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Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Expert Speak

Digital leadership in schools

Pilar Quezzaire, Curriculum Manager, Innovation and Alignment

By Pilar Quezzaire, Curriculum Manager, Innovation and Alignment

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education in every way. As countries around the world have experienced lockdowns and restrictions of movement, communication and interaction have often moved entirely online and as a result, schools have found themselves responsible for ensuring consistent delivery of learning for their students. Although this change was driven by necessity, the transition to remote delivery models has opened an active conversation about the definition of “school” and how new and emerging technologies should continue to transform education.The educational technology industry has in turn interpreted the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to quicken the pace of the conversation, to push technological innovation and to give schools more solutions that support digital transformation. However, digital transformation is only as effective as the principles and core purpose of education as established by schools.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) supports its global community of over 5,300 schools in digital transformation by helping to effectively define this core purpose and central mission for the use of technology in education. For the IB, digital leadership in education is adopting a strategic mindset that empowers and supports learners and teachers in embracing new forms of learning rather than focusing on specific tools and technologies: each school needs to evolve their culture and mindset in order to become leaders in providing digital education.

Digital transformation has often been characterized as implementation and application of different technological devices and applications in education. This is partly because these technological innovations are presented as new, exciting and engaging. However, introducing new and emerging technologies in a piecemeal or patchwork way without a holistic view to their benefits will never lead to significant and positive change. It is effective pedagogical leadership that makes digital transformation lasting in education settings. Many schools have seen digital initiatives fail due to a lack of leadership that does not demonstrate to the community how technologies are clearly connected to a vision of transformation: effective pedagogical leadership is the most likely path to ensure success.

When negotiating with ministries or with technology providers, school leaders can often feel that they are the sole voice of their school communities. They actually represent a school community and an educational ecosystem of which school leaders are the “eyes and ears.”Facilitating effective digital transformation requires a significant amount of resourcing, listening, engaging and negotiating with all relevant stakeholders. Leaders that deeply examine the capabilities and capacities of their school ecosystems will make more effective investments in technology provision that will be more widely adopted, long-lasting and suited towards their schools’ needs. They will also develop more convincing stances that ministries and technology providers can respond to positively.

Even after careful consideration of the school’s ecosystem, introducing digital devices does not automatically spark transformation: the school community then needs to understand how those devices positively affect learning and teaching. Technologies need to be tuned in to what the school community is doing, connected to its aspirations and strategic outcomes and monitored by leadership in order to be successful. Because of this, driving digital transformation is never one person or team’s sole responsibility: it requires the whole community to join in. The most powerful digital transformations occur when leadership acts for the community, driving change that everyone can engage with.

The need to change may have been driven by a global pandemic, but it has created an opportunity for everyone in the community to develop digital transformation. Digital leadership will be key to making that opportunity a reality.


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