How I Spent My Summer Vacation

            This year’s summer vacation took a decidedly different path. It was summer of discovery – particularly in the world of technology and learning. Instead of walking the beach, I surfed the web in search of YouTube videos. Instead of reading my favorite novel I have pored over Friedman (2007) and Shirky (2008). If you are reading this, you have obviously found your way to my blog – another new summer pastime. This blog represents some of the abundant fruit that has come from my participation in the Technology and Leadership class at Creighton University. This class is an elective in Creighton’s doctoral program in Interdisciplinary Leadership. After having participated in the course for the past two months, I strongly recommend that it be part of the requirements for this entire program of studies. The issues involved in the overwhelming pace of technological advancement and its effects on people, systems, organizations, and countries should be thoroughly studied and, as best as possible, understood by all who would aspire to lead.

 The Role of Leadership

            I believe that one of the most memorable lessons from this course came early on as we learned of the impact of social media on humbling and bypassing the authoritative regulatory structures of the communication system in the Chinese government as that country was hit by an enormous earthquake. Amateur videos like this one took Twitter, Facebook and YouTube by storm making it impossible for the historically secretive Chinese government to cloak its temporary vulnerability in ways that it had done so often in the past. It is obvious that a new day was upon all those who hope to lead in a society immersed in the tools of the technological age. Global societies are evolving as a result of unprecedented interconnectivity and the massive increases in abilities to gather, store, and utilize data. 

          As we move toward a new age of the “Internet of Things” where the devices that we all own are interconnected, it is incumbent upon leaders to stay abreast of the changes in spite of the bewildering pace that threatens to overwhelm us.

Leadership In Education

            Those of us who are in the field of education are faced with not only deciding how they themselves will utilize technological developments but must remain current in the ways that technology can be implemented by both teachers and students to facilitate the teaching and learning process. There are explosive developments that demand our attention if for no other reason than there is so much money involved. Even more important than the investment required is that the future abilities of our students to successfully compete in a global economy seems to be at stake. At one time it may have been true that in previous generations what was going on across the schools of the world did not matter. However, in today’s hyper-connected world and global economy, our competitors are no longer in neighboring cities and towns but now reside throughout the world. The competitive advantage will go to that society than develops and maintains the most effective system for educating its youth.

Changes as A Result of the This Course

            Today’s learner operates in a technologically rich context. Teachers and schools that are more sensitive to students who are digital natives will maximize the abundance of tools available to today’s classroom. Our thinking as educators needs to evolve as we consider the most effective way students learn.

            In an attempt to better understand this technologically rich context I began by seeking out this class. After talking to other students in the ILD program I was convinced that it would provide me with a much-needed format to review and discuss these developments. I have not been disappointed. Through our review of these tools I have become an active user of Google Docs, Linked In, Twitter, and Feedly. Now that I have a better understanding of the power and value of short visual messages that can be shared, retweeted, and distributed inexpensively I have also immersed myself in a project to develop a series of YouTube videos that will serve as messages to our faculty, parents, students, and alumni. These videos will focus on issues related to our shared mission, stewardship of the students placed in our care, the importance of parental involvement in the education of high school students, the proper role of technology in the learning process, and a host of other activities pertinent to the life of a high school. Vogt (2011) has written and spoken about the power of New Media to spread the Gospel – a task that is deeply connected to the evangelizing mission of a Catholic school. It would be my desire to see our school participating in this method of developing the faith of the young people.

Conclusion

            There is pressure on leaders to adopt and conform to these new technologies. However, as we were constantly challenged in this class to think about ways to accommodate the rapid pace of adjustment that is sometimes demanded, I was constantly brought back to consider how critical it is for leaders to remain focused on the moral implications of their decisions. Leaders need to be people of integrity who can be trusted to make decisions for the general advancement of the common good. To be effective, a person who aspires to lead must develop a track record of wise and reasoned decision-making. It is only in developing such a reputation that a leader can build the trust required to be truly transformative in their community. It is not the tools of technology that develop this trust. It is a real human person making sound decisions for the benefit of others. The tools of communication that technology allows today are simply tools that a leader can use to help build the trust that is at the core of good leadership.

