Some Just Talk, Some Transform Lives
Integrating innovation and EdTech into the real time classroom
Hear more from Eric Sheninger and other innovative analysts, thought leaders, and educators at the 2018 Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), January 23-26 in Orlando, Florida. Learn more here.
by Dr. Rod Berger
Eric Scheninger was going to be a Connecticut high school principal for the rest of his life, and he was completely satisfied with that career path. He began his career in education as a science teacher where he taught biology, chemistry, marine biology, and ecology while he coached ice hockey, football, and lacrosse.
He eventually transitioned into educational administration as an Athletic Director/Supervisor of Physical Education & Health and a vice principal and then eventually a high school principal on the Shoreline in Connecticut. During his tenure as principal, he successfully implemented numerous initiatives including a new teacher evaluation system (McREL), Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), oversaw Common Core implementation, and initiated a new grading philosophy. He transformed his school by concentrating on pedagogy and leadership first, before reaching out for the flashy edtech.
Eric hosted visits from all over the world, people coming to his school saying, “How are you improving achievement? How are you being innovative, getting results with no money ─ a building built in 1928 and all these challenges?”
But when the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) came to his school and said, “Wow! This stuff is legit. Let's scale the work,” Eric accepted the challenge. His mission was to scale the innovative practices up and help other schools successfully strive for efficacy; and thus was born his second, and current, career in education as the Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership for ICLE.
“I thought I was going to be a principal for thirty plus years at New Milford High School, and this was not the role that I saw for me,” he says. “I think that having my own thinking pushed after we took a critical lens to our work really opened my eyes to what was possible in our school that was very diverse where we were able to accomplish things and get results when people said we couldn't.” In his latest book BrandED, Eric takes many of the positive aspects of the concept of branding and focuses on why they’re innovating, improving, and how they are going about getting results. He emphasizes the tools and processes used to accomplish the restructuring ─ telling the story of transforming his school to a high-achieving campus. “There is so much brain research ─ neuroscience ─ that goes into the impact of the story,” he says. “The best storytellers are our kids. It's what happens in a classroom.”
Because Eric and his team embraced the storyteller-in-chief mindset, they were able to tell their story clearly and effectively and get some attention from the experts and pundits… and businesses started calling, looking for a way to partner with them. They formed many mutually beneficial relationships with companies, and got hundreds of thousands of dollars of technology donated to their school. “The whole idea was on how we could partner with the business community, specifically edtech, and integrate some amazing tools after we transform teaching, learning, and leadership first,” Eric said.
Eric says his question was always, “How is it actually going to get better outcomes? What is your research base? What evidence do you actually have beyond circumstantial and beyond ‘It's going to engage kids’? How is it going to empower kids to learn?” His major focus was always, “How do we connect that back to an outcome?”
The concept should be more strategic and more about how everyone partnering in the endeavor, from parents and administrators all the way down to the teachers and students, need to help each other get to the same goal. It's empowering our kids to learn in ways that they could never have without technology but with better results.
But when it comes to transformation in schools, Eric is blunt. “If it's important to you, you'll find a way,” he says. “If not, you will make an excuse. Excuses hold us back and I think it really comes down to mindset. We teach the way we were taught. We lead the way we were led. For the longest time, the business world was frowned upon in terms of ‘Oh, they're going to influence us, pollute us, in a negative way.’”
But to Eric, the bottom line is what he sees as his duties and responsibilities as a principal. “My was job was simply, how do I provide the best opportunities for my kids? How do I support my staff? How do I think outside the box? How do I look for more opportunities?”
The goal is improving education for our kids, and as Eric notes, the status quo and tradition are the biggest inhibitors to innovative change. But right now, the educational world needs leaders. As Eric states, “When you want to prepare your kids for the future, you can't be stuck in the past.”
About Eric Sheninger
Eric is a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership with the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE). Prior to this he was the award-winning Principal at New Milford High School. Under his leadership his school became a globally recognized model for innovative practices. Eric oversaw the successful implementation of several sustainable change initiatives that radically transformed the learning culture at his school while increasing achievement.
His work focuses on leading and learning in the digital age as a model for moving schools and districts forward. This has led to the formation of the Pillars of Digital Leadership, a framework for all educators to initiate sustainable change to transform school cultures.
As a result, Eric has emerged as an innovative leader, best selling author, and sought-after speaker. His main focus is the purposeful integration of technology to facilitate student learning, improve communications with stakeholders, enhance public relations, create a positive brand presence, discover opportunity, transform learning spaces, and help educators grow professionally.Eric has received numerous awards and acknowledgments for his work. He is a CDE Top 30 award recipient, Bammy Award winner, NASSP Digital Principal Award winner, PDK Emerging Leader Award recipient, winner of Learning Forward’s Excellence in Professional Practice Award, Google Certified Innovator, Adobe Education Leader, and ASCD 2011 Conference Scholar. Eric presently sits on the FETC Advisory Board. He has authored and co-authored the following:
Follow Eric Sheninger on Twitter
This article was originally published in the Huffington Post by Dr. Rod Berger.
Eric Sheninger will be presenting at the 2018 FETC conference