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Digital Leadership: A New Paradigm Shift

Many thanks to Dr. Steven Locascio, the Director of Educational Leadership at Kean University, and Courtney Pepe, a Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction in New Jersey, for this guest post.

Leadership has transformed over the years. Long gone are the days when school leaders managed employees using a top-down approach. Today, school leaders are expected to not only be collaborative and run the day-to-day functions of the school but also serve as instructional leaders. It is also not enough for leaders to only have a fundamental knowledge of technology; they need to embrace it from an instructional perspective and utilize it as a platform to share ideas and best practices. The questions then become, how does this get accomplished? and what should it ultimately be called?

Educational leadership programs are numerous and teach many important topics. Yes, school law, school finance, organizational theory, and curriculum development will always be important; but it now appears as though digital leadership is a new frontier that is only minimally offered as part of leadership training. We recently had the chance to create our own digital leadership program from the ground up with Kean University Board of Trustee Member, Dr. Lamont Repollet.

To do so, we posed two essential questions: what should be focused on when considering digital leadership? and what should educational leadership programs be promoting? We think that the following key tips and suggestions should be considered moving forward.

#1: Digital Leadership is More Than 10K Followers On Twitter


Dr. Lamont Repollet, Superintendent of Schools in Asbury Park, NJ, uses social networking platforms such as Twitter to share school accomplishments with the community at large.

Sometimes it is important to remember that quality is better than quantity. We would never judge an educational leader by the number of Twitter followers that they have, but rather we should judge them by the content of their 140 characters. Digital leaders use tools like Twitter as part of their platform to establish a sense of connectedness with their school community and the community at large. We respect a school leader who follows and is followed by his or her teaching staff, custodial staff, parents, and students. Also, leaders should keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity when sending out tweets. Everything sent out by a leader becomes part of their personal digital brand and the brand of their school district. Dr. Lamont Repollet, who has been a turnaround superintendent in the Asbury, NJ School System explains that "being a digital leader is about building a positive brand for our schools and extending our audience. Social media has allowed us to reach beyond the parents of our students and engage the greater community. Now when we celebrate student success, the community celebrates student success."

#2: Digital Leadership is Research Based

We recently had the opportunity to build four new course syllabi for various digital leadership courses at Kean University. An important step in building these syllabi was finding all of the peer-reviewed articles that relate to various components of the digital leadership concept. There are many research studies which relate to the implementation of the TPACK model in 21st Century education as well as articles and books written by Michael Fullan about the relationship between technology, content, and pedagogy. While not as many peer-reviewed articles about the SAMR model exist as one might expect, it is still a great framework to use with future school leaders.

#3: Digital Leadership Mixes Educational Theory with Practical Experience

While the courses we designed had a theoretical component, it was also important to make sure that future digital leaders have access to practical experiences when they take their courses. Candidates need to consider the relationship between Bloom's Taxonomy, Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, as well as educational leadership and technology. However, it is also important that students have a variety of case studies about which they can think critically. In a recent course unit, we had students compare five different pieces of evidence that we took from a school district where one of us worked that went 1:1 with 2000 iPads in 2011. Looking at the elements of the case study and analyzing them to determine if the iPad implementation was effective will help to make our students more effective leaders. Too often, when interviewing for a principal vacancy, superintendents complain that these candidates are not prepared to handle the job and have no experience with educational technology. We are hoping to change all of that.

#4: Digital Leadership Courses MUST Be Rigorous and Relevant

The process in higher education to change program learning outcomes and course learning outcomes can be a complex one. Because of this, syllabi can often not be updated. In fact, digital leadership courses may need to be updated even more regularly than curriculum leadership and organizational theory courses. Digital leaders should avoid taking courses that have learning objectives that reference outdated technology practices such as candidates will be able to use a personal computer or students should be able to create a PowerPoint presentation. College of Education Deans, Educational Leadership Directors, and faculty need to constantly be making sure that their digital leadership courses infuse the latest best practices.

#5: Recruit Outside Talent to Work As Adjunct Professors in Digital Leadership

Monica Burns Book

We recruited Monica Burns as an adjunct professor. Her ACES framework, as it pertains to digital leadership, will be used in our Scannable to Wearable course.

In our efforts, we were able to recruit the internationally respected global educator Monica Burns. Monica recently published a book about the implications of scannable technology in schools. The concept of Scannable to Wearable Technology, a Voice for Generation Z will now actually be a course in our digital leadership certificate.

We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to create a new digital leadership certificate for Kean University. You can expect our graduates to conduct great research and to be innovative, 21st-century digital leaders in their schools.

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