Reflections from Digital Leadership

Digital Leadership Takeaways
Digital Leadership Takeaways

About a month ago I started to read Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger.  His book is full of leadership strategies that are applicable at any school level.  Specifically, he speaks of how to integrate technology in schools and the reasoning to do so.  While reading I took out of my highlighter and it was busy as they’re many gems in the book.   I thought the topics on the role of technology in the classroom and student content creation opportunities were especially intriguing. I’ve outlined my takeaways and reflections below.

1.  Combining pedagogically experienced educators with technology-savvy students can be beneficial

Students often come into the classroom with an average to above average understanding of how to use technology.  Their understanding of technology can benefit a classroom and the learning experiences within.  I like the concept of being able to combine background knowledge of technology-savvy students and pedagogically experienced educators.  Weaving instructionally sound teachers and technology can reap dividends.  Both parties bring an understanding to the table.  Merging both can can turn technology into a tool for learning.

2. Students need to be aware that technology tools are for learning  

I believe that students are aware of the capabilities of the devices that they use, although understanding how they can be used for learning is another story.  I think this is where it’s essential for pedagogically experienced educators to seek avenues to combine  the capabilities of the device with learning opportunities. The transition from a perceived consuming/gaming device to a learning device may take time.  Due to corporate marketing and education success stories, I believe that transition is taking place in the field of education.  Naming them as learning devices also reinforces the concept that technology in schools can contribute to the learning process.  Regardless of the device, the opportunities for learning exist.  Educators and students can benefit from revealing this possibility.

 3.  Students’ learning experiences become more meaningful when they use real-world tools to show conceptual mastery

It’s becoming clear that technology devices can be utilized to showcase conceptual mastery. This year my students created online tutorials and various projects to demonstrate their learning of mathematical concepts.  Based on my end-of-year survey, students found the content creation projects meaningful.  Seeing that they were published online and available for comments provided opportunities to showcase their projects for an authentic audience.  To be honest, not all projects were optimal and I’m going to make changes for next year, but I was encouraged to see students use real-world tools to demonstrate learning.

4.  The aim is that students move towards creating an actual product.  They need opportunities to show what they’ve learned in a variety of forms

Students in many classes are expected to show mastery of particular concepts through worksheets, usually categorized as unit assessments.  Many times this is mandatory, in the form of district summative testing or state-wide standardized assessments.  Students should be afforded the opportunity to showcase their learning beyond worksheets. Technology devices and apps offer presentation tools that didn’t exist before.  These student content creation tools also give students opportunities to infuse their projects with voice and creativity. This aspect brings student ownership and an opportunity to extend their learning beyond the requirements.  I’ve found that student content creation can showcase learning while providing a lead to engage students in their own curiosity regarding a particular concept. With flexibility and clear expectations, this  type of product can show learning and at the same time be a publishing opportunity for students.

photo credit: Jamais Cascio via photopin cc

Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

2 thoughts on “Reflections from Digital Leadership”

  1. Matt, my first two weeks of summer “vacation” have been spent getting to know Canvas (brief video here), the learning management (work flow) system purchased for our district’s middle school and high school teachers. What you are doing is so much more visionary and creative than submitting an online assignments using iAnnotate. While I found it “fun” designing pages and creating the first couple of weeks of lesson content, the students need to be creating at least as much as the teachers. Canvas has its place in terms of keeping students organized and going paperless, but we need to be more creative than that. In the fall I’ll be more comfortable assigning some creative, alternative assessments in math so I’ll be looking to you for some ideas on choices. I’m curious, what does the author say about LMS’s like Canvas, Blackboard, etc.?


    1. Hi Mary, It’s encouraging to hear that the district is moving towards using a cloud-based LMS next year.

      I watched your video and Canvas looks like it will help with organization, collecting student data and possibly useful for a flipped classroom model. I appreciate how you included the Mathematical Practices on your schedule for the students. I’d like to incorporate that idea someway in the fall.

      The author discusses cloud computing and open source resources, but doesn’t necessarily speak in detail about specific learning systems. Eric’s high school might use a system, but I didn’t find any information about that in the book. His district and teachers use many different open source tools: Google Apps for Education, GDrive, Wikis, etc.). Here’s the New Milford District technology manual.

      Last year the student creation projects that I assigned were supplemental or substituted different curriculum checkpoints throughout the year. It’s definitely something I want to expand on next year. I’m researching a few different student content creation opportunities over the summer and will share once I have some concrete options.


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