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Ed Leadership Blog: Becoming a Digital Leader, Overnight

Are you a school leader, or do you aspire to be one? Staying up-to-date on news and trends in your field will help you proactively lead schools. Faculty members in the Educational Leadership Studies department at the University of Kentucky College of Education blog about topics to advance your career. Teacher leaders, principals, school technology leaders, and superintendents may want to bookmark this pageThis month’s Ed Leadership Blog is written by Dr. Jayson Richardson, associate professor in the UK College of Education Department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation.

Written by Jayson W. Richardson, Associate Professor

photo of Jayson Richardson
Dr. Jayson Richardson

What an April this has been! In a little over a month, COVID-19 started taking its toll on schools across the United States. Closures forced all school leaders to become digital leaders overnight. To give you the scope of these closures and to see how leaders from around the world are coping, check out the Coronavirus Chronicles.

What we are in the middle of is not online learning, but rather emergency remote learning. Online learning is well-planned, instructionally sound, and user-focused. This past month has primarily focused on ramping up, delivering some sort of instructional programming, and just trying to survive while providing some semblance of schooling to students.

As my writing partner Scott McLeod has laid out, most schools are in Phase 2 of the response.  Most leaders spent the better part of April 2020 in Phase 1: Basic Access, where the work was focused on basic needs (food delivery), basic access (computing device and wireless access delivery), and thinking about the social/emotional wellbeing of students and teachers. Most schools have shifted to Phase 2: Subsistence Learning, where the focus is on trying to replicate the classroom, but at a distance. My hope is that school leaders view this pandemic as an opportunity to think about Phase 3: Deeper Learning, where remote instruction focuses on higher-level learning, greater student agency, greater authenticity, and experimentation of teaching modalities. I hope that over the next few months, leaders find themselves engaging in conversations about actions that foster deeper learning experiences.

The pandemic, if continued for much longer, may force school leaders to shift to Phase 4: Looking Ahead. In this phase, the work will be focused on digital equity, thoughtful designs of teaching and learning, and making preparations to rethink teaching and learning in physical and digital spaces, where schools ebb and flow between these two. The time is ripe for universities, P-12 schools, and thought leaders to engage in conversations about the purpose of schooling, the modalities of delivery, and what it looks like to engage in deep, rich learning activities – even if this might look nothing like what schooling looked like way back in March 2020. Buckle up leaders; things might never be the same.

To learn more about degrees in Educational Leadership Studies, visit https://education.uky.edu/edl/. For degrees in Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation, visit https://education.uky.edu/epe/.