Digital revolution requires a paradigm shift
From the ACSA President, Ron Williams
November 2, 2020
The digital revolution is changing the way people communicate. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused school closures. The education system is self-organizing in response to the outside pressure of the virus. Educational leaders are expected to implement distance learning in virtual environments.  This response requires a paradigm shift from the traditional practice of incremental change to transformative change. This transformation is taking us away from mandated standardization of what is taught, when it is taught and how it is taught to a flexible system where the role of teachers is designing active learning using a video conferencing platform (e.g., Zoom); using learning management applications (e.g., Google Classroom) for handling classroom documents (e.g., assignments, instructions, teacher feedback and communication); and making online learning platforms that contain resources and activities accessible to parents, teachers and students.  In a digital environment, the role of students shifts from the traditional practice of being a recipient of information to an active learner constructing knowledge. The system is moving from standardization to more personalization.  This shift has glaringly revealed the injustice of a digital gap between students of the working poor and their more advantaged peers who can afford the technological tools. This inequity must be addressed if leaders are going to create an educational system that each student deserves, a 21st century workforce necessitates and a democracy requires.  The rapid acceleration of technology platforms and knowledge generation is leading to a deeper understanding of student and teacher learning.  Implementing the paradigm shift is an unprecedented challenge for educational leadership. Most administrators would agree that this shift includes a paradigm shift in our leadership role: from the traditional hierarchical use of power to power through networking.  The International Society for Technology in Education provides examples for educational leaders to consider during this journey: Equity and Citizenship Advocate — Leaders use technology to increase equity, inclusion and digital citizenship practices.  Visionary Planner — Leaders engage others in establishing a vision, strategic plan and ongoing evaluation cycle for transforming learning with technology.  Empowering Leader — Leaders create a culture where teachers and learners are empowered to use technology in innovative ways to enrich teaching and learning.  Systems Designer — Leaders build teams and systems to implement, sustain and continually improve the use of technology to support learning.  Connected Learner — Leaders model and promote continuous professional learning for themselves and others.  The need for a highly literate and educated workforce has never been greater as students, parents and staff all work remotely in virtual environments. The world of work now requires a system that produces a highly educated populace capable of competing in the global arena.  However, there is a critical ethical imperative: to close the digital gap between students and ensure equity given that virtually all students can succeed in an education system designed for such success. Leadership in a virtual environment is the future and it arrived yesterday. This new communal environment is stretching administrators’ toolkits to balance all of the needs of stakeholders during this virtual learning evolution.
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