We recently had several school district leaders join us at Fuel Education for a session and share insights on the challenges that they face within their communities. We took a deep dive into issues such as personalized learning environments, keeping students on track, supporting learning acceleration programs, addressing overcrowding, and incorporating technology inside and outside the classroom. Every leader brought a different experience from their own district, but one this is certain: blended learning environments are here and they are changing how districts operate.
So when we read this blog post from Tom Vander Ark, we wanted to share it with our readers. Tom is the author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World and founder of GettingSmart.com. In this piece, Tom acknowledges change is occurring, but even with change, educational leaders have a responsibility to honor the core of what makes an exceptional learning environment—well—great.
Here is what he says:
Everything is changing…
- Mobile devices and apps; adaptive instruction; teachers, parents, and kids flipping and blending their own learning.
- Online learning and new tools are being blended into new school models that leverage great teaching with technology.
- And, just beginning to emerge, learner profiles, smart playlists, customized and competency-based pathways.
Everything is changing… except for a bunch of stuff that isn’t…
- Great teaching matters… a lot.
- Great schools have safe, supportive environments.
- Educators (and parents) can be risk averse.
Everything is changing… except for a bunch of stuff that isn’t… so what does it mean for EdLeaders?
- EdLeaders need to balance execution and innovation:
- EdLeaders need to be design thinkers open to new approaches; IDEO’s Tim Brown suggests that takes insight, observation, and empathy;
- EdLeaders are conversation leaders building intimacy, interactivity, inclusion, and intentionality; and
- EdLeaders need to be policy advocates for local and state policies that extend opportunity and equity.
Confused at a higher level? Here are a couple specific suggestions for improving the quality and effectiveness of principal preparation:
- As Digital Learning Now! suggests, certification should be performance-based. Schools, districts, and networks should have the ability to work with any organization they choose to craft leadership development pathways. School leaders should earn reciprocal certification based on demonstrated performance.
- Districts and networks should refuse to hire leaders that come out of inadequate preparation programs. Working with other districts, they should demand preparation partnerships aligned with something like the Urban Excellence Framework.
- Like military leadership development, districts/networks should identify promising talent, provide broadening experiences, on-the-job training, and more candid feedback.
- Like Leadership Public Schools, districts can distribute innovation projects among schools giving a large number of teacher leaders valuable project-based collaborative leadership experiences.
- Like learning experiences for entrepreneurs at General Assembly, high quality on-the-job training (online and blended) should be available from experts and with talented peers.
It’s time to rethink leadership preparation in education. The old university model is obsolete, expensive, and time consuming. It’s time for new pathways and new partnerships that prepare leaders for the schools our children deserve.
To read Tom’s full post, click HERE. Tom is author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World and founder of GettingSmart.com. Tom is also a partner in Learn Capital and a director of iNACOL, Imagination Foundation, Charter Board Partners, Strive for College, AdvancePath, and Bloomboard.