My Digital Leap Accelerates: CoSN 2015 Reflection


CoSN 2015 was thought provoking for me just as it always is. I heard some new ideas, and I heard some old ideas in new ways than I had heard them before. I’m categorizing the ideas into two main areas–leading school leaders and supplanting instead of supplementing with digital resources.

Leading School Leaders

Michael Fullan (@MichaelFullan1) was the first keynote speaker at the conference. I heard him speak about assessments many years ago. I liked much of what I heard at that time, and I was looking forward to hearing more. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find him talking more about leadership now, and I really identified with what he had to say.

One main point he made several times was that leadership must happen from the middle. For example, for change to occur within a district, the middle leadership–the principals–must lead the district through the change. I hadn’t really heard the term before, but it made me think of the concept of hardwiring (from Quint Studer’s Hardwiring Excellence) a habit. Hardwiring means to do something until it’s a regular, natural occurrence. The principals must be invested in the leadership initiative to make it happen at their schools. They must believe in it, see it the same way as the other leaders, and lead their staff toward it. Michael Fullan called the leader the Lead Learner–someone working in a collaborative and cooperative way with the other learners to move the school or district forward.

My big take away from hearing Michael Fullan speak is that I must find ways to communicate my ideas about how to move the district toward our shared vision. At the CETL Summit on Thursday, there was a session on communicating with leaders. I didn’t get any kind of magic method to communicate. What I heard was communication with other leaders should be frequent, short, and diverse. Above all else in communication, I have to find ways to enhance relationships with individuals and build trust.

Supplanting Instead of Supplementing with Digital Resources

I’ve spent years telling people that I want technology to be used in the classroom as a supplement to improve learning. I believe an effective teacher doesn’t really need technology to effectively teach students, and I believe that students don’t really need technology to effectively learn. So when I’ve heard people talk about replacing traditional learning materials with digital learning materials, I’ve never really been a fan. However, hearing David Irwin speak about digitization of learning (electronic versions of print) versus digitalizing learning (resources designed for digital learning) had a big impact on my thought process. It made me realize that as long as keep supplementing with digital resources designed as supplements to traditional texts, we don’t have much opportunity to make the full transition to digitalizing learning.