Friday, July 31, 2009

Effective Leadership

This week's blog is centered around two central questions:
  • How has what you've learned so far in this course shaped your concept of an effective leader?
  • Based on what you've learned so far, what are the top 3-5 characteristics you believe a successful principal must possess?
My concept of what it means to be an effective leader has been evolving for several years, even before I enrolled in this course. I had random ideas of a vision of leadership, but nothing concrete that I was able to articulate. I did know a few things about leadership:
  1. There can be many leaders in the building/organization besides the main leader.
  2. There are different ways that a leader can be effective and it largely depends on the innate qualities of the person as to how they will become effective (drawing on their strengths).
  3. A leader cannot do it all by themselves.
After being in the Effective Leadership course for 3 weeks, I have some new insights on effective leadership. Just as Leonard C. Burello writes in the preface of his book, Educating All Students Together, "we need to revisit the definition of student success and engage our communities in a deliberative, democratic planning process to determine how we will acknowledge and value new measures of student learning" (2001, p. viii).
  1. Administrative leaders must assume a role as a public intellectual and practice servant leadership "based on a deep commitment ot values and emerging from a groundswell of moral authority" (Sergiovanni, 2007, p. 78).
  2. Leaders should create a shared vision within their organization/school is what Peter Senge says "fosters a commitment of the long term" (Senge, 2007, p. 11).
  3. Flexibility and adaptability are key when it comes to assessing our vision. Leaders need to recognize that "as circumstances change and improve, it is regularly revisited, discussed, wrestled with and reoriented" (Burello, 2001, p. 42).
  4. There is a difference between school leadership and educational administration. Educational administrators make is so that school leaders can lead. They can bring about actions that allow the school leadership to achieve their goals. (Burello, 2001, p. 183-184).

As my own definition of effective leadership evolves, I am constantly looking at examples of leadership within my school district and assessing the characteristics that I feel assist leaders in becoming effective.
  • Integrity--effective leaders do what they say and say what they do
  • Honesty--effective leaders say what they mean and mean what they say
  • Flexibility--effective leaders are not afraid to change/adapt to fit the needs of the situation
  • Commitment--effective leaders are committed to improving student learning
  • Realism--effective leaders are able to assess what state their school is in and realize the steps it is going to take to get the school to the point of the shared vision of the school community.


Burello, L. C., Lashley, C., & Beatty, E. E. (2001). Educating all students together: How school leaders create unified systems. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Senge, P.M. (2007). 'Give me a lever long enough...and single-handed I can mopve the world'. In The Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership (2nd ed., pp. 3-15). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Sergiovanni, T.J. (2007). Leadership as stewardship: "Who's serving who?". In The Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership (2nd ed., pp. 75-92). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Transformational Leadership

This week, one of our individual assignments is to reflect on what it means to be a Transformational Leader. After processing two weeks of assigned readings and interviewing a supervisor on what it means to be a leader, I feel prepared to answer this question!

We are teaching students for a global society in which we have no idea what that society will look like! We don't know what kinds of jobs will exist for today's students or what kind of technology they will be using. We need to examine how schools are organized so that we can provide today's students for this future. The paradigm shift required to make the necessary change to the school organization "demand[s] a fundamental shift of dramatic proportions" (Burello, Lashley, & Beatty, 2001, p. 77). The educational system as it exists now is in crisis. The call for educational reform has existed for decades. A Nation at Risk was published in 1983. No Child Left Behind Act came later, in 2001. Recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been advocating for changes and in his speech at the Forum in Education (2008), Gates said, "big advances only come when committed people study the same problems and build on each other's work." The new work of leaders that will create these advances is the transformational leader. "A new metaphor for leadership must replace the school commandant and charismatic visionary approaches that dominated our conceptions of schooling in the 20th century" (Burello, Lashley, & Beatty, 2001, p. 93).

