A day full of workshops, industry spotlights and breakout sessions provided the region’s technology leaders, including several from the LHRIC, with much to think about Oct. 24 during the annual Tech Forum convention.
|Eric Sheninger delivers keynote speech at Tech Forum 2014|
It was Eric Sheninger’s keynote presentation “Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times” that set the tone for the day.
The former award-winning principal of New Milford High School in New Jersey is now a senior fellow and thought leader on digital leadership with the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) and Scholastic Achievement Partners (SAP).
While he served as principal, Sheninger said he didn’t embrace the kind of leadership traits he now espouses. Spending countless hours eliminating electronic devices from children was just part of his job.
“I was the one who made sure the environment was sterilized,” he recalled. “I blocked and banned everything, maintaining the status quo. Essentially, I was in control.”
But all of that changed when Sheninger realized the merits of integrating digital tools as a way to engage learners.
Despite the lack of funds and the building’s aging infrastructure, Sheninger said the high school achieved “impressive results” within five years of embracing the new, more modern channels of communication. It helped engage families, inspire staff growth and bring new relevance to the classroom for both teachers and students, he explained.
“We got rid of all the excuses and focused on the solutions,” he said. “We made a conscious effort to create a school that worked well for kids.”
Sheninger, the author of “Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times,” said his staff was able to empower students, engage them in productive dialogue and guide them as they conducted research on their own devices, part of the school’s BYOT initiative.
Sheninger said he did not “preach Common Core” to his staff, but instead focused on a particular skill set that would set his students apart from their peers.
Today, New Milford High School is a “Makerspace” of sorts where students work in the high school library with Lego pieces, motherboards and a 3D printer. Sheninger refers to it as a “culture that’s different.”
Under his leadership, the school created learning academies that are open to any student regardless of GPA as well as teacher incentives, part of the school’s digital badge platform for those who embrace the new technologies.
Sheninger, the creator of the Pillars of Leadership, a framework for driving sustainable change in schools, suggested that educators interested in change should form their own personal learning networks.
“Connecting myself to the smart people and the doers has pushed me to become a better leader, educator and a better person,” he said.
Sheninger suggested to his audience that they lead by example. “Make the conscious decision to share your vision, to have conversations with other educators, to be transparent, support change and model the expectations that you have for others,” he said.
The day’s other events included presentations on Google Apps for Education; coding, making and learning; creating a positive digital footprint and telling stories with help from digital media, among others.