One of my professors recently asked our class to reflect on the ways in which we are digital age leaders at our school sites or within our school districts. That was a great assignment because it forced me to think about that idea and really dig into the concept of what a digital age leader is.
Here is my reflection: If you had asked me ten years ago if I would ever be a "Digital Age Leader," I would have laughed out loud. I was always two or three cell phone models behind my friends, and as an English teacher, found myself rather happily immersed in essays and discussions involving Emerson, Thoreau, Jack Kerouac, and Emily Dickinson- not at all pondering how I could navigate those items digitally. Honestly, it never occurred to me that we would be where we are now in education. Whether I realize it or not, I am a digital age leader in my school district, in my family, and within my circle of friends. But the digital world can be interesting to navigate. To some people, the knowledge I have of technology and how to integrate it into learning experiences in a way that is transformative... well, it's amazing to some people who aren't doing that yet. To others, I know what the average person knows, and to some... well, I look up to them when it comes to amazingness with technology in the classroom and the flexible, forward thinking mindset that goes with it. It just depends.
I can say for certain that what my school site is doing with online and blended learning, no other school is doing yet in our district. We are on the frontier, and we have become comfortable with being on the frontier. I have to say it is both an uncomfortable and exciting place to be. On one hand, it is uncomfortable because the road is unpaved. We are dealing with logistical factors in education that no one in our district has encountered before, and we are obviously trying to navigate it with grace and with the best interest of students in mind. But it has its share of frustrations. For example, our site offers concurrent enrollment to other high school students in VUSD... but , as a school of choice we have to be specific and selective about which students we accept into our courses. The reason is, our courses are teacher-created and offered online with very little built-in support, meaning that students work mainly independently, and must come to our school with the ability to manage time well, and be resourceful, especially when struggling with course content. It is tough for counselors and teachers at other schools to understand this, because"alternative education" in the past has really only included watered-down, packet-based credit recovery programs such as what has typically been offered at continuation high schools. Many school counselors require quite a demonstration of how our 4X4, online and blended program works before they understand that our courses are very rigorous, fast-paced, and require a certain skill set in order for students to be successful.
I've also come to see another way in which I am definitely a digital age leader: I'm not afraid of technology. I have learned that I can learn any piece of technology. I can click around within a new tool and I won't break it. So I have come to understand that being a digital age leader is mostly a mindset rather than a set of tech skills. Last January I accepted a position in my school district as a blended and online learning resource teacher, and when I did that, many people automatically began to assume that I expertly know every tech tool and piece of technology out there, which is absolutely preposterous. I don't know every tech tool at all. . . I am just confident that I can learn it, and willing to put in the time to learn it.
More than anything, I can say that being a digital age leader in education means that I have had a MAJOR mind shift in what education is and what it can look like in the 21st century. This course, along with others in this program (like EDL 630 and our Enterprise Architecture and Design Thinking courses), have truly realigned my thinking in regards to education. I am all in with personal learning and authentic educational exploration. I have led workshops on Voice, Choice, and Authenticity because I have become so passionate about this pursuit. My own children tell me that they don't like school. They don't like they way they are taught. I don't like hearing that, and I can only hope that what I teach, role model, discuss and present is helping us along the way toward what is possible in education in the digital age.
To sum up what I have learned through this master's program about what it means to be a leader in the digital age, these are the most important elements of a digital age leader: