Educational consultant, Julia Atkin, discusses the process of leading e-learning in a school. She explains the importance of creating a shared vision, developing a vision that reflects the competencies students need to develop, and the importance of identifying the staff's educational needs to ensure the vision can be put into practice.
What I’d like to do is actually draw on two threads. One is really about well how do we go about doing our thinking about e-learning and leading our work around e-learning and the other one is more about leadership itself.
I’m going to start with the leadership itself because until I get that bit right I don’t think the process around re-visioning e-learning is really going to work.
Basically for me leadership has two really key aspects. One of those is transactional. It’s all about what we do in leadership, in getting things done and maintaining and it’s really management. The other one is all around transformation. The interesting thing about that bit is it’s really hard for us to put our attention on it and value it. We’re so busy getting things done.
So when you start to think about, thinking about that in relation to e-learning the danger is that someone will sit in the backroom and write up the vision for e-learning. Now if you do that without involving the staff you’re going to make no difference at all.
What would it be like if we actually attended to the transformational side of leadership in relation to e-learning? For me the key first question is, being clear about what your school vision is. Why are you educating these young people? And what’s the nature of the world that they’re being educated for and if you’ve got those two questions clearly looked at, thought about, then the question is, well, where does e-learning fit into this? And why would we want e-learning?
Now for me, and I’m coming from my own vision, I guess, that when I think about the nature of the 21st Century what the requirements are of educating young people of this world is we want adaptable, creative, responsive kids and kids who are actually really able to manage themselves and direct their own work.
If I think about that as the context and a really brief way of talking about the context let’s think about then, well why would we want e-learning?
You know, what, you know, within that sort of vision and context, how would your staff answer – Why e-learning? And to really think about that, come up with your own answer as to why e-learning and what’s e-learning look like? If it’s e-learning, what is that? And how does that actually help us develop young people with the capabilities they need for the 21st century? Not just a vehicle for learning but a vehicle for being a learner for the 21st Century.
Okay, so if we’re thinking about big questions you need to ask but then it’s all very well we might answer those questions but how do we actually go on the journey to move from where we are to what it is we may want the role that e-learning may play in the school? Um one of the really key things is to think about the whole system because in a situation like this what you’ve got probably is a lot of cases where the staff may not feel comfortable about it so in a sense, what is it that they need to learn? What’s their curriculum for e-learning? Meaning, how am I going to help the staff learn what’s needed in order for them to be able to facilitate that, get the worth out of it? Um design it, allow the kids to be free, so what is the staff learning I need to think about? It’s also about acknowledging that we need to meet the staff where they are and actually give them the small steps that are going to make this achievable for them and to be thinking more about allowing them to define what learning they need to do and um, and what support they need to do that learning, and rather than us saying ok, here’s the blueprint, we’re going to have to do X, Y, Z and by now we’re going to have that how do I acknowledge the system itself? And help nurture the growth of each of the staff members?
That one to me is more challenging than worrying about the students because they will eat it up. It’s their world. Another process that I, I’ve found key when I’m thinking about how I help teachers develop and staff develop is, is actually, really, about how I help them imagine the possibilities. One of the things, and neuroscience is showing this really clearly, that we can’t do what we can’t imagine. So sometimes when people seem resistant, the resistance is often because they don’t even know what it is that we’re trying to do. One way of sparking that is to look for exemplars. Where are there examples of, of work going on in e-learning that actually can inspire your staff and help you imagine what’s possible. So looking at other examples, looking at other schools, um, sharing what you can find on the net, any of those ways to look at what the possibilities are will help you take a vision into actuality.