Digitaleaders Keep Their Eyes on the Puck

by Marion Ginopolis, Guest Blogger

Recent attendance at a Stanley Cup celebration for the Carolina Hurricanes brought to mind a quote from hockey great, Wayne Gretzky, when asked the secret of his success: "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been." This quote has been used over and over again by many notables in speeches, presentations and journal articles.

While not necessarily a notable, I, too, have used the "skate to where the puck is going" metaphor in reference to providing leadership in schools. That is, until I read Jill Rosen's article in a Consultant Debunking Unit article that appeared in Magazine.

Ms. Rosen points out that while this sage advice has been attributed to Wayne Gretzky, it actually was coined by his father, Walter. She proceeds to share the response she received from 'Mr. Hockey' himself, Gordie Howe, when she asked his opinion of the skate-to-where-the-puck-is-going advice. "It's not really the greatest piece of advice I've ever heard," he says. "Besides, sometimes you don't want to be where the puck is going. One time, I was anticipating a pass from [Ted] 'Teeder' Kennedy and was leaning over to get in the way of it, when Kennedy, following through, swung his stick in my eye. I had double vision for two months and had to sit out the rest of the season."

This certainly stopped me short! As a long time educator, I can recall many times when I received a hard-hitting hockey check while attempting what I refer to as I 3; Implementing Innovative Initiatives.

So, do I continue to promote Gretzky's advice or follow Howe's prudent opinion with regard to providing leadership in schools? I've opted to stick with Gretzky and take the hits as they come!

School leaders can no longer sit around and wait for the puck to come to them if they sincerely want students to be prepared for their future. They must anticipate where the puck is going and model behavior that is expected from staff and students by providing the digitaleadership necessary to get to the goal net.

A Pew/Internet and American Life Project Report titled The Digital Disconnect: The Widening Gap between Internet-savvy Students and their Schools discovered that "students perceive this disconnect to be the result of school administrators setting the tone for use at school." While this report may be somewhat out-of-date, my guess is that students' perceptions haven't changed.

More recently, at the NetDay's 2005 event, major themes that emerged indicate that "..students are setting trends with their use of technology both in school and out of school. They are innovative users of technology, adopting new technologies to support their learning and their lifestyles." Further, they are "strong believers in the power of technology to enrich their learning experiences. They have ideas about their futures that include using technology tools for learning and preparing themselves for a competitive job market.

The fairly good news from this event is that "teachers' professional use of technology is approaching a comfort level" but, unfortunately, "it is not keeping up with the advances in how kids are using technology. Frequent Internet use is the norm among today's young people who are avid users of the Social Internet, blogging in their MySpace accounts while listening to their iPods and Instant Messaging three and four friends at the same time. They are using the Internet and digital publishing technologies to create and share content to post online.

What about administrators? While examples of innovative digitaleaders are evident in schools, (take a look at Principal Tim Tyson at Mabry Middle School in Georgia where students, teachers and principal are podcasting and blogging) they are not plentiful. How can we expect to make progress in schools where administrators ask their secretaries to open their email and print copies of the more important ones for them? These administrators belong in the penalty box!

Digitaleaders are willing to take the risk of skating to where the puck is going even if it means getting hit in the eye once in a while. Until this becomes widespread in all schools, we will see only pockets of excellence and not substantive change to serve the needs of our students.

(It's been a fun week as guest blogger on Dangerously Irrelevant.  Thanks for the opportunity, Scott!)

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