The idea of transformational leadership will greatly impact school administrators. The system that they inherit today is not the system that they are going to create. Administrators will need to lead in ways that may make them uncomfortable. Peter Senge stresses in his book, The Fifth Discipline, "innovations in education represent a bigger task than educators can accomplish in isolation" (2006, p. 362). School administrators will be required to build a mental model that encompasses the shared vision of their stakeholders. They will need to create teacher work teams and foster trust and sharing. They will need to be patient, nurturing and empowering if they are to succeed. All of this in the context of an atmosphere where parents and community members and sometimes their peers value traditional, yet often out-dated techniques requiring the administrator to "communicate the school's mission clearly and consistently to staff members, parents and students" (Kelley & Peterson, 2007, p. 360). In my own school setting, many teachers are deeply entrenched in the thinking that "it has always been done this way," or "this is how I was taught," and it is very difficult, but not impossible to overcome these obstacles. My principal has allowed our new staff development develop a training program and supports her when the complaints come along. The principal publicly acknowledges her support which reinforces the staff developer's efforts. The staff developer always has a smile, an attitude of "let's go" and is a great listener. I think the principal is doing a great job of allowing the staff developer to lead. When I think of transformational leaders, the descriptors passionate, energetic, enthusiastic and visionary come to mind.

Performing transformational leadership will also impact the school administrator as technology is integrated with instruction. Technology flattens the playing field. Students become the master of their own education and work with their teachers to creatively solve problems. The collaborative, open-source mentality creates a world where everything is visible. Students and teachers reflect in blogs, create wikis to work through the curriculum, and communicate with students and teachers across the globe. This free flow of information sharing and "thinking out loud" can cause anxiety among administrators, teachers and students. My high school was lucky enough last year to receive Promethean Boards for almost every classroom. As exciting as this development was, it caused high levels of anxiety as teachers struggled to adapt the interactive white boards into their curriculum. The most successful teachers were the ones that worked together with their students to create dynamic and exciting lessons. While most of the students were new to Promethean Boards, it was amazing to me how many students were able to troubleshoot, create presentations and teach their teacher how it all works. These conditions can make leadership challenging in schools and this is why I feel that transformational leadership and servant-leadership go hand-in-hand. The administrator will not lead authoritatively, but orchestrate an environment where team building, leadership development, shared decision making and collegiality are valued. It is time for transformational leadership and I for one, am ready!


Burello, L. C., Lashley, C., & Beatty, E. E. (2001). Educating all students together: How school leaders create unified systems. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Gates, B. (2008, November 11). A forum on education in America: Bill Gates. In Bill & Melinda Gates foundation [Prepared remarks by Bill Gates]. Retrieved July 24, 2009, from

Kelley, C., & Peterson, K. D. (2007). The work of principals and their preparation. In The Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership (2nd ed., pp. 351-401). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday. (Original work published 1999)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lessons Learned at NECC 2009

This post has been brewing in my head for the past month and I am finally able to put a few thoughts down to share my experience with my colleagues.

This year was my first attendance at the International Society for Technology in Education's (ISTE) annual conference and exposition. This was the last year that they titled their annual conference National Educational Computing Conference or NECC. In the future, the conference will hold the same name as the organization. Next year, ISTE 2010 will be held in Denver, Colorado. Note to self: pack hiking gear for post-conference fun!

This year's 2009 annual conference was held in Washington, D.C. and mandatory attendance was a requirement of the A&S Certification program through Johns Hopkins University, in which I am currently enrolled.

While I have been to many, many school library conferences (national, state and local), this was my first all technology conference and the experience was quite rewarding. I am still processing the conference in my head and trying to decide what practices and technologies I will add to my repertoire this school year.

In order to meet the needs of the large membership of ISTE (20,000+), they have developed Special Interest Groups or SIGs. I joined the Sigms (Special Interest Group--Media Specialists) and it was fun to see the people that I normally see at the library conferences and they were totally immersed in the technology--blogs, wikis, twitter, and all things web 2.0.

Any of the breakout sessions or keynote talks, ISTE can be viewed on their ISTEvision .

