I was recently tasked with peers to rank leadership characteristics and to agree upon; their order of importance from one to twenty. I anticipated that the process would be challenging, with the influence of schematic knowledge steering participants in different directions. Nevertheless, our group came to consensus quickly, and our top traits – competence, honesty, intelligence, and fair-mindedness, were congruent. Kouzes and Posner (2012) synthesized decades of their research in leadership development and analyzed data collected from six continents. Their findings indicated a consensus for the same highly ranked traits of desired leadership characteristics. These findings were profoundly interesting to me, and I considered if the advancement of educational technologies is impacting the perceived qualities leaders require in twenty-first-century learning environments?
Sheninger (2019) postulated that while the principles of leadership remained intact, digital learning environments required digital leaders that understand and will champion the use of digital technologies. In the context of higher education, I have witnessed many leaders that are late in the fundamental understandings and adoption of technologies. These laggards often display the regarded traits identified by Kouzes and Posner (2012) though they still lack digital leadership skills. In addition to the essential digital literacies required, leaders need to embrace the transformation of traditional learning environments. Sheninger (2019) provided a framework of seven areas that could support leadership transformation and inform change in school culture. From my perspective, two of the identified areas could have a tremendous impact on teaching and learning at my institution; opportunity, and re-envisioning learning spaces and environments.
Programs will require modernization, as will educators teaching twenty-first-century learners. Progressive, digital leaders must find and provide opportunities for professional development to advance existing programs and professional practices. Educational technologies and applications are ever-evolving, and forward focussed digital leaders acknowledge this advancement and will infinitely search out new resources and training opportunities in pursuit of remaining relevant. Digital leaders will need to provide these professional development opportunities immediately and must anticipate technological progress to prepare and deliver these opportunities. Sheninger (2019) suggested that digital leaders will also require awareness and understanding of the vilifications that exist surrounding technological innovations. Many educators scoff at the notion of using social media for teaching and learning, and erroneous beliefs are contributing to the underutilization of mobile devices as a teaching and learning tool. Digital leaders will need to be forward-thinking, savvy, and practical to be successful in achieving academic buy-in.
The re-envisioning of learning spaces and environments will entail comprehensive strategic planning to set priorities and to guide the process. Sheninger (2019) argued that digital leaders must guide the implementation of the strategic plan to align systems to the digital world. Institutions are behind in providing digital learning opportunities for students. Many of the learning spaces within our brick and mortar walls are antiquated and do not support innovative learning opportunities. Digital leaders require an understanding of the eco-system that configures digital learning environments, including delivery modes and technical tools that support pedagogy.
The International Center for Leadership in Education [Authored by Jones, 2010] created the rigor and relevance framework; an instrument used to analyze curriculum and constructive alignment. Sheninger (2019) has itemized and aligned digital tools with the rigor and relevance framework to support best pedagogical practices. Digital leaders can rely on these tools to assist them in the quest for institutional culture change. The revitalization of traditional learning spaces and environments is iterative, and digital leaders that are committed to the modernization of education can ultimately achieve a “digital learning culture that is relevant, meaningful, applicable, and provides all students with the skills to succeed” (Sheninger, 2019, para.6)
Are your institutions prepared to modernize? Do you have the digital leaders you need?
Jones, R. (2010). Rigor and relevance handbook (2nd ed.). Rexford, N.Y.: International Center for Leadership in Education.
Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2012). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Sheninger, E. (2019, December). Pillars of Digital Leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from http://leadered.com/pillars-of-digital-leadership/