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Strong School Leaders Key to Solving Digital Age Education Challenges

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By Brian Lewis, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

As I begin my new role as ISTE CEO and we plan for our first ISTE Leadership Forum next month in Indianapolis, the concept of "leadership" is top of mind for me. When thinking about the challenges facing schools today, it's clear that the demand for transformative education leadership is unprecedented.

School leaders recognize this better than anyone. As they face escalating demands for accountability, the rise in mobile-learning technologies, shrinking resources, implementation of Common Core Standards, the balancing of instruction and assessment — the list is seemingly endless — leaders are grappling with identifying pragmatic solutions to these digital age dilemmas.

Meeting these challenges requires two things: strong leadership and collaborative problem solving. And while technology itself is not a panacea, when used effectively it can provide powerful tools for addressing myriad challenges facing schools today.

Adding to the complexity of these challenges is that there are no cookie-cutter solutions that can be applied to every school. Each of the more than 14,000 U.S. school districts serves a unique student population with its own local needs and concerns. While 1:1 learning with tablets might transform teaching and learning for students in a mid-sized district in Pennsylvania, virtual learning might be the key to ensuring success for students in a large district in California. Using Twitter and mobile apps to communicate with parents might fit the bill in a community with high-tech assets, but in an area without high levels of home connectivity, schools might need to rely on more traditional home-school communications tools.

To develop pragmatic solutions to these digital age challenges, school leaders need opportunities to thoughtfully explore and discuss their options, as well as learn from one another's experiences. Our inaugural ISTE Leadership Forum will give teams of superintendents, principals, CIOs, CTOs, CBOs, curriculum leaders and tech coordinators the opportunity to do just that with the assistance of the Forum's lead facilitator and international authority on education reform, Michael Fullan. School leaders engaged in the change process will collaboratively discover key strategies for their districts to use in maximizing their tech investments and stretching their dollars; leveraging social media for instruction and establishing social-media policies; employing technology to meet the Common Core State Standards; supporting and motivating staff to embrace new strategies; and engaging tech tools to assist with parent communication and involvement.

Through five interactive learning strands, they will delve deeply into a discussion of digital age leadership, explore the essential conditions for effectively leveraging technology for learning, participate in hands-on bring your own device workshops and, perhaps most importantly, have numerous opportunities to network, collaborate and brainstorm.

Chris Lehmann, who will be the keynote speaker at the forum, knows first-hand what it's like to be a transformational leader. He's the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy, an inquiry-driven, project-based, one-to-one laptop science and technology high school in Philadelphia. Chris recently said that the way to get people to re-imagine education is to "Help them see the vision. Help them to see the path to new ways of doing things. Give them models." By participating in collaborative learning opportunities, such as the ISTE Leadership Forum, as well as online communities, social media sites and numerous other conferences, forums and workshops, school leaders are illuminating that path to clearly transform education in their own communities, throughout the nation, and across the globe.

Change is constant in education, with new challenges arising almost every day. But we know that the world of technology will continue to evolve to help us address those challenges. Best of all, we can remain confident that innovative school leaders will continue to work together to ensure that all students reach their potential.


Views expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its members.

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