3 ways to be an EduTech leader: Learnings from the Education Leaders’ Summit

education leaders summit

On Friday, FutureScot travelled to the Scottish Parliament for the Education Leaders’ Summit (check out #EduLeaders on Twitter for updates and pictures from the day) and a day of learning and discussions around the theme of Leaders of Change: Supporting and empowering headteachers in the digital age.

With speakers including Ian Fordham (Director of Education, Microsoft UK), Andy Nagle (Education CTO Microsoft, UK), Professor Judy Robertson (University of Edinburgh) and Jacqueline Campbell (Award-winning teacher from St Mungo’s High School, Falkirk), the day was packed with informative talks, inspiring masterclasses and finished off with an engaging MSP debate.

  1. Instil confidence

One key part of a digital leader’s role is to help instil confidence in others. Sheila MacNeill, Senior Lecturer in Digital Learning at GCU, said that her role was very much about instilling confidence in people and that when it comes to implementing digital learning, “teacher confidence is absolutely key”.

The speed and willingness of teachers to adopt new technologies will depend on a range of factors and the learning and adoption process will invariably take longer for some. MacNeill emphasised the need to “give your teachers time to develop their confidence”.

The challenges of this also came to light, however, when MacNeil used the Mentimeter (Read more at http://mentimeter.com ) to gauge the opinions of delegates in the room. When asked what the “main challenges you face using technology in the classroom” were, answers included “skill set of staff” and even one delegate saying (anonymously) that “we can’t waste time waiting for staff to catch up”.

  1. Make it fun!

It’s hard to underestimate the power of fun in education. Derek Robertson, Head of Undergraduate Programmes at University of Dundee, spoke to delegates via a video link in the afternoon session about the power of Minecraft and other games-based learning.

After playing a video showing an impressive Minecraft version of the new Dundee Waterfront, he explained how children at Dundee primary schools had been given a design brief that said: “Imagine you were the designer of the Dundee Waterfront”. The children were then able to realise their visions, using Minecraft on Xbox and PlayStation consoles.

The feedback from learners was overwhelmingly positive, with children surprised at being allowed to use computer games at school, and one learner even speaking of finally feeling “at home” in school.

  1. Accept that you can’t know everything

Paul Fleming, Headteacher at Kinneil Primary School in Bo’ness, took to the podium at mid-morning to talk about ‘Effective Leadership in the Digital Age’ and started off by admitting to audience that he was “not an expert but a leader”.

Throughout the day, this emerged as a key learning point for the event, that in order to be a digital leader, you do not necessarily need to be a digital expert. Ian Fordham, Director of Education at Microsoft UK, agreed, emphasising that we need to move from a know-it-all to a learn-it-all culture.

Often, teachers can even learn from students. With children now increasingly growing up online and being so called ‘digital natives’, a teacher who is willing to accept knowledge from his or her students may be at an advantage.

Derek Robertson, when running the Dundee Waterfront Minecraft project, made sure to provide only information to teachers, and no training, as the children themselves would already be experts in using the game. The ‘Minecraft Expert’ at the teacher information night was Robertson’s own daughter.

Sheila MacNeill also emphasised the difficulty of keeping up with new technologies, seeing as there’s “always going to be something new coming on to the market”. In an environment like this, it is crucial for digital leaders to be willing to not know everything.

Check out some of the photos from the day: