Author - Barbara Barreda

Looking Back to Move Forward…

Written by CUE Member and Guest Blogger Barbara Barreda

CC J Rawls Flickr

With the year winding down, it is important to carve out some time  to reflect on the year’s successes and the opportunities for growth. It is a chance to separate the urgent from the important and take stock of how well I filled the role of being the lead learner. This year reflecting on the traits of an effective leader takes on a special importance because I will be moving to a new assignment with new opportunities and challenges.

Over the last two years, our school focused on growth in two areas: capacity to integrate technology into the curriculum and embracing the Common Core standards. These are broad goals with many moving parts but for the purpose of this reflection I am considering the concept of  building capacity for growth, not the details of infrastructure, choosing devices or  testing protocols. We have had modest success sometimes through my leadership and occasionally in spite of me but in reflecting on the journey I have identified two things that I think are critical for effective leadership.

For an administrator leading change, one of the critical roles to embrace is that of digital curator. This is an emerging skill and the subject of many blogs. The post, Curation and Validation found on the blog, Elearning Island, helps define the skill and the process of curation. It also includes some good links to other articles. However, this is more than a skill to add to our curriculum. From the administrative perspective, it is an essential part of our tool box. Being a digital curator is important on many levels. Exposure to new ideas and practices are essential elements of building capacity to change.

On a personal level, when we hone the skill of curation we ensure that we are staying connected with developing ideas and best practice. Because curation is about sharing it also makes our own learning transparent which by default communicates that it is ok to not have all the answers. It demonstrates our commitment of time and energy to learning. It lightens the load for teachers, librarian or technology coordinator when we lead the process of finding new information, insights or examples. Actively curating information and getting the right information to the right people at the right time makes “just in time learning”  the norm not the exception. Curation also helps us focus on the needs of our community and our starting point  rather than a plethora of websites and information available. This is very important when you consider a Google search of Common Core yields 8.5 million hits.

The job of the digital curator, according to DK, is “to inspire, educate, challenge, explode wonder, [and] intrigue, curiosity, in their audience.”  This definition makes a strong case for all leaders, especially those wishing to build capacity for change, to embrace this role. Even if every member of your faculty has a well established Personal Learning Network and is actively involved in the educational communities of Twitter or Google+  they deserve our support encouragement and resources. Beyond the classroom, we also have the opportunity to use our skill as curators to inspire and intrigue the larger community including parents, students and other stakeholders.

Developing our skills as  digital curators is a great summer learning experience because it is a practical skill we can hone. Beyond digital curation,  another issue which impacts our ability to support the capacity for change is our ability to build a culture of transparency. This has long been discussed as a principle of leadership, but it takes on new dimensions in our socially connected world. A recent visit to my dentist’s website brought the point home for me. It challenged me, reminding me that as a professional educator we too need to keep our stakeholders informed and aware of our ongoing learning.

Transparency involves risk and a collaborative spirit that can handle pushback.  There have been several blog posts and references recently, to a webinar  by  Dr. Joe Mazza on edWeb which addresses leadership and transparency.  He makes several interesting points, but my dentists website and his suggestion that our in-service training notes, curriculum meeting minutes, and board minutes should be posted online have challenged me to a deeper commitment to transparency.

Dr. Mazza argues that this level of transparency “takes away the mystery” and helps the community understand why we do what we do. Dr. Mazza also equates transparency with an inquiry stance and an openness to new ideas. “Once teachers understand that the leadership is taking a risk, then they feel a lot more comfortable doing so.” How well do we model this kind of openness?  What kind of doors can be opened when we embrace a deeper transparency in our work.

These are questions I will be considering this summer. What  are  the leadership lessons you have learned this year?

Some tools I like for digital curation include:

Symbaloo, Evernote,  and Diigo

To gather information to curate, I like Pulse, Flipboard and of course Twitter and G+.

Barbara Barreda has been involved in education for 24 years. First serving as a classroom teacher and for the last 15 years as a site based administrator in Los Angeles and Orange County. She believes that a good administrator needs to lead by example and take seriously the role of “lead learner”. As an administrator, she has initiated 1:1 programs, developed teacher training, and coordinated global projects. She is a Google Certified Teacher, and has written articles for OnCue and for the Education Week blog, LeaderTalk, and served as an online mentor for the Powerful Learning Practices (PLP). She has also presented at numerous conferences including ISTE , NCEA, Lead3.0, and CUE. In addition to her responsibilities as a school site administrator she currently serves on the Board of the Orange County Computer Using Educators (OCCUE) and is Co-chair of the California Administrator’s Special Interest Group (AdminSig)in conjunction with CUE.

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