One of my JHU cohorts, Scott Smeech, has created a handy spreadsheet that contains all of the blog postings containing anything on NECC 2009. It can be found at Google docs.

One of the best sessions that I attended at NECC 2009 was the Sigms Forum. There are several reasons why this session is in my top five.
  1. It was at this meeting that I realized the full impact of being involved in a Sig. ISTE has around 20,000 members and it is in the Special Interest Groups where the rubber meets the road. I sat at a table of folks that I know from AASL, ALA and our state organization, MASL. Our table had at least 4 different school sytems represented. I enjoyed seeing "old" friends (we don't normally see one another during the year), collaborating with peers and discussing the upcoming AASL Conference in the fall.
  2. It was at this session where I realized the full impact of using Wikis for collaboration. The Wiki for this session can be found at PBWorks. The session had four presenters who are leaders in the school library world. Each speaker has links to their presentation as well as ancillary information located right on the Wiki. While the room was organized well for everyone in the audience to see the panel and one of two large screens, the audience could also follow along with the presentations on their own laptops. I was creating bookmarks as people presented. I took notes electronically on Word. I was fully immersed in the presentation and I was working on integrating the topics into my repertoire right at the time of the presentation. This differs vastly from past conferences where notes were taken down by hand on notebook paper, links were furiously written down to access "later" and I sat passively and listened to the presenter talk. I never seem to get around to looking at the website when I arrive home after the conference and what do I do with all of those pieces of paper containing messy scrawl that can't be deciphered anyway?
  3. I fully realized the potential of the "back-channel". I didn't know what a back channel was prior to NECC 2009! "Back-channeling is the practice of electronically passing notes among some or all of the audience/students during the lecture. When sanctioned, this practice is particularly useful for speakers who are attempting to dynamically modify their presentations based on immediate feedback from the audience." (Wikipedia) The audience sent tweets on Twitter and we were able to contribute to the presentation or follow other presentations in other areas of the conference in a least distracting manner. The presenters provided a Twitter Search string to make it convenient to follow! Sweet!
I can't emphasize the full power of the Wiki and I have accessed this particular session's Wiki numerous times since the conference. The Wiki allowed the presenters to be engaged with ALL of the audience and address issues that they may not have prepared for in advance, but can insert into their presentation ad-hoc. This two-way interaction made the session much more meaningful for everyone. I hope to integrate the use of Wikis into my library media program this school year. Joyce Valenza, Library Media Specialist extraordinaire in Pennsylvania has converted all of her library pathfinders into wikis and here is one example. I love the the embedded search widgets and the interactivity that can be achieved with students.

Besides the content of the sessions offered at NECC, I was also impressed by the variety of formats offered. Among my favorite formats are:
  1. Playgrounds--single or multi-day events that provide educators with opportunities to "play" with interactive technologies for creativity and learning.I was asked to volunteer for a time slot in the 21st Century Media Center Playground to demonstrate Twitter. I had a great time visiting with conference browsers as they strolled through our area and I managed to convert a willing few to the "dark side" i.e. Twitter!! Several of us who presented created a Diigo group for all websites pertaining to Twitter.
  2. BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop)--These sessions were a big hit. I attended Joyce Valenza's Library Tools Smackdown as well as Earth Mashing: Web 2.0 Meets Google Earth. I hope that Joyce continues with her smackdown format at AASL as I know that sheh is a regular and favorite presenter there!
  3. Birds of a Feather--Informal, one-and-a-half hour discussion format providing a special opportunity for like-minded educators to gather and network. Great networking opportunities with like-minded peers.
The technology used at NECC 2009 was phenomenal! Wireless access was everywhere (okay, sometimes spotty, but it was nice when we had it), ISTEvision was taping in almost session, keynote & meeting and then posted online using Ustream, everyone was a-Twitter! and people were more apt to use their Second-Life name than their "real" name! This blog post describes some of the technology from NECC 2009.

That wraps up my reflections, for now, and I hope to continue my journey with technology at the AASL Annual Conference and Exhibition, November5-8, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hope to see you there!