Piecing the Puzzle of Technological Leadership Together

When considering the role of a 21st century leader, one must take into account how that leader utilizes technology in his/her role.  Over the last eight weeks we have learned that technology has significantly impacted our current world.  It’s amazing to consider the Internet is really only 20-years old.  What amazing growth has taken place over the past 20 years!  If you think about the varying viewpoints of Florida, Friedman and Shirky you may find yourself attempting to determine just how “affected” we have become as a result of the varying technologies and social media. 

The first viewpoint of Thomas Friedman (2005) focuses on the importance of “competition in a technology-fueled global environment [as] a call to action for governments, businesses and individuals who must stay ahead of these trends in order to remain competitive” (Friedman, 2005).  The emphasis he places on this statement is based on his belief that the playing field has been leveled based on the availability of technology and society’s ability to create, share and compete with each other.

Similar to Friedman, Clay Shirky discusses the fact that “the moment our historical generation is living through is the largest increase in expressive capability” in his 2009 TED talk.  This moment, similar to Friedman’s theories, is a significant milestone in our technological journey.  To assist him in backing up this statement, he used the example of the Chinese citizens tweeting as they were experiencing their 2008 earthquake (Shirky, 2009).  Shirky (2009) describes a landscape in which the audience is no longer a consumer but a producer as well.  He also goes on to speak of technical capital vs. social capital, pointing out that many technological tools do not get interesting until they get boring (Shirky, 2009). 

These viewpoints differ from that of the third by Richard Florida.  Florida’s interpretation of our world is not flat but rather “spiky” (Florida, 2005).  In his rebuttal to Friedman’s book, Florida describes “spikes” in technology consumption, collaboration and production around large metropolitan cities (Florida, 2005).  He further states that these “spikes” will inevitably continue to grow higher as the valleys fall farther below (Florida, 2005).

These three viewpoints can really be applied to everything we have learned in this course regarding leadership in the digital age.  Though no viewpoint is incorrect, each one can be interpreted differently; similar to the role of a leader.  I believe that to be an effective, 21st century leader, one must assume a certain burden of responsibility in regards to technology.  To ignore technology would be the same as ignoring your responsibilities and admitting to defeat in your role.

First, if you apply Friedman’s theory of “flattening” to leadership, you can assume that anyone with the desire to be a leader can, theoretically, pursue that goal.  As leaders strive for success, a natural competition forms; one that is similar to the competition amongst governments and businesses referred to by Friedman.  This competition forces leaders to strive to be the very best and most effective they can be.  Technology also places a wealth of resources at your fingertips and allows for access in Friedman’s flat world.  The extent of access depends on the willingness of the individual.  It’s reaffirming, however, to consider that leaders can grow from any area of the world, any demographic, any socio-economic status, etc.  Desire + Access = Success!

Secondly, when taking a closer look at the role of a leader in our digital world it is important to consider Clay Shirky’s perspectives.  If everyone is capable of expressing themselves through so many convenient technological platforms then a leader must learn to effectively manage them.  Therefore, the example he refers to of how the Chinese government tried to regulate the media coverage of their earthquake becomes a lesson on what not to do.  Today’s leaders need to understand that technology is far larger than them and to try to place parameters on it could inevitably make them look ignorant.  They must learn how to rely on their employees and other resources for knowledge and input in addition to their own.

Finally, just as Florida believes that our world is “spiky” rather than flat, the field of leadership will have men and women that set themselves apart from the rest of their colleagues.  These “spikes,” or exceptional leaders, will demonstrate that by embracing technology, social media and Web 2.0 they will excel in their positions.  In addition, they will highlight attributes such as their ability to provide opportunities for collaboration amongst their staff, flexibility in the implementation of new technological initiatives and a mindset that accepts the reality that technology is constantly evolving thus their “responsibilities” as a leader may evolve as well.  Their willingness to stay current in our ever-changing digital world will allow them to achieve success.

References

Florida, Richard.  (2005, August).  The World is Spiky.  The Atlantic Monthly.  Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/images/issues/200510/world-is-spiky.pdf

Friedman, Thomas.  (2005, April).  The World is Flat.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  New York, NY.

Shirky, Clay. (2009, June 16).  Clay Shirky:  How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history.  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_iN_QubRs0&feature=youtu.be

All aboard the technology train!

In order to be an effective leader in this day and age, one must possess a myriad of qualities.  It can be assumed that a leader in the 21st century is knowledgeable, forward thinking and innovative.  First, in order to remain knowledgeable, leaders must continually read and learn about the technological advances that are occurring on a daily basis.  As cliche as the term “life-long learner” may have recently become, it is an important phrase for leaders to live by.  Between books, articles, blogs, multimedia presentations, speeches, etc., there is an enormous amount of information generated on a daily basis for leaders to stay up to date on.

Additionally, leaders must be forward thinking.  They must be capable of watching a video on technologies of the future such as Corning’s A Day Made of Glass and comprehend what they are seeing.  As a constantly evolving field, technology can, at times, present far-fetched ideas.  It is the responsibility of the leader to make sense of what they are witnessing and consider future implications.  This is also where the importance of innovation plays a role in the life of a leader.  It is imperative that “out of the box” thinking takes place in regards to technological progress.  Innovative leaders will quickly set themselves apart from their peers if they are able to come up with unique ways to apply and utilize new technologies.  Innovation is a must!

