To reach desired outcomes for all students, all teachers must act as leaders outside of their classrooms. Complementing traditional teacher leadership roles, technology now provides new opportunities to leverage teacher leadership and influence the teaching profession. Blogging, content curation, and participation in online educator communities are three ways teachers can provide electronic teacher leadership.
Aspiring teacher leaders sometimes are uncertain of how or with whom to share their ideas. They may lack an official leadership role, such as department chair, or can be worried about how peers will receive their ideas. Blogs can provide educators both voice and audience. Teachers who in the past would have interacted only with colleagues in their building now can reach out to educators worldwide. For example, Australian teacher Kathleen Morris has shared what she has learned in recent years about using technology in her elementary school classroom with a global audience through her blog Primary Tech. English teacher Larry Ferlazzo’s prolific blogging about English Language Learners and a wide variety of other education topics has given him a chance to provide leadership far beyond his California high school.
Some teachers may not see themselves as the rock-star blogger types, but technology provides leadership opportunities of all shapes and sizes. Teachers can also lead in their profession through content curation. Teacher curators wade into the ocean of information available on the Internet to collect, organize, comment, and vet content on a particular topic. Some e-teacher leaders use Pinterest, a popular service that allows users to pin web content to virtual bulletin boards, to curate content for the benefit of colleagues. For example, North Carolina elementary school teacher Laura Candler’s forty-eight boards on a variety of education topics have more than 60,000 followers. Various other tools, such as Scoop.it, and Pearltrees, provide similar opportunities for teachers to provide leadership by separating the wheat from the chaff for virtual followers.
For e-teacher leaders seeking more interaction than is typical of the curator-follower relationship, various online communities create dynamic and reciprocal leadership opportunities. For example, the English Companion Ning, created by high school teacher Jim Burke, includes 260+ interest groups, some with more than 3000 members, and features many active discussion boards where teachers take informal leadership roles by offering advice, providing mentorship, and sharing resources. The micro-blogging service Twitter is another example of an online community in which many teachers are leaders. Twitter’s open nature helps teachers connect to and share expertise with both local and far-flung educators with similar interests. Educational hashtags are used to create communities within the twitterverse and many teachers take prominent roles in these spaces; it is not uncommon for teachers who are active on Twitter to have several thousand followers.
Lines between these three types of e-teacher leadership are not strict, and some teachers integrate a variety of activities into their e-leadership. For example, Georgia teacher Vicki Davis writes her Cool Cat Blog as well as being an active Twitter user with more than 60,000 followers.
Furthermore, many teachers who experience e-leadership empowerment will become more active leaders within their school buildings in traditional face-to-face ways.
Today’s social media and Web 2.0 tools have great potential to facilitate e-teacher leadership. This type of leadership can be for all types of educators: for introverts and extroverts, for veterans to share their accumulated wisdom, and for novices to bring new ideas to the table. By reducing constraints on communication related to time, place, and hierarchy, and helping connect and give voice, technology enables many classroom teachers to have a real impact on their colleagues and their profession.