  • Deal with stagnation and resistance
  • Act with generosity and compassion

 

These are attributes that can easily be added. For as +sethgodin argued in a recent post, it is a poor excuse to simply suggest that some people are gifted with certain attributes, while others don’t. As he suggested:
Someone who is likable, honest, curious and thoughtful is easy to think of as gifted. This natural charisma and care is worth seeking out in the people we choose to work with.
The thing is, it’s a copout to call these things gifts. You might be born with a headstart in one area or another, you might be raised in a culture or with parents that reinforce some of these things, but these are attitudes, and attitudes can be taught, and they can be learned.

The same thing can be said about the characteristics of leadership. Although there can be only one principal or one head of a KLA, we all have the opportunity to learn new traits and be leaders on a daily basis.

The question that remains then is what stops everyone from having a meaningful impact when it comes to leadership? Returning to Leading Teams Model, often the answer relates to the culture of a school, the ability to develop a ‘trademark’ that everyone is able to buy into. The problem with this is that it does not marry well with the traditional top-down model of management where the power and control is held by a small group of leadership, rather than dispersed throughout the organisation. People need to not only be empowered, but their roles also need to be recognised in a meaningful way. This does not necessarily mean that everyone has to have a ‘named’ position. However, it does mean that those with power to make significant differences support those below them, not simply palm off those jobs and responsibilities that seem tedious or banal, giving them a legitimate voice. In the end, the first challenge to empowering everyone as a leader is how we support each other to get the most out of each and every situation.

How does your school or organisation support the idea of everyone as a leader? Does it work? Is it meaningful? Leave a comment below?

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