A Principal’s Digital Leadership: First Steps

8 carateristics of innovators mindset

Initiating and sustaining a change process such as the shift to a digital age in a school is largely impacted by the principal. The success of such an implementation is much influenced by the innovative leader and his or her characteristics (see sketchnote above by @sylviaduckworth). Faced with such high expectations, what is often missing for the principal is the HOW.

Here are some ideas and thoughts that I hope will inspire your journey to developing an innovator’s mindset, and becoming a great digital leader.


“Change is not something we do to others, but is something we experience ourselve” George Couros (@gcouros)

At first, embarking in this great adventure of transformation (I would even say evolution) requires a commitment to professional learning. As the leader of your school, you must be a model in your actions, your behavior, your habits and your attitude. If you’re not ready to commit, you can’t expect your staff will be. There will be no transformation in the absence of commitment. I sincerely believe that the evolution of our profession is primarily an intrinsic process that involves internal growth, taking risks, be constantly learning, and sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone.

We might think that change and engagement involve adding to our already long list of things to do. I don’t think this is the case. I see it rather as changes to what I already do, or “tweaking”. Here are some examples of principals “tweaking” their routines in order to make room for professional learning:

  • When I would arrive at school in the morning, it was usually around 8 am. Now I get there at about 7:45 am, and for the first 15 minutes (closed door) I read my Twitter feed and an article online on educational leadership.
  • In the evening, I check my professional learning network on Twitter and sometimes I participate in a Twitter chat. It’s as easy as checking my Facebook page. My husband and kids don’t even notice I am participating in some great learning !
  • When I am at the arena for my daughter’s hockey practice, I now bring my iPad. Most of the time, I read educational articles that interest me and I feed my PLN (Twitter, Instagram, Google+) while watching my child on the ice. Sometimes I even write a in my blog!
  • Before the start of the week, I choose 2-3 blog posts I want read by Friday. When I find the time to eat some lunch, I read a post at the same time, and then I share it with my staff.

If we keep doing things the same way, we can not expect different results in our schools. Before transforming, we must, as a leader, be first committed to our own professional growth.


Reflection is at the heart of our practice. It allows us to think critically about things past, present, and future. This reflection is all the more powerful when done with other educational leaders in or outside our organization. Reflection rekindles our professional learning. Education is rapidly changing, and professional learning has never been as important as it is now.

Here are three books that I recommend you to read:

Stratosphere by Michael Fullan (@ MichaelFullan1)
After reading this book, I better understood the main ideas of the shift to the digital age. The book allowed me to reflect and, therefore, begin to develop my own philosophy. Moreover, I find that Michael Fullan provides an excellent framework for understanding the three elements needed to shift to a digital age in schools: participative pedagogy, technology that contributes, and a culture of systemic commitment.

Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times by Eric Sheninger (@E_Sheninger)
What I liked most about this book is that it gave me the HOW. Eric Sheninger offers a how-to approach in order to achieve a shift to the digital age in a school (and its school community) by working within seven pillars of leadership he identifies in his book. What a great read ! For me, this book was a natural progression following Stratosphere.

The Innovator’s Mindset: Empowering Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Kouros (@gcouros)
There are so many good things in this book that it is difficult to summarize in a few sentences what I enjoyed the most as a principal. For me, this reading was the dessert after a great meal. In his writings, George Couros has a way of balancing theory, practice and reflection. He puts much emphasis on professional learning and on the importance of meeting the needs of today’s students to prepare them for tomorrow. The Innovator’s Mindset allowed me to deepen my thinking, to put certain practices in question, to continue to develop some new behaviors, and to continue my professional growth. It confirms the importance of lifelong learning, networking, and developing a growth mindset.


It goes without saying that networking in education is now a necessity. Being able to draw from and contribute to a collective intelligence is a valuable skill (or even a habit) to develop for the school administration.

As mentioned in a prior post, my subscription to Twitter in 2011 changed how I do and see professional learning. Building, sharing and growing with my professional learning network has become an intrinsic practice that I love. Sharing resources, adopting a reflective practice, and networking with other professionals in education across the world is invigorating!

Do you have a Twitter account? If not, go to twitter.com right away ! Here is a resource to get started:


I hope that your journey to becoming a great digital leader will be as fulfilling as mine still is !


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