The 17 E’s of Excellent Electronic Education Leadership, with a Nod to Tom Peters

Back in February, Larry Fliegelman posted here a fine piece entitled the OODA loop: Do you Do it? In that post, he wrote

I would bet that Jonathan Martin, like John Carver and me, keeps his school’s or his personal vision on the wall of his office. At my last principal position, I kept my core values of leadership on the bulletin board behind the work table in my office.

Larry was right: I do keep on my wall a favorite guide to excellent leadership values,  Tom Peters’ 19 E’s of Excellence, which was published as part of Seth Godin’s magnificent December 2010 treat,  “What Matters Now.”    (On slide 82 of Godin’s “book,” Godin gives express permission to share and spread the book freely, and to “add your own ideas” to the book’s pieces.)

This piece, which I originally prepared for Scott McLeod’s Leadership Day and have moderately revised here, take Peters (all italics below are direct quotes from Peters, to whom I express my great appreciation) as its inspiration and framing, and I then have added extensively to recast it as suggestions for electronically excellent educational leaders (“eeels”). It is my expectation that most readers here at Connected Principals are seeking, as I am, to develop greater mastery of educational leadership  in our electronic era, and I hope you might find these suggestions from my own experience and practice helpful.  Please feel free– I’d be delighted!– to add your own “E’s” of excellent electronic educational leadership.

Please note that in every case below, the italics are direct quotes from Peters; non-italics are my own words.

The 17 E’s of  Excellent Electronic Education Leadership

Experimentation: Try it, the technology or the application, play with it, do something with it, and if it helps, do more with it.  If it doesn’t, move on to the next thing.  Whether it is social media, laptops or mobile devices in the classroom, video messages to the school community,  educational leaders will improve student learning and school environments by trying and testing digital tools to see the value they can offer.   Model learning by experiment.

Enthusiasm! Be an irresistible force of nature: See a student, teacher, administrator, or parent doing something that you haven’t seen before with a digital device? Respond with enthusiasm first, inquiry second, and scrutiny, only if necessary, last.   Your affect, body language, and disposition, even your tone of voice, in each and every one of these encounters makes a difference. Respond with enthusiasm and the school community sees your interest and is grateful for your open-ness. Respond with hesitation or skepticism, and your body language will speak volumes, and progress at your school will slow considerably.

Engaged!  Addicted to MBWA/Managing by Wandering Around. In touch. Always. The electronically excellent educational leader, or eeel, is engaged with electronic learning in person and virtually.  When wandering around in person, take time to observe screens and inquire with a positive and genuinely curious tone: what are you doing here?  Wander around virtually: take time to visit school community blogs, wikis, web-pages, and where possible, connect and engage by posting a comment or emailing to share or tweeting links.  Demonstrate your electronic engagement, and your community will appreciate it and become itself more digitally engaged.

Emerging! One of the wonderful things about the practice and development of uniting technology and education is that it is, as Dan Pink says in Driveasymptotic.   One never arrives at an end point; we are all, always, working hard to master this practice; we are all, always, only emerging in this field. Find something to be proud of in your practice, and find more things to work on, and then share your electronic education excellence journey so as to inspire others to emerge in their own, unique way.

Entangled and Enriched.   Entangled here is a synonym for networked, and enriched is what you will be after building an online learning network of colleagues who share your interests and passions.  Twitter is the best place to start; click here to find a lengthy list of fellow school-leaders to follow and your entanglement and enrichment will begin immediately.  Peters calls this Electronic! Partner with the world 60/60/24/7 via electronic community building of every sort.

Execution: Do it! Now! Get it done!  Barriers are baloney. Excuses are for wimps. Execute technology innovation today.  Patrick Larkin is doing at Burlington High School; he seized every opportunity he could within his district’s limited means and he is providing an iPad to every student, and they are embarking now, with no more excuses.  Patrick’s post quotes George Couros: “I don’t care how far along you are on the path. I just want you on the path.”  Get on the path and begin executing.

Empowerment! Always ask “what do you think?” Then listen!  Then let go and liberate! Eeels (excellent electronic education leaders) ask digitally savvy teachers and students how they think they might use technology in learning, listen, let go and liberate.  One of our biggest tasks as eels is to stay out of the way.   Digital tools empower students to explore the world for a topic to be passionate about, research that topic, connect with others about that topic, and communicate their learning about creatively with online writing, video, music, and mashups.  Empower!

Edginess! Perpetually dancing at the frontier, and a little or or a lot beyond. Steven Johnson teaches us innovation happens at the adjacent possible: don’t ever feel like your next technology step needs to be revolutionary, only evolutionary.  Put the emailed newsletter on a blog, and allow comments.   Put a powerpoint slide presentation into a youtube video, and add music.  Each year, find your edge and look to see what is beyond it and go there.

Encouragement! Sometimes this is all it takes to be an eeel.  Never underestimate the value of a specific word of praise or the acknowledgement that it is indeed hard, the work teachers and students are doing to integrate technology, but that you know they can do it. That is true electronic education leadership excellence.

Error-prone! Ready! Fire! Aim! Try a lot of stuff and make a lot of boo-boos and then try some stuff and make some more booboos– all of it at the speed of light. Make mistakes quickly; try and try again; model for your teachers and students learning to be an eeel by the most effective learning ever invented: trial and error.  How badly can you really ever break anything digitally, anyway?

Eustress!  Jane McGonigal, in Reality is Broken, reminds us of the value of “hard fun: [it] happens when we experience positive stress, or eustress (from Greek eu, for well being, and stress).”  Seeking eeel, excellent electronic education leadership, is no easy task, but with the right attitude, and right tools, and right support, it can be a delightfully challenging way to become again a learner.   Treat it like a game: set goals, define parameters, make sure it is hard enough, get feedback from others, and envision a list of skills or tasks upon which you can, with focus and attention, “level up.” The eustress that results might actually be, as McGonigal says, “optimistically invigorating, and more mood-boosting than relaxing.”

Encompassing! Relentlessly pursue diverse opinions– the more diversity the merrier. Diversity per se works. No longer does excellent electronic educational leadership mean choosing a single operating system, browser, or device.  In what is an increasingly cloud-based and BYOD (bring your own device) world, we can benefit from diversity of technology and let a thousand flowers bloom.  Welcome teachers and students to use a myriad of devices, and ask them to compare and then, as a learning community, determine   what works best for each purpose, and proceed accordingly.

Eliminate!  Keep it simple! There are a zillion ways to be electronically excellent as an educational leader, and it is foolish to try to many at once.  Work from your strengths, try something new each year, and stay focused on slow but steady growth.  Less is more, sometimes.

Eagerness! Don’t be too patient; dream the future and crave swift progress toward it.  Read Wired and Fast Company magazines and wire your educational programs fast!

Expectations! Michaelangelo: “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” Amen! Even as each step we make is a small one in our schools, and even if each day we must make compromises, set a high ideal and don’t waver in the ultimate goal: students who every day are able to use effectively the best tools possible, often but not always digital/electronic, to pursue their passions; create, communicate, and collaborate;  think, analyze, problem-solve, and argue;  and  become awesomely powerful thinkers and problem-solvers.

Eudomania!  Pursue the highest of human moral purpose– the core of Aristotle’s philosophy. Be of service. Always. Draw upon the power digital tools can offer such that you can be the most creative, connected, and effective communicator you can be, and empower your students and teachers to use digital tools such that they too can reach their highest potential.

Excellence!  Never an exception! If not Excellence, what?


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