Thursday, December 22, 2016

Renegades Needed

Brad Gustafson Renegade Leadership—Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Students

I had the chance to read Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Students by Brad Gustafson in a way I have never experienced before. I joined a Voxer group sponsored by the author and joined by other educators from around the country. Water cooler questions for our on-line chapter discussion was broadcasted by an audio or text Vox by our book study facilitator.  What followed for me was a weekly professional discussion with passionate digital leaders from across the country. Just for me, just in time PD.

I was initially intrigued with the alternative leadership approach i.e. Renegade—who doesn’t dream of that! The fact Gustafson also focused on leadership for our digital-aged students also caught my attention. In the trenches of our school improvement work, preparing our students for our connected world is not as high on our comprehensive achievement plan as it should be. I needed to start paying more attention to the innovation that was occurring in schools across the country. What are they doing to impact student ownership of their learning through digital connectivity?

Gustafson shared The “Renegade Leadership” traits needed for authentic change in our current traditional educational system.

“Renegade Leadership is instructional leadership for the digital age. It is child-centered to the core. It is collaborative, connected, and combines the best of what we know with the best of what’s to come” (p. 6).

A Renegade Leader strives to learn.  A Renegade Leader understands how incredibly connected our world is becoming and to remain relevant pedagogy must by responsive to these changes.  A Renegade Leader takes seriously the responsibility we all have to prepare our students for their future.  “Renegade Leadership prioritized relationships within a relevant and connected pedagogy” (p. 8).

The best practice and innovation needed to move forward requires the Renegade CODE. Renegade Leaders collaborate face to face to create and build student learning experiences. Student ownership transfers our learners from passive to contributive learners. Purposeful digital connectivity is used in meaningful ways when possible. Students experience what it means to be a learner now and as they navigate all of our futures.

 “The book includes a series of unique features designed to challenge, affirm, and inspire” (p. 2). Some of the features I found to be helpful while reading was the companion website which clarified or enhanced the ideas in the book. Also, throughout the book were real-life Renegade Leaders and students, with examples of how their learning was propelled forward, not with a new gadget, but the thinking required to use the digital device as a tool to communicate. Finally, there was plenty of authentic, practical advice to inspire us to get started.

As I read through the book, I marked it up in two ways. Alternative systems to consider in our school improvement journey, and takeaways I can strategically share with teacher leaders to move us all towards a more student-centered school. Together with a bold and brave mind frame focusing on the possibilities of our student’s future with what if rather than the constraints of we can’t was a hopeful message.

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