Leading and Learning in the 21st Century

One of the great byproducts of my transformation into a transparent, connected learning leader has been the terrific relationships that I have built along the way.  In many ways, this guest blog series has only strengthen those relationships, which is exactly the case with today’s guest blogger, Deron Durflinger.  Deron and I met on Twitter, quickly realizing that we were both passionate about transforming schools away from the factory model that we are all too familiar with, to one that utilizes connective devices to make learning available anywhere at anytime.  As Principal of Van Meter High School, Deron is doing just that as he not only shepherds their move to a 1:1, textbook-free environment, he is helping oversee the development of a virtual program at the  school as well.  Van Meter is one of only two high schools in the world known to be doing both.

What I really appreciate about Deron is his willingness to share with colleagues around the world and students at Van Meter.  His blog is chock full of current research, trends and opportunities and lately he has been asking his students to guest-blog as well.  A true learning leader, I am honored to have Deron contribute to TransLeadership.

Leading is all about learning.  If we keep that as our focus, we can transform schools of today into what is needed for tomorrow. If all stakeholders (including administrators) are true learners, change is still difficult, however, it is not only possible, it is inevitable.  We must be willing to practice what we preach.  Changing and adapting to the world around us must be a  major part of how we do business as educational leaders.

There are certain skills an effective leader must possess to truly have an impact on an organization.  Most of these skills have been used by superintendents and principals for decades.  A leader must be:

  • Moral and Ethical
  • Trustworthy
  • Courageous
  • Energetic
  • Committed
  • Dedicated
  • Passionate
  • Inspiring
  • Goal-Oriented
  • Data-Driven
  • Organized
  • Visionary

There are many other characteristics one could add to the list.  Each of these skills are still critical to be an effective leader in schools today, but there are other skill sets required today that maybe were not needed by building principals and superintendents of 50 years ago.

Right or wrong, the world is different today, and it will continue to change. This means that schools must also change, and the only ways schools will change is if the leaders of the educational system are willing to make the necessary alterations to their leadership skills.  An effective leader today cannot just manage the people of the organization, but he/she must also be able to do the following:

  • Develop a Shared Vision
  • Empower
  • Collaborate
  • Communicate
  • Adapt
  • Build Relationships

As I think about the characteristics above, all but one of them have to deal with working on a team.  Empowering all members of the organization to be a leader by developing a shared vision through collaboration, communication, and building relationships.  Today instead of one person leading the charge, it takes a team effort for schools to change.  If a leader today is not able to get its team members on board with the needed changes, it just won’t happen.

Locally, effective leaders can have a significant impact on its students.  Students need to be empowered to control their own learning within their passions, so we can develop global, digital citizens who can THINK, LEAD, & SERVE.  At Van Meter, we feel we have made significant steps in improving our already high-performing school. We have created a shared-vision, and we plan on being a total transformed school by 2012.

What will this look like?  Our school will put the student at the center of all decisions, and adjust according to his or her needs.  This is the gist of the plan:

  • We will see the use of flexible time for students to take classes. We plan on using asynchronous scheduling for a hybrid learning environment of both face to face and online classes.
  • We will be more flexible with our space as well.  Students will not necessarily meet at school for classes. We want to provide as many learning opportunities as possible for them, so classes will be just as likely to take place off campus as on.
  • We want student learning to be as personalized as possible, and we envision all students helping develop their own learning plans based on their individual passions.
  • Students will have a voice equal to that of the adults in designing this system. They need to be empowered to design this new system.
  • There are other components involved, and technology will be a key aspect to any change we make. Through our one to one program, students are able to connect, create, and share what they know on a whole new level. This has empowered our students in ways we would not have imagined a year ago. By using the tools available for our staff and students, we have created an environment totally focused on the learning of all stakeholders. Not only has this empowered our students, it has empowered our teachers and it has led to a better relationship amongst students and staff.

To learn more about how Van Meter Schools is hoping to help lead the change in our own school for now, and on a broader scale in the future, check out the conversation going on at the #vanmeter hashtag. To see some of the things we are doing now, be sure to check out some of the links within this post.  We look forward to being a part of the conversation.

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One Response to Leading and Learning in the 21st Century

  1. Pingback: Leading and Learning in the 21st Century (via TransLeadership) « Grand View Tech Blog

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