             It has been good to have a chance to learn more about these tools and their most effective use. I am grateful for having the experience of participating in this class.

References

Friedman, T. L. (2007). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin Press.

Vogt, B. (2011). The church and new media: Blogging converts, online activists, and bishops who tweet. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor.

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6 thoughts on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation

  1. Julie Fickas says:

    Very nice reflection! As leaders in education, a very real problem is the need to do longitudinal studies to see if a technology is effective. The problem with this is that the time that needs to elapse to that kind of study may mean that the very technology that we are studying becomes obsolete in the process. This article (http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/technology-in-education/) makes some nice points about the use of technology in education.

    In the end, your observation that, “It is a real human person making sound decisions for the benefit of others”, is what needs to prevail. That is the take home message I got out of this course overall.

  2. I think you make a great point about integrity in leadership. I would also extend this to Associates – I think the most positive organizational cultures are built on trust where leaders clearly articulate their expectations regarding behavior and ethics, then trust their Associates to act in ways that comply with those expectations. Again, trust but verify that this is occurring and taking immediate action when behavioral and ethical expectations are not being met. When applied to technology in the organization, it allows Associates to use good judgement in how it is used at work instead of dictating exactly which internet sites can be accessed and by whom, a much more positive environment for all Associates, which would certainly help with retention and productivity.

  3. Your post made me realize that we can’t forget about the human dimension while all this emerging technology permeates our lives. I believe like you that leaders must be ethical and the implications of unethical leadership on the rest of society are scary. I think of how technology has improved the numbers of military members that survive attacks and how this technology has helped them to walk and throw and try to get back to normal lives or the new normal and it’s because leaders in science and medicine, with integrity find use of tools for life improvement. I know I have brought up a lot of negative things about technology in this course but I still need the good. Thanks for your post. I think we spent our summer vacation in the same place.

  4. I agree that this course seems as if it should be a prerequisite for a program on leadership. Examining how technology is changing leadership affects every other area we are learning about, and has actually has changed my perspective on concepts I learned in previous classes. As I am working on my outcomes for candidacy, I was struggling with the one regarding technology. After taking this course, it has been remarkably easier to think of ways to demonstrate my achievement of this outcome. I even went back to a course in which I had to do a video for a weekly posting, which was a first, and extremely uncomfortable. Looking back at the video, I did not even remember that the topic itself was around technology. This course has not only expanded HOW I think about technology, but I have even changed what my definition of technology includes.

    I also have opened myself up to new tools and just signed up for a Twitter account this week. I asked my brother if he was on Twitter, to which he said he was, but that he uses Instagram much more. I guess I need to add on to my list. 🙂 This week I heard someone on the radio repeating something they read on Wikipedia, and then made a comment about it not likely being accurate because that was her source. I laughed as I realized I felt a little defensive, as I researched Wikipedia earlier in the course, and while I had a similar opinion to the radio announcer in the beginning, my viewpoint has drastically changed. This was not only about the probability that the information was correct, but more around the “process” of how the information was formed. This course has taught me so much more than I realized. I still feel very far behind, as I suspect will usually be the case, but I am glad I have been able to be more open to the possibilities.

  5. Nice reflection … and neat comments. I had to chuckle as I read your title … as I have been on vacation the past two weeks, visiting Boston, Maine, New Hampshire, and now Rhode Island (…in fact, I am commenting from the comfort of Hampton Inn in Wakefield RI right not…). I no longer see any incompatibility in traveling and continuing to engage with students online.

    Your final paragraph comes back to a theme I started week 1 – trust and the leadership associated with it. Totally agree that trust is critical, that trust is the mandate of leadership, and that once trust is broken, it is near impossible to recover.

  6. Hello JD – I too believe that this class should be part of the core classes. It is an experience everyone should have. When I was at the weekend dissertation course, this class was brought up as being one of the favorite electives students have taken. As far as technology and education, I have noticed this year how important internet is for all my kids. This ranges from elementary to high school. All my kids need to be able to log into their accounts to assess information from their teacher. I would have never thought a forth grader would need this kind of assess. I need to get more computers for my house. I have enjoyed reading your posts every week! Good luck to you in your future endeavors! Heather

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