One positive that has resulted from new technology:  technology has made it easier for us to stay current with new technologies!  Thanks to social media (i.e. Twitter) or Web 2.0 (i.e. Google Drive), today’s leaders have powerful tools at their fingerprints.  Collaboration, access to information, etc. are all results that leaders strive for.  When considering Kevin Kelly’s keynote at NExTWORK in July 2011, he discusses the six verbs that describe the evolution of the major trends in technology.  These verbs: Screening, Interacting, Sharing, Flowing, Accessing and Generating are each indicative of a period over the last decade or so in which technology shifted.  Each shift resulted in a change of behavior for society as they reacquainted themselves with a new way of thinking.  Just as society had to change, leaders had to adapt.  Without this ability to adapt, a leader would not be able to succeed as technology progressed.

Fast forward three years and I’m not sure what verb Kevin Kelly would identify as #7 on his list.  One thing, however, is certain; technology will never stop changing.  The trends will continue and whether it be Google Glass, Corning’s A Day Made of Glass or some new type of invention that is just being designed, if a leader does not adapt him/herself to include these new initiatives they will be left behind.

Teaching teachers about social media

Education, just like any other profession, has been impacted by the pros and cons of technology.  Just as the internet, social media and Web 2.0 tools have provided an invaluable convenience to educators, they have also added an additional layer of caution and awareness to school districts as they work diligently to implement these technologies.  Ethics can be defined as the moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior.  Just as school administrators work with their teachers to improve the instruction in their classrooms, they also must make sure there are safeguards in place that protect their schools and districts from what may be posted by staff on these social media platforms.  It is important that staff be made aware that what they post on the internet will inevitably reflect on the reputation of the school in which they teach.  It’s even more important that teachers are aware that inappropriate, or unethical decisions, regarding what is posted on social media can result in dismissal from their teaching positions.

There have been numerous news articles that have plastered the front page of every major newspaper and website announcing the dismissal of various staff members for the inappropriate use of technology.  Recently, there was the teacher this past May that was fired from her middle school teaching position for posting lewd tweets on her Twitter account.  Students came across the pornographic picture and reported her to administration.  Then, there was the popular substitute teacher in New Hampshire that was dismissed from her school district in April for not “unfriending” her students on Facebook.  Carol Thebarge, the substitute teacher, stated, “I will continue to stay in touch with all of them here.  No man or institution will dictate my relationships here, or otherwise that are within the range of my own consciousness.  This is not rebellion.  It is standing up for my beliefs…for silence and compliance is agreement” (Downey, 2014).

Ethically speaking, educators must follow board policy.  If they choose to stand up for their personal beliefs then they must, in turn, face the consequences.  Perhaps Carol Thebarge only posted appropriate content on her Facebook page, however, where should administrators draw the line?  In the end, it must be all or nothing.  Consideration on a case by case basis does not work.

It seems as though many teachers believe that “they have the absolute First Amendment right to post anything they want on social networking sites, including party pix and diatribes about their boss” (Simpson, 2010).  Unfortunately our courts say otherwise.  Thanks to social media, what used to be private has become quite public.  In fact, newspapers across the U.S. have begun searching through sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. looking for embarrassing and inappropriate posts by local teachers (Simpson, 2010).  Here are examples of posted comments that they have found that, in the end, have resulted in the dismissal of the teacher that posted it:  “Chillin’ wit my niggas,” “I’m feeling pissed because I hate my students,” and I’m “teaching in the most ghetto school in Charlotte” —all uncovered by the Charlotte Observer.  The Columbus Dispatch ran an article about a teacher stating she bragged about being “sexy” and “an aggressive freak in bed” as well as a post stating she got drunk, took drugs, went skinny-dipping and got married.  And the list goes on…

In one particular case Pickering v. Board of Education, the “Supreme Court held that it’s not a First Amendment violation to dismiss probationary [non-tenured] teachers for what they say or write, if their speech involves merely personal things…or if the speech might disturb the workplace” (Simpson, 2010).  Since this case, there have been many more cases brought before the courts by teachers that have all lost as a result of the precedent set by the Pickering case.

Lesson to be learned:  do not post anything on a website or social media platform that you would not want your parents or future employer to see.  It has become way too easy for school administrators to “find” their teacher applicants on these sites and use the information they uncover to influence their hiring decisions.  In fact, one Missouri superintendent actually requests job applicants to pull up their Facebook page during their interview process (Simpson, 2010).

Personally, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing or a possible infringement of privacy.  When hiring a teacher, I want to be confident that the successful candidate will represent my school in a positive light both in and outside of the classroom.  Social media has become a great way to help determine this.  I believe that when you sign up for an account on these different websites, you have an ethical and moral obligation to post appropriate content.

References

Downey, K.  (2014, April 4).  Claremont teacher says she was dismissed for refusing to unfriend students on Facebook.  Retrieved from http://www.wmur.com/news/claremont-teacher- says-she-was-dismissed-for-refusing-to-unfriend-students-on-facebook/25325064#! btlrVM

Sczesny, M.  (2014, May 20).  Teacher at local school district fired for lewd tweets.  Retrieved from http://www.kmov.com/news/local/Teacher-at-local-school-district-fired-for-lewd- tweets-260050271.html

Simpson, M.  (2010).  Tomorrow’s Teachers. Social Networking Nightmares.  Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/home/38324.htm