FETC preview: There’s ‘no off-season’ for innovative leaders in K-12 schools

Featured speaker Matthew Joseph emphasizes the importance of expanding reach and personal learning networks.
By: | August 24, 2021

As schools look to the future, Dr. Matthew Joseph says it is vital that administrators build a global professional network and expand their reach for their own personal development. And he adds, they must be dogged in those efforts.

“There is no off-season. There’s no summer. There’s no conference season. It’s a continual cycle of learning new information,” says Joseph, who is Executive Director of Teaching and Learning in Providence Public Schools in Rhode Island. “COVID aside, instructional practices are changing so rapidly that if we’re not continually staying up to date on our own practice, then we’re going to be behind.”

Moving away from siloed leadership to one of crowdsourcing is one of the many topics Joseph plans to address as a featured speaker at the Future of Education Technology® Conference 2022 on January 25-28 in Orlando. Others include critical thinking, student voice, student agency, and building an upwardly mobile pipe of talent.

“How do we breed the next generation of leaders? How are we encouraging teachers to take a leadership role?” Joseph asked. “What’s happening is that we’re very reactive right now in what we’re doing. We can’t do it all. If we’re not empowering teachers to have a voice, then administrators will get burned out and leave the position. How do we get the next generation of leaders to gain the skills to develop a leadership lens?”

Joseph, whose 25 years of public education experience include stints as an elementary school principal, a teacher and a professional development specialist, will tackle a wide range of innovative strategies and ideas in the three sessions and two workshops in the Administrator track he will help lead at FETC. Among the subjects he will explore:

  • Power of Connections: Connecting Educators and Cultivating Professional Learning, which will delve into the many benefits of expanding personal learning networks (PLN) beyond face-to-face interactions to include Twitter, Voxer, EdCamp and Facebook.
  • Innovative Leadership: Using a startup mindset in K-12, which will look more closely at how to create a culture of shared vision that fosters continuous creativity.
  • Code Breaker Presents: Disrupting the Status Quo, which will focus on the critical conversation that must occur to spark new opportunities and educate the whole child in a forward-thinking manner.
  • Take Student Voice to the Next Level: Vlogging, a workshop on how video blogs can help educators give students agency, facilitate conversation and learning, and provide them with a platform to truly shine.
  • Choice Menus with a Twist, another workshop that looks at the tremendous power OneNote, Buncee, Genially and PowerPoint can have in empowering student motivation and engagement.

Reaching out for help

Within all of those tips and tricks, Joseph will share guidance and best practices, the same banter and collaboration that he successfully utilizes in his approach in Leicester.

“Why are we working so hard individually?” Joseph says. “If I have a question, why am I not just asking someone who’s done it, instead of reinventing the wheel? There are so many people doing so many amazing things. But we aren’t accessing that as individuals, because, at least in America, we’re brought up in this competitive place: test scores and who’s ranked where.”

Collaboration is something that Joseph says blossomed during the switch to virtual spaces.

“Every Friday I had a leadership lounge,” he says. “At 10 o’clock, I had leaders from all the states, some from Jordan, some from Australia … they chimed in and we had a topic every week and we said, how are you approaching this? It’s not a competition. We’re just gaining knowledge as educators, and we’re finding an opportunity to get on some common ground.

“When you start building a global professional learning network, you have a base of people to ask. If I have a STEM question, I jump on the primary STEM chat Thursday mornings, and it’s an Australian chat. And I ask them questions about STEM education, because it’s not my background. They give me answers. So it’s give-and-take.”

Joseph says the pandemic helped to reinvigorate a lot of the networking that used to occur years ago, before silos and an unwillingness to share became common.

“Vendors [outside Foxboro Stadium] used to host once-a-month meetups. They’d have principals come out, and meet up and talk. And then everybody just got so busy, we got away from it,” he says. “But that’s where I had so much of my learning from [as a former principal]. So when the pandemic hit, it’s like, we can create a virtual meetup. People can come from all over the country to an event online.”

Aside from those connections, he says it is crucial for administrators to have a website or a blog to express their thoughts and feelings.

“It actually allows you to see your own development, but also share it,” he says. “When you can share your work and your thoughts and your products, people will offer feedback or they’ll try it and they say, oh, this works, but I’m going to do it this way. Having a website and a presence allows you to be transparent in your leadership. This is who I am. This is what I stand for. These are the things that drive me because not everybody’s the same. Not everybody is a 50-year-old white male who’s lived his whole life in Massachusetts. I can learn from other people, from my good friends.”

Among the many important topics being addressed at this pivotal moment in education at FETC in the Administrator track are:

  • Leadership during crisis and culture change
  • Lessons Learned from COVID-19 (Disruption, Transition, Transformation, Reimagination)
  • Building effective staff teams with wellness, SEL
  • Access, Equity and community partnership building
  • Emerging technologies AR, VR, AI, blockchain in education
  • Modern design of learning environments to maximize learning and safety
  • Data security, privacy and managing online learning


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