innovative leadership for digital learning by Metiri Group

Innovative Leadership: Digital Learning Framework

We apologize for what was an unexpected and unavoidable delay in getting to the final component of the framework. We know you’ve been waiting with bated breath! The day has finally arrived! It’s time to dig a little deeper into our innovative leadership component of our digital learning framework.

Innovative Leadership: Last Not Least

While this is the last component in our framework, that certainly doesn’t speak to its importance. Many an initiative has failed in schools because of lack of support at the highest levels. While leadership alone is not enough, without it success is extremely unlikely. Leaders establish a culture and expectation for innovation that is necessary to drive and sustain digital learning initiatives.

Innovative Leadership: Four Interconnected Elements

Like many of the other components of the framework, this one has four elements:

  • A shared, forward-thinking vision for digital learning
  • A culture of collaboration, innovation, capacity building, and empowerment
  • High expectations for evidence-based transformations to digital learning
  • Transformative, coherent thinking, planning, policies, and implementation

It’s always difficult to separate out the elements of success, but it’s particularly difficult with leadership. How do you have a vision without expectations? How do you even start down the path of digital learning without thinking about innovation? One of the reasons great leadership is difficult to teach is because it’s difficult to describe. There’s no manual and no single recipe. So, while we have identified these four elements, we recognize that they likely don’t exist separately but are completely intertwined and integrated into a leader’s everyday practice.

Innovative Leadership: Expect Great Things

Those of us who have always been the early adopters of technology really succeeded in spite of the expectations set by leaders. We did it because we thought it was important, while others with different priorities focused on what they thought was important. This results in very uneven implementation of anything, and especially digital learning given the long-term commitment one needs to make to keep current with changing technologies and pedagogies. An effective leader of a digital learning initiative establishes and reinforces expectations, provides the support that stakeholders need to meet these expectations, and implements appropriate metrics to assess progress and inform decisions along the way. Most importantly, this leader models what he/she wants to see. Screwing up publicly is really a necessary component of this, as people need be comfortable with failure in order to find success.

Innovative Leadership: Lead Don’t Stifle

It also requires empowering others to make decisions, make mistakes, and learn from each other. It’s an interesting balance of setting clear expectations and holding people accountable, but also encouraging and supporting others as they innovate. This article from THE Journal does a great job of describing how to maintain this balance.

Innovative Leadership: Ask How It Can Go Wrong

One component of leadership that can be overlooked is putting policies in place that align with the vision and expectations. For example, a teacher who plans to use blended learning can be stymied when her students don’t have the technology necessary for learning outside of class. If the school’s policies do not fill in these gaps by providing access outside of school hours in one way or the other, the teacher’s efforts are sure to fail as she is forced to provide instruction during class time that was intended to happen at home. After committing to a digital learning initiative, spend time thinking about all the ways it will go belly up, then figure out how to keep that from happening!

Innovative Leadership: Who Do You Know?

That’s obviously a brief presentation, but this particular component is really better described with examples. Do you know a great, innovative leader? Tell us all about him/her. We’d love to give credit where credit is due!

Next week we’ll talk about strategies for innovative leadership. As always, contact us if you need anything in the meantime or to share your stories of successful leaders.

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