There I've said it. That may appear to be a challenging opening gambit and I have no doubt that some will try to debate that there are many highly effective principals who are neither connected or tech savvy and that is true...for now. However not only are our children forging ahead and disappearing over the horizon many of our teachers are not too far behind them. If principals do not have an understanding of the power of social media and the possibilities of technology then we risk becoming irrelevant. It is easy for leaders to stick their heads in the sand and say that leading e-learning is not their job, that they can employ someone to do that. However the reality is that setting expectations for and driving the use of technology in schools comes from the top. We have to 'walk the talk' and actually engage with the tools that we are asking our teachers to use.
In her 2011 book Student-Centered Leadership, Viviane Robinson shows that the biggest impact that principals can have on student achievement is through Leading Teacher Learning and Development. The use of technology is now a central part of teacher learning and development and if principals are to effectively lead they must be willing to learn themselves.
It was with this in mind that I set up the 14 Day Twitter Challenge for Principals earlier this year. I wanted to encourage as many principals as possible to give twitter a go, to understand how it works and hopefully use it to grow rich connections.
I believe that it is part of my role as a principal to model to the teachers at my school how I use technology. I use twitter, google plus, our internal blog and my personal blog to share learning and to encourage others to share. Now, I except that I am somewhat of a geek and that I have a natural fascination with all things digital, I am an early adopter. However these tools are so easy to use, it is no longer an excuse to say that it is too hard. If you can use email then you can use twitter, facebook, google docs, calendars, google plus, pinterest etc...
I am seeing more and more teachers jump on board with tools like twitter and the runaway success of the #edchatnz hashtag illustrates the point. Teachers are using twitter to set their own agenda and find their own PD, the 'twitterarti' of education are the ones who are leading many of our teachers. As Annemarie Hyde (@mrs_hyde) says "#edchatnz is the staffroom of choice". I think that this is wonderful and an exciting development that is giving our teachers rich learning and connections way beyond their schools. However it is also a threat to the traditional model of schools and to Professional Development. As a principal do you know how your staff are connected, do you know who is influencing their thinking? Are you part of the conversation?
I suspect that as more teachers become connected and form their own communities the more they will want to work with like minded teachers and principals. When I am looking for new teachers, I google them to see if they have a presence online. Are they sharing via a blog, twitter, google plus? Are the engaged in an online community? I wonder how long it will be until teachers are googling school principals with a similar set of questions before deciding to apply for a job!