If you’ve ever heard Dr. Scott McLeod speak, you’ve most likely heard him say this: “If the leaders don’t get it, it won’t happen.” McLeod is the founding director of UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), the only academic center in the nation dedicated to the leadership aspects of P-12 technology. He is on a mission: to bring schools – namely the principals and administrators – into the digital age.
When it comes to 21st century skills, McLeod knows what he’s talking about. He has an incredible online following, and has been a regular tweeter and blogger since those technologies became available. He blogs regularly at Dangerously Irrelevant and Education Recoded, and occasionally at The Huffington Post. He also just completed his first book, What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media. He is a frequent speaker at conferences such as TED, and consults with educational leadership throughout the country. He is currently on leave from
his position as an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky to serve as the Director of Innovation for Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency 8 in Iowa.
Facebook, Twitter, Google . . . today’s tech-savvy students are always plugged in. However, all too often their teachers and administrators aren’t experienced in the use of these familiar digital tools. If schools are to prepare students for the future, administrators and educators must harness the power of digital technologies and social media.
With contributions from authorities on the topic of educational technology, What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media is
a compendium of the most useful tools for any education setting. Throughout the book, experts including Will Richardson, Vicki Davis, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Richard Byrne, Joyce Valenza, and many others explain how administrators and teachers can best integrate technology into schools, helping to make sense of the often-confusing world of social media and digital tools. They offer the most current information for the educational use of blogs, wikis and podcasts, online learning, open-source courseware, educational gaming, social networking, online mind mapping, mobile phones, and more, and include examples of these methods currently at work in schools. As the book clearly illustrates, when these tools are combined with thoughtful and deliberate pedagogical practice, it can create a transformative experience for students, educators, and administrators alike.What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media reveals the power of information technology and social networks in the classroom and throughout the education community.
Quite simply, McLeod has a knack for putting the issues of our schools today into
very stark and understandable terms. Take, for instance, his renowned video series, Did You Know? (Shift Happens).
“Our legacy belief systems about learning, teaching, and schooling are getting in the way of us re-envisioning what those mean for today and in the future,” says McLeod. “I am supporting numerous administrators and school systems, both formally and informally, as they work to transition their schools. We need more people who are interested in and are willing to do this work, particularly with school leaders, parents, community members, and policymakers. If we want to see systemic changes in our school systems, we need to focus on the people in charge of the systems.”
Today, Dr. McLeod joins us to reinforce the “urgency of doing something different” in our
schools, and shares just how easy it is to take that first step.
Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?
I am viewed by many as an international thought leader regarding educational technology, primarily through my role as the founding director of CASTLE. We help principals, superintendents, and other administrators transition schools into this digital, global world that we now inhabit. I also am a leading user of social media and have used my blog, Twitter feed, online videos, and other information channels to reach millions of people worldwide. I do a lot of teaching and professional development and have worked with tens of thousands of educators around the globe. That is the most gratifying work that I do.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
I think my primary contribution has been to help numerous school leaders’ light bulbs go on and to then resource and support them as they work in new directions. For a variety of
reasons, school principals and superintendents often are not very technology-knowledgeable and thus are struggling mightily to change their classrooms so that they prepare students for the next half-century rather than the past half-century. I hear from educators all the time that my resources and training have moved them forward and helped them begin change initiatives. A specific example is here in Iowa, where our leadership training with the School Administrators of Iowa has resulted in one-fourth of the state’s school districts now providing laptops, netbooks, or tablet computers to their students. That movement has been extremely exciting to watch and nurture.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Well, they can read my blog and tap into me as a resource! Also, we have to get more people’s mindsets to shift. We have to help them see the urgency of doing something DIFFERENT. Once that occurs, we can come in and talk about the ‘what’ and the ‘how,’ not just the ‘why.’
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
My impact would not be nearly as great if I hadn’t jumped on blogging, Twitter, and social bookmarking relatively early in the game. My reach is significantly greater than that of
most of my academic peers. It’s possible that I have the biggest social media presence of any education professor in the country.
What is your region doing well currently to support education?
I have been impressed with Iowans’ willingness to talk sincerely and respectfully about important educational issues. We’re not where we need to be yet – and numerous mindset shifts still need to occur – but the tone of our conversation is very different than in many other states.
What conditions must change to better support education?
In Iowa and across the United States, we need to stop trying to make the current system a little bit better. Most policy proposals essentially are tweaks of what we already do.
Instead, we need to recognize the transformative – and often disruptive – nature of the changes that are occurring around us and rethink what those changes mean for learning and teaching. We also need to do a much better job of helping parents and communities think about the shifts that we are living through and their importance for schooling. Right now we don’t have a critical mass of citizens storming school board meetings or legislators’ offices asking for something different in their children’s classrooms.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
I think digital technologies and the Internet offer incredible opportunities to enhance the learning of children and adults. There are a lot of exciting things happening right now and every day something new comes along that enhances our learning power. I can’t wait to see what develops over the next few years and decades as we begin to institutionalize our burgeoning recognition that we have powerful new ways of learning, connecting, and working.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
As quickly as possible, new teachers should get connected with educator peers online using Twitter and a RSS reader. Having a global community of practice, not just a local one, can be extremely informative and transformative for any educator that doesn’t yet have one.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
Slowly but surely, we are getting computers into the hands of all students and also giving them robust Internet access. We finally are starting to recognize that a computer for every
child is a necessity in today’s world.
Numerous things get in the way of learning these days. Among them are schools’ often-draconian Internet filtering and blocking, our over-emphasis on assessment of factual recall and low-level procedural knowledge at a time when we desperately need more students and graduates with higher-order thinking skills, legislators’ rhetorical posturing and obtuse policymaking, adults’ fear of the unknown, and a widespread tendency to bask in past glory and nostalgia instead of rolling up our sleeves and doing the hard work of changing our learning environments.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
A powerful laptop and high-speed Internet access, combined with permission for our youth to use those tools to be amazing. We’re holding our children back instead of creating environments in which they can soar.
About Scott McLeod
Associate Professor and Founding Director, UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), University of Kentucky (on leave); Director of Innovation for Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency 8, Iowa
Birthplace: Radford, Virginia
Current residence: Ames, Iowa
* Dec 2000: Ph.D., Educational Administration – University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
* May 1998: J.D., cum laude – University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
* May 1992: M.Ed., Secondary Administration – College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia
* May 1990: B.A., History – College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia
Person who inspires me most: Teachers and administrators who are doing their utmost to help disadvantaged students in urban schools
Favorite childhood memory: Playing with baseball cards and reading
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): I go to Thailand next April. I’m very excited about that!
When was the last time you laughed? Why? I laugh all the time. I’ve been accused of being ‘too damn cheery!’
Favorite book: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Favorite music: Anything upbeat
Your favorite quote or motto: If the leaders don’t get it, it’s not